Monday, May 27, 2024

President Donald Trump’s Embassy waiver: A friendship betrayed?

June 1, 2017 by  
Filed under News, Politics, Weekly Columns

( So, the other shoe has finally dropped on Mr. Trump’s pledge to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, as U.S. law requires. Like Barack Obama and all the other presidents before him, he has signed a waiver postponing compliance with that requirement, which the law also allows. The official line is that he is not breaking his promise, just postponing it. But, of course, that’s disingenuous. The whole point of making the promise during the campaign was to give credence to the pretense that he would be different from his predecessors. He would have the courage to ignore dire threats from the PLO’s Mahmoud Abbas, the State Department’s Arabists and the usual slew of Israel’s “friends” who make shift to pose “like the innocent flower” but feed the serpent under it. (cp. Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” Act 1.3)

This is of a piece with President Trump’s vaunted arms deal with Saudi Arabia. That deal puts more arms in the feeding tube that, during the Obama years, nourished the infant al-Qaida splinter group that was to become better known under the murderous, blood-soaked label of ISIS. Under the guise of helping Saudi-backed Sunni rebels punish Syria’s tyrannical Assad regime, Obama’s policy ended up, among other things, costing the lives of Americans at Benghazi, including the U.S. ambassador.

President Trump now seems determined to return U.S. policy in the Middle East to that obsequious posture in respect of Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabist monarchy. Given its heritage, that monarchy has a deeply split personality, which reflects its origins. As Alastaire Crooke points out, King Abd-al Aziz’s promotion of Saudi sovereignty in the 1920s involved the

… curbing of Ikhwani violence (in order to have standing as a nation-state with Britain and America) … institutionalization of the opportunely surging petrodollar spigot in the 1970s, to channel the volatile Ikhwani current away from home towards export – by diffusing a cultural revolution, rather than violent revolution throughout the Muslim world.

But this “cultural revolution” was no docile reformism. It was revolution based on Abd al-Wahhab’s Jacobin-like hatred for the putrescence and deviationism that he perceived all about him – hence his call to purge Islam of all its heresies and idolatries. …

Abd al-Wahhhab demanded conformity. … Those who would not conform … should be killed, their wives and daughters violated, and their possessions confiscated, he wrote. …

Why should we have imagined that radical Wahhabism would create moderates? Or why could we imagine that a doctrine of “One leader, One authority, One mosque: submit to it or be killed” could ever ultimately lead to moderation or tolerance?

The Saudi monarchy doesn’t oppose ISIS because that organization’s twist on Islamic doctrines leads to terrorism. That opposition comes from the unyielding Saudi demand that the ruler of Saudi Arabia must be the absolute focus of Islam’s global jihad. Like all who assert absolute monarchy, the House of Saud is diametrically opposed to the understanding that just government is sourced in the sovereignty of all people whose goodwill leads them to respect right and rights endowed by their Creator, God, including liberty. Saudi Wahhabism is, therefore, diametrically opposed to the understanding that rejects absolutism in favor of government limited by respect for God-endowed right, and the presumption of rights, including liberty, that protects such people from the arbitrary demands of absolute power, coming from the Saudi monarchy, the ISIS caliphate or any other absolutist regime.

This is what makes President Trump’s vision of a Middle East Treaty Organization, in the mold of NATO, worse than unrealistic. Founded in the aftermath of World War II, among nations uniformly persuaded to commit to a similar understanding of rights and just government, NATO was conceived to be the seed of a United Europe, working in principled harmony with the United States to reject both secular and religious absolutism.

How does that NATO model make sense for states united under the sway of religious doctrines inconsistent with that understanding? Turkey’s drift toward absolutism under Erdogan is straining NATO’s integrity for that very reason. A METO in which the rebels against absolutism would find allies in the forbidding guise of ISIS terrorists would be strained to the breaking point from day 1, with the United States constantly walking the edge of a choice between the ISIS-style terrorist devils and the deep blue sea of Saudi Arabia’s official absolutist Wahhabism.

This is what makes President Trump’s “postponement” of his promise to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem so significant. Israel is a state committed to the vision of just government, respectful of God-endowed right, and the rights derived from acting upon it. Our dedication to that understanding of human political sovereignty should be non-negotiable. We should never postpone our willingness to make it clear that we prefer to stand with people everywhere who share that understanding. President Trump appears to have us dancing, sword in hand, to the tune of Saudi absolutism. But this belies the truth that America’s understanding of sovereignty does not derive from the arrogance of superior power, but from the unity of people of goodwill who consent to stand together to secure and defend the premises of right God has prescribed in the heart and conscience of all humanity.

Since it is rooted in that truth, why should we defer to assert our respect for the complete sovereignty of the Israeli people? Why should we defer to the smug threats of people who have repeatedly shown that they see force as the sine qua non of sovereign authority? This portends a METO that Israel could not join. But unlike Franco’s Spain, it would not be for lack of freedom, but because Israel stands for freedom, rightly understood, just as the United States ever has, and by her founding principles is obliged to do.

President Trump says this postponement is for the sake of peace negotiations. But from the American Revolution, up until the deep failure of our present generation of leaders, the United States acted on the rule that peace must not be purchased at the price of God-endowed rights, including liberty. Until we move our Embassy to Jerusalem, we will be tacitly signaling that, in respect of Israel this truth about peace is now negotiable. Is this a worthy sign of friendship between the free people of Israel and the free people of the United States, or the harbinger of a surrender of principle that betrays our friendship?

Columnist; Alan Keyes

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