23 March 2011

The U.S. destroys one Arab dictator's air force while it builds another's

While the Americans join in the destruction of Muammar Gaddafi's air force, they mount a major effort to build up the Saud family's air force. Strange are the ways of American diplomacy.

As part of a $60-billion arms deal between the United States and Saudi Arabia, the Pentagon is planning to bring dozens of Saudi pilots to an air base in Idaho to train them to fly the 84 new F-15E Strike Eagles—advanced fighter aircraft—that the Saudis received in the deal.

So many questions spring to mind: Why is the United States, a freedom-loving nation, honing the instrument a family of dictators will use to maintain their power? Why are the Americans training the very men whose ruler may call upon to kill their own people? Why do the Americans keep arming those who may be their future enemy? Do they not realize that if the Sauds' are overthrown—and that is probably only a matter of time—the United States could face a new, hostile regime armed with U.S.-trained pilots flying U.S.-made planes?

There are two obvious answers to these questions of course: oil and money. The Sauds, unlike the unpredictable Gaddafi, have been reasonably reliable providers of oil to the U.S. And conversely, the Sauds have been major buyers of American arms. Interestingly, three Idaho politicians who strongly opposed the building of an Islamic cultural centre two blocks from ground zero in New York, congressman Mike Simpson and senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo, are all in favour of bringing the Saudi pilots to their home state. The Saudis are paying for the required enhancement of the air base and the influx of the Arabian pilots, support staff and their families will bring a lot of revenue to Idaho. Oh, what a difference a dollar makes.

And then there's just ideological ignorance. Retired air force officer Edmund O'Reilly, president of the local chapter of the Military Officers' Association of America opined, "From a military standpoint, I think it's an awesome thing for the free world forces." Saudi Arabia, one of the world's most oppressive dictatorships, and probably its most misogynistic, is now part of the free world?

Not all Idahoans, or all Americans, are so sanguine, however. Some have pointed out that it was mostly Saudis trained to fly in the United States who flew planes into the twin towers. To date, most of the outrage has been expressed by conservatives, but if there is a bright side to this folly, it may be that here at last is an issue that American conservatives and liberals can unite on.

1 comment:

  1. A fascinating paradox. Yes, the Americans realize that those aircraft could, some day, be used against them or, more likely, Israel either by the House of Saud or a revolutionary movement. That's why the computer code in those Saudi aircraft has been modified to leave them vulnerable to he very same F-15s operated by the IAF or the USAF.

    Why arm the Saudis at all? Well, first of all there's a lot of money at stake. If the Yanks don't sell to the Saudis they would find out just how advanced, and relatively inexpensive, the latest Russian stuff is. India knows and that's why it remains devoted to the Sukhoi firm.

    Another reason is that it bonds the Saudi military to America's which US foreign policy treats as important (a) to maintain a bulwark against Iran and (b) to ensure one powerful but less threatening neighbour for Israel.

    Those are the main reasons the US bends over backwards for the Saudis.