Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Saudi Revolution Watch - The Blame Game Begins

I was watching Hardball last night when I heard the opening bell for round 1 of the Blame Game. Chris Matthews was talking to a Famous Reporter (who's so famous her name escapes me) about the ongoing murder and kidnapping of Americans in Saudi Arabia. Then they proceeded to blame the violence in the Kingdom on two things: the occupation of Iraq and the Palestinian intifada - translation, It's Bush's Fault.

It was funny in that sick, ironic, self-defeating way (like the old Onion joke about the Top 10 Books for Kids, "Daddy Drinks Because You're Bad"). That 2 or 3 minute conversation perfectly embodied two American characteristics. Let's examine them.

1. The historical memory of a drunk gnat. The Kingdom has suffered spasms of rebellion on and off for decades, long before the current intifada (or as I like to call it "Intifada 2: Electric Boogaloo). Hundreds of anti-royalist forces seized the Grand Mosque in 1979. In the 1070s a king was assassinated. During heyday of the Oslo Peace Accords, the height of regional optimism when Saddam was in power, there were several bombings in Saudi Arabia. Clearly the rising tide of revolutionary violence in Saudi Arabia is not caused by events in Israel, the Territories, or Iraq. (The unspoken assumption on MSNBC is that Intifada 2 is our fault because Bush hasn't done something about the Arab/Israeli conflict. That's high-grade bullshit but the subject for a different rant.)

2. Narcisssism. Americans love to think that everything in the world, good or bad, at some point is because of something we did. It makes us feel important and cool. It's a very adolescent response but it is pervasive in our country. The anti-American left wants to blame us for everything, as if al Qaeda is trying to kill us because the CIA overthrew Chile in the 1950s. The hyper-capitalist right want to take credit for any improvement in life in the Third World, as if rising standards of living in rural Uganda are a direct result of policy X or Y. Big Media loves this story line because the only way they can report on foreign events is if they are related to the US.

Let's kill this fantasy right now. Revolutions are never caused by external events, whether is Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Russia. No one blamed Carter for the Iranian Revolution, nor should they. The coming Saudi revolution is like a remake of the Iranian Revolution, updated with better technology.

The Kingdom, like the Shah's Iran, is an authoritarian state that is losing legitimacy in the eyes of its subjects. The coming Saudi revolution is caused by long term structural problems in Saudi society, a combination of demographics, economics, failures in its education system and a variety of governmental policies. Half the nation is under 25. Most of them are not just unemployed but really unemployable since they were mostly educated in Wahhabi Islam, as opposed to math, science, or practical skills. The Kingdom is ruled by men in their 70s who have no idea what is going on in the younger half of the country. The standard of living is falling because the economy is entirely dependent on oil, as it has been for 60 years.

None of this is our fault. We could have managed our relationship better. We could have tried harder to make the royals see what they were doing. All this and much more. But Israel or Iraq are at best convenient political excuses for the violence, not the causes.

Remember before the War in Iraq terrorists killed Americans and said they wanted the US military to leave. We left. Now they kill us and say it's because of Iraq. If Arafat and Sharon tongue-kiss and make up, and we put Saddan back in power and leave Iraq, the revolution will still shoot people in Saudi Arabia. They will just cloak their violence in a different excuse (probably "Death to Infidels - Matrix Revolutions Sucked!"). It's time to grow up people. America is powerful but not so mighty that it causes everything to happen. Don't believe the hype.

As the revolution heats up so will the Blame Game. One day there will be a childrens' book about this titled, "The Saudi Revolution Plunged the Nation Into a Nightmarish Vortex of Sadistic Violence, Sent the Global Economy Into a Nosedive and Impoverished Millions Because Americans are Bad."

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