As a Westerner I have my own ideas about Saudi Arabia and the Muslim world. Saudi Arabia may be the most important Islamic country for the United States. The United States greatly depends on Saudi Arabia because of its great oil resources. It is important to understand this relationship.
The relationship is based mostly on economic convenience for both parties involved. The United States ignores Saudi activities that are skeptical. This relationship has been a long going mutual understanding. Both countries have a lot of economic interest in the other. Saudi Arabia also depends on the United States for military support.
Robert Baer, a former employee of the CIA made it very apparent of the problems of Saudi Arabia. Since we have always had such a special relationship with them, we often overlook a lot of the things they do. He explains in great depth what would happen if any of the Saudi oil were put out of order. The United States would suffer along with the rest of the world. Saudi Arabia’s stability it vital to the world’s oil supplies. As we look to our allies in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is seen as constant. Since they greatly depend on the money they get from oil sales, one would think the Saudis would never turn anti-American.
Yet, nothing can be assumed. The ruling family owns most of the countries wealth and are very corrupt. The general population has been in a downward spiral of poverty. Many people in Saudi Arabia believe they need a regime change. Its peculiar to think that the United States maintains such great relations with a country as undemocratic as Saudi Arabia. We don’t hold them to the same human rights standards as the rest of the world. As Baer said, Saudi Arabia leads the world in public beheadings. We still continue this “special relation”, when we know that Saudi Arabia produces terrorist. We know that many citizens of Saudi are anti-west and would like nothing more than to attack us. This special relationship continues on a true economic basis, the Saudis do not face the same standards as most other countries the United States allies with do.
This is all happening as the House of Saud is falling apart. All of the wealth of the country is concentrated in one family. They live well, while others in Saudi benefits from one of the most advance welfare systems in the world. The wellness of the welfare system depends on the wealth of the country and whether or not the money is available to offer these services. The services include healthcare, free college, and many other benefits. These can only be maintained if the royal family keeps running affluent. It was said by Baer that some royal stipends ran from $800 to $270,000 a month. This is for a family that runs 30,000 deep. Many in the family maintain good relations with the United States. Yet, some have contributed money to terrorism. As the family grows, the money looks to dry up real fast or will oil prices rise to compensate? Saudi Arabia does produces about 20% of the world’s oil.
Yet our politicians in Washington are in neck deep with the Saudis. They greatly profit from the oil business. There are no reasons for them to worry about Saudi human rights violations, or what could happen if the Saudi family loses control. Our economies are interdependent and it could be assumed that we would go at any measures to protect Saudi Arabia. They know we will back them militarily, a country that may very well be one of the biggest sponsors of terrorism. Figuratively speaking, they are all in bed together. The Bush administration’s hands are stained with blood for oil.
Saudi Arabia is a monarchy with no true representation. Saudi Arabia does not allow women to participate in the public realm. These are some of the issues that Westerners have about Islamic Fundamentalism. We are concerned with violence (terrorism), democracy, and women’s rights. Americans have a problem with associating people of the Middles East, Arabs, and Muslims with terrorism. This is unfortunate, for our stereotypes do neither parties much justice. Most of our stereotypes are ignorant, we no very little about Middle Eastern culture and religion. Which brings me to the idea that this is the first class where we have studied Islamic countries in depth. I admit to having many misconceptions about people from the Middle East.
It is hard to ignore the way in which the media portrays these people. Most of us have very little contact with these people, so not much can be done to change these stereotypes, except for education.
Right now, the Western world and the Middle Eastern countries are at odds. Our special relationship with Israel has contributed to this. We have been at war with Iraq twice, and had conflict with Iran. Israel is our single greatest receiver of foreign aid. I am often frustrated with the lack of true understanding on our parts. I often ask the question or try to find the answer to this “why do these people hate Americans so much?” It is easy to say that they are extremist or are crazy, but the issue is much deeper than that.
There are many Muslim groups that do commit crimes of terrorism. However most Muslims do not support terrorism. Whether it is the Hezbollah in Lebanon, or the Hamas in the Occupied Territories, there are many extreme Muslim groups. Many are fighting for religious freedom, or a state run by Muslim. The whole world should be concerned with acts carried out by these extremist groups. Yet violence is a world phenomenon, it is not endemic to Muslim states.
The authors I focused on here Robert Baer, and Lawrence Davidson wanted up to better understand Islamic Fundamentalism. Baer had a lot of informative somewhat frightening stuff to say about the Saudi situation. It’s something that the United States should be more concerned with. Davidson has continually broadened my understanding of the Muslim world. One in which we as Americans will have more and more encounters with.