Saturday, April 9, 2011
What The Petro-Autocrates Have Learnt From The Libya Situation
Libya has bared an uncomfortable truth to Saudi King Abdullah, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev, Kuwaiti Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, and the rest of the petro-autocrats of the world:
When politically expedient, Washington will help to push you out of power.
This sounds obvious, but it’s not how it was supposed to be. The United States has been allies with many such leaders as part of Pan Americana. For the most part, this hasn’t seemed cynical, but realistic, factually speaking, the United States and the rest of the West and the world require oil; there are diplomatic missions that only an Arab king or sheikh can fulfill; and the balance of power includes the support of autocratic leaders. Even the peace with Col. Moammar Qaddafi was well-intentioned, he has considerable blood on his hands, but back in 2003 there was hope he had opted to reform; the most prevalently voiced opinion was that he was a potential template of the new possibilities of the age.
Much of this portrait is different now because of the Arab Spring, under replacement by an as-yet unestablished new set of rules. In the United States, there is an understanding that petro-realpolitik must change because one can no longer be sure that the Emir sitting confidently before you will be there next year, or even next week. In the petro-states, there is an understanding that the long-standing alliance-of-interests underpinning one’s relationship with the United States can be much shorter-lived than one originally thought. Hence, no one should be surprised when hearing of an unprecedented breach between the United States and Saudi Arabia, as we’ve discussed, the Saudis have played a highly constructive role on behalf of U.S. economic and political interests around the world, but the truth is that there simply is not much support in the United States for families that treat their nation’s wealth as a personal treasure trove. From the Saudi side, why should one go out of one’s way for a superpower that so rapidly discards its friend