Has the U.S.-Saudi Relationship Outlived Its Usefulness?
Intelligence Squared U.S., or IQ2US, organizes a regular series of debates on issues of public concern and broadcasts them via livestreaming, NPR, YouTube, and podcasts. The organization’s purpose, proudly proclaimed, is “to restore civility, reasoned analysis, and constructive public discourse to today’s often biased media landscape.” (Since it sounds a lot like me, I tend to like it.) The most recent debate, which I had the honor to attend, posed the provocative proposition “The Special U.S.-Saudi Relationship Has Outlived Its Usefulness.”
The debaters arguing for the proposition were Madawi Al Rasheed,* a Visiting Professor at the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics and a research fellow at the Open Society Foundation, and Mark P. Lagon, Centennial Fellow and Distinguished Senior Scholar at the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and former Ambassador-at-Large in charge of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
Arguing against the proposition were F. Gregory Gause III, the John H. Lindsey ’44 Professor of International Affairs and head of the International Affairs Department at Texas A&M University, and James Jeffrey, a Visiting Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and formerly Deputy National Security Advisor and Ambassador to Albania, Turkey, and Iraq.
Life, of course, is not really as binary as a debate proposition, and in reality neither was the debate. No one said that the United States should abandon its relationship with Saudi Arabia altogether, and no one claimed that there were no problems. While that might strike debate professionals as a bit sloppy on the edges, it does mesh well with the world as we know it.