Chump of the Middle East?
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
How times — or is it the Times? — change. The New York Times’ star columnist, Thomas Friedman, is characterizing as a “grotesque blood-for-money transaction” President Trump’s determination to work with Saudi Arabia despite its murder of Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi. The columnist reckons the president is an “amoral chump,” who has sold out American values while gaining nothing in return.
Then again, too, it was only last year that Mr. Friedman swung behind the “reform process,” as he called it, of the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. Since the “bottom up” process of the Arab Spring failed, Mr. Friedman reasoned, the “top down” method of MBS might just work. “Only a fool would predict its success,” the columnist calculated, “but only a fool would not root for it.”
At the time, we demurred. “Call us a fool,” we wrote, “but the Sun is going to hold out for an unconditional recognition of the Jewish State.” We acknowledged Mr. Friedman’s reporting chops, but noted that as far back as 2002 he started retailing a Saudi plan for peace between Israel and the Arabs. The idea was that, in return for mounting the Second Intifada, the Palestinian Arabs would get half of Jerusalem.
As things turned out, the Second Intifada failed and Israel is still in possession of all of Jerusalem. Not only that, but an American president — Mr. Trump in the event — bowed to the American Congress, recognized Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state, and moved our embassy there. Turns out that relations between America and Saudi Arabia improved dramatically.
So who’s the amoral chump? There is no doubt that the murder of Khashoggi has rocked Saudi Arabia’s standing. Understandably so, to say the least. Mr. Friedman’s recommendation, though, is that America force “an immediate, unilateral ceasefire in Yemen” and “let the Iranians and Houthis have it.” That kind of strategy led in Syria to a bloodletting with few parallels.
Mr. Friedman figures that we can side with the Saudis should they be attacked from Yemen. The Saudis, though, have been attacked from Yemen. So skip that detail. It may be that, at the end of the day, Mr. Friedman, who backed the articles of appeasement with Iran against the wishes of our own Congress (and the Israelis), just prefers the Iranians to the Saudis. He didn’t explain that in 2002.
As for the Sun, in the war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the Sun is on the side of the Israelis. We don’t mean that America lacks for her own interests, but in this fight, America’s interests align with those of the Jewish state. And so, we would argue, do those of the Arab and Persian people. At the moment, the Times has a less clear grasp of this than the President. Then again, as we say, Times change.