The world may be just waking up to the autocratic ways of the Saudi Arabian royal family, but the Pentagon certainly is not.
Pentagon leaders’ silence this week on the reported murder of a U.S.-based journalist by Saudi officials could be taken as customary and proper deference to the formal poles of American foreign policy: the White House and the State Department. But the Pentagon has long supported a U.S.-Saudi relationship that largely turned a blind eye to the kingdom’s human rights abuses, political imprisonments, internal family coups, fundamentalism, and terrorist financing in return for access to oil, a regional bulwark against Iran, and a checkered record of help fighting extremists. Separate statements by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford this week seemed to indicate that the Pentagon’s current uniformed and civilian leaders aren’t likely to react to this latest Saudi authoritarian move unless forced to.
Simply, military and intelligence relations with Saudi Arabia outweigh the oligarchy’s abuses because only one thing matters most to Washington: security. American security. On television for the past two weeks, journalists and politicians have screamed outrage at the Saudi kingdom over the reported killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, threatening to cut off arms sales, severely curtail diplomatic relations, adopt sanctions, and even calling for a regime change from within. But not at the Pentagon.
Washington’s national-security blob has been debating for years whether tight relations with Riyadh remain “indispensable.” But the debate it seems has not made it out of think tank row to penetrate the Tank, the Pentagon’s secure meeting room for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. [Continue reading…]