If you take your news and your cues from CBS’s 60 Minutes, then I suppose you might believe that the Bush administration is now completely dominated by Neoconservatives–“true believers” and democratic idealists who reject the amoral realism that allowed the US to ally itself with undemocratic regimes in the name of geopolitical stability.
Just listen to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from her interview with Katie Couric, entitled “Condoleezza Rice: True Believer.”
“I’m a true believer in the process of democratization as a way to overcome old wounds. And I believe that if we don’t do that, then people who have had their differences, people who have resolved their differences by violence or by repression, are never going to find a way to live peacefully together,” she says.
“Is it really priority number one in terms of philosophically and pragmatically for the United States to be spreading democracy around the world?” Couric asks.
“Well, first of all, the United States is not spreading democracy. The United States is standing with those who want a democratic future,” Rice explains.
That was last week.
This week, however, priority number one is “standing with” the Saudi Royal family.
The Washington Post headline: “Rice Seeks Saudi Help to Stabilize Iraq.”
Needless to say, Rice doesn’t need Saudi help to democratize Iraq. Democracy in Iraq–a series of elections and a Constitutional ratification vote in 1995–brought Iraqi Shiites to a position of formal political power.
Rice nees to Saudis to stabilize Iraq because the Saudis are allied with the folks who are busy attacking the Shiite government.
During the trip, she plans to have a group meeting with the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan and the six Gulf Cooperation Council states — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman….
“The countries that we are meeting … is a group that you would expect to support the emerging moderate forces in Lebanon, in Iraq, and in the Palestinian territories,” she added.
“I want the Saudis’ involvement in the stabilization of Iraq…
“Saudi Arabia has a lot of standing with a number of the forces in Iraq and they have actually been very helpful in trying to get Sunnis involved in the election,” Rice said.
“So I think it would be very helpful if they were supportive of, and working toward, helping Prime Minister (Nuri) al-Maliki’s national reconciliation plan,” she added.
“They can rally people around the national reconciliation government. They have a lot of contacts among the tribes.”
“They have already been helpful. I’d like them to continue to be helpful,” she added.
Maybe I’m missing the point, but my guess is that Secretary of State Rice isn’t going to play hardball with the Saudi Monarchy regarding their own democratic legitimacy. And maybe I’ll be surprised by what unfolds, but I doubt Rice is going to “stand with” Saudi “liberals,” democrats, and dissidents while seeking help from the Royal Family.
Probably won’t press for elections anytime soon.
All of which goes toward two important points:
First, Bush administration rhetoric about democracy has little to do with its actual policies, even in the center of its foreign policy focus, the Persian Gulf.
You would have to ignore the howls of protest among Neocons in order to convince yourself that the Bush administration is actually standing with supporters of democracy–in either anti- or nominally pro-US regimes.
It isn’t so in Iran or Syria.
It isn’t so in Egypt. It isn’t so in Jordan. It isn’t so in Libya. It isn’t so in Saudi Arabia. Nevermind United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.
Second, the decisive battles within the Bush administration has never even been about idealistic principles of democracy.
Sure, some Neocons talk a lot about the principle of democracy.
But these folks have always been either marginal to the process or using democracy-talk to mask a decidedly “realist” agenda for tipping the balance of power in the Gulf toward a projected pro-US Shiite Crescent.
It is this “realist” Right Zionist agenda that was at the heart of US policy in Iraq. And it is this Right Zionist agenda that generates so much friction with the Saudis.
Hence, the extraordinary news of plans for a Saudi “fence” to protect the House of Saud from the Shiite Crescent.
In the Right Zionist war in Iraq, Saudi regional power was a key target.
Right Zionists and Right Arabists agree which each other that the Saudi regime fears Shiite regional power.
Richard Perle and David Frum, in their book An End to Evil (hereafter, EE) agree that the House of Saud has good reason to fear a Shia Gulf.
“[W]hile the royal family, the government, and the moneyed elite all live on the western, Red Sea side of the country, the oil is located on the eastern, Persian Gulf side. And while the people in the west are almost uniformly Sunni, one-third of the people in the Eastern Province… are Shiites…. Independence for the Eastern Province would obviously be a catastrophic outcome for the Saudi state” (EE, p.141).
Sounds just like the realists — but with a crucial twist. Unlike Right Arabists, Perle and Frum think that Shiite control of Arabian Peninsula oil would be catastrophic for the Saudi state, but think it “might be a very good outcome for the United States” (EE, p. 141).
That dream is fading fast, as the US runs, hat in hand, to the Saudis.
The purpose of Rice’s visit with the Saudis surely undermines her status as a “true believer.”
But the “true belief” in question has little to do with democracy and everything to do with Iraq as the pivot upon which turns the balance of power in the Gulf.
The revolution that Rice is going to “sell out” is not only–or even primarily–a “democratic” revolution, but a Right Zionist one.
News of the death of the Right Arabist Establishment is greatly exaggerated.