Anshul Barnwal | Dartmouth College
The United States has a history of cozying up to Saudi Arabia. This has been most recently evident with the current controversy surrounding deceased journalist and American permanent resident Jamal Khashoggi. While Saudi Arabia denies it vigorously, Khashoggi was almost certainly killed by Saudi agents of Prince Mohammed bin Salman, or MBS, for speaking out against the regime.
Sadly, many politicians on both sides of the isle, including President Trump, have cozied up to Saudi Arabia nonetheless. Most recently, Trump proclaimed MBS innocent of the Khashoggi killing, but the alliance has been present for the past few decades and the administrations of the past few presidents of both parties.
Of course, there are reasons that America has not already sanctioned Saudi Arabia, though these are all weak arguments and don’t make a lot of sense. Some make an argument centered around energy. Saudi is a major oil exporter, and some proponents claim good relations with Saudi Arabia are necessary to maintain our energy supply.
Unfortunately, oil is not as hot a commodity as it once was. Renewable energy has become essentially as efficient as fossil fuels like oil have. Other countries are making mass switches towards greener solutions, led by China, who is becoming a leader in global renewable energy after Trump dropped out of the Paris Accords.
Saudi Arabia itself has promised a reduced dependence on oil by 2030. If Saudi Arabia itself is not committed to oil, then dependence on it makes absolutely no sense. Even if it refuses to get with the times, a time is coming where renewable energy will be so much more efficient that it would be silly to even consider oil, and that time is coming soon. Of course, the US should invest in job training for other professions considering how big the oil industry is, but it should be also divesting away from sources that will not last. Finally, oil is a finite resource and decades down the line it will run out, at which point we will have no choice but to switch. As a result, dependence now will only lead to bigger shocks later.
The second reason that proponents of the Saudi-US alliance have given is centered around Saudi Arabia’s interests in the region, specifically in terms of intel and terrorism. This is one of the silliest, least informed stances out there. There is significant evidence suggesting that Saudi Arabia was involved in 9/11, and has sponsored numerous terrorist organizations in the past. Cutting Saudi Arabia off from its revenue means denying terrorists funds as well, so in the interest of safety, perhaps America should go against MBS and his corrupt regime.
A final reason that some support US-Saudi relations is economic. Saudi Arabia pours billions of dollars into the US economy, primarily in the form of arms sales. While this argument holes some merit, as the United States likely benefits from trade at least in the short term, it falls apart once examining the long view. If dependence on oil is continued, then America will be scrambling to switch to greener sources of energy when that becomes the more efficient power source. Furthermore, it is incredibly morally repugnant to make money off of weapons that ultimately end up in the hands of terrorists. It is counterproductive to safety and flat-out disastrous for the people of the Middle East who Saudi Arabia oppresses.
Ultimately, Saudi Arabia is one of the most oppressive countries in the world. It has incredibly antediluvian laws surrounding homosexuality and women’s rights, has virtually no freedom of speech, and is overall just a group of wealthy oligarchs masquerading as leaders. They are despots and oppressors, and it is time to start treating them as such.
Citizens of the United States, whether concerned about oil dependence or about terrorism, should unanimously condemn our reliance on a corrupt country and seek alternatives as soon as possible. Abetting human rights abuses is not becoming of the greatest country in the world.