THE BLOG
11/27/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Silent Saudi Squeeze (and a Suffragist Solution)

Though $4-a-gallon gas has faded to $3-a-gallon gas, and a worldwide economic crisis has overshadowed less pressing concerns about filling one's gas tank or even national security, such issues have neither gone away nor become any less pressing in the long run. As our presidential nominees discuss bailouts and economic plans (and seriously, if I hear the words "my friends," "Joe," "plumber," or possibly even "the" one more time, the next thing I cut won't be taxes), they have largely ignored one particular issue that underpins them all: Saudi Arabia.

Admittedly, this is a sticky topic. Our nation and theirs are locked together in an unhappy marriage from which there appears to be no viable exit (sound familiar?). Despite the fact that Saudi Arabia continuously and egregiously violates human rights and indoctrinates entire generations and nations with their vocal hatred of American culture, they remain one of our largest buyers of military hardware, and we remain one of their largest buyers of petrol.

The power of Saudi oil production, and the market stability that it affords, has been at the root of U.S.-Saudi relations since the mid-1940s; essentially, the U.S. has traded national security (and a significant chunk of the national treasury) to the Saudis in exchange for a steady flow of oil. The Saudis are also deeply invested in U.S. real estate, industry, and treasury bonds. They imported almost $9.5 billion in U.S. goods in 2005. We imported almost $34 billion in Saudi oil -- 15.8% of total Saudi exports -- in return. Our economies have become so entangled that it would be virtually impossible for one country to wage overt war with the other.

This has not stopped Saudi Arabia, however, from waging covert war. According to reports from Freedom House, Congressional Research Service, and even the UN Security Council, Saudi Arabia has funded terrorism and indoctrinated whole generations of anti-American extremists via their worldwide network of madrassas. This is not to say that all madrassas, or Wahhabism in general, produce terrorists -- they obviously do not. But most Saudis, by royal decree, practice a particularly intolerant brand of Wahhabism that has bred terrorists such as Osama Bin Laden and fifteen of the 9/11 hijackers.

Still, it is not fair to characterize the Saudis as one single-minded anti-American group; there are rifts between the people and the ruling class, and even between individual members of the House of Saud. In fact, many of the Saudi policies that harm us so greatly are implemented not with deliberate malice toward us, but rather in an attempt by the ruling family to pacify an increasingly disenfranchised and devout populace and cling to receding power.

So, despite a vast ideological gap between Saudi Arabia and the U.S., our government has, one might suppose, its reasons for trying to bury news of Saudi misdeeds. After all, what administration wants its people to know that its petrol dollars are indirectly funding terrorist acts and wars in which its own soldiers are dying?

The media, too, have been complicit in this Saudi silence. Why do so few people mention that the Saudi-supported Sunni insurgency and Al-Qaeda in Iraq were responsible for far more Coalition deaths prior to the Sunni Awakening than Iranian-supported Shia militias were? Or mention that the Saudis openly admit to funding "righteous" organizations such as Hamas? Or discuss the potential Saudi threat to world oil markets via their control of over 20% of the world's proven petroleum reserves, their status as the largest oil producer in the world (more than double Iran's production), and their standing as a principal member in OPEC?

Over the past several weeks, it has at last become fashionable for the presidential candidates to talk -- however briefly -- about the downside of funneling our national wealth to countries that hate us. It's about time. McCain will try to tell you that the answer to this is to drill, baby, drill, and while domestic drilling assuredly has its merits, it's unfortunately merely a band-aid on an arterial bleed. Rather, it is Barack Obama and his plan for a new green energy economy that hold the key to this silent crisis. Throwing massive government weight and funding behind innovative green technology may seem unbearably expensive in the short-term, but it pales in comparison to the hundreds of billions of dollars we spend each year -- and the hundreds of billions more our allies spend too -- purchasing energy not just from Saudi Arabia, but also countries like Venezuela, Russia, and Iran. A powerful green initiative will not only lead one day to energy independence; it will lead to clean energy, massive job creation, reduction of the exploding national debt, increased national security, and a decrease in the funds that eventually land in the hands of terrorists.

So, when you go to cast your vote on November 4 (unless you're these ones, in which case you should vote on November 5, when there are no black people lines), vote for the candidate who will free us from our diseased marriage with Saudi Arabia; who will usher in an era of true energy independence and a clean, green, energy economy; who will take oil money out of terrorist hands and put it into our children's instead.