Should the U.S. “Punish” Saudi Arabia?

In the wake of the CIA’s assessment that Muslim Brotherhood-friendly “journalist” Jamal Khashoggi was indeed murdered on the orders of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, many were anticipating the reaction of Donald Trump (i.e., his handlers), who had promised “severe” punishment for the Saudis should the Turkish government’s allegations turn out to be true. Trump’s latest official response, however, is to prioritize strategic and economic relations with the Saudis over the cries for “justice” in the Khashoggi murder from those who believe the U.S. is, and ought to be, the world police force and world court.

This is an interesting case, not because of Trump’s response per se — for when it comes to complex questions like this, Trump clearly does what he is told by people with the intellectual acuity to think through issues he couldn’t possibly understand — but because of its implications on the matter of America’s role in international affairs.

First of all, it is well-known that Khashoggi was a Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer and friend. This means he supported a group that promotes radical Islamist revolution, a group intermittently identified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government, a group outlawed in its home territory of Egypt. These days, the MB is in disfavor with the Saudi regime, which had previously been a strong backer of the movement. On the other hand, Turkey’s Erdogan government now supports the MB in its own efforts to promote the Islamist fantasy of a global caliphate. 

Hence, the Saudi murder of Khashoggi, and Turkey’s urging of the “world community” to do something about it, represents the latest scuffle between the competing sides in the ongoing and perhaps never-ending war between “extremist” radical Islam (globalism, terrorism, Israel-annihilationism, etc.) and “moderate” radical Islam. 

That said, what is America supposed to do about it? Trump, under media pressure before the midterms, promised punishment for the Saudis should the Crown Prince be found guilty. Now that the prince has in fact been found guilty, as it were, Trump is pretending uncertainty and demanding forbearance, on the grounds that punishing the Saudis would mean sacrificing major arms deals and other useful relations with the Saudis. 

In response to Trump’s apparent globalist establishmentarian squishiness in defense of the military-industrial complex — don’t say I didn’t warn you! — many are saying this refusal to bring the hammer down on Saudi Arabia for its blatant offense against free speech and journalistic integrity (good one!) will further damage America’s ability to speak or act against human rights abuses on the world stage.

But, I say, the “world stage” is the arena of human rights abuse. It is not America’s responsibility to speak or act on such matters on that stage.

To begin with, when people say “America” has this or that responsibility, they are speaking of the U.S. Federal Government. But the U.S. Federal Government has one and only one essential responsibility, and that is to protect and enhance “human rights” (i.e., individual liberty) within the United States, as per the U.S. Constitution. The affairs of other nations are only within the purview of the U.S. government’s responsibilities when those affairs in some way threaten the narrowly-defined interests (individual liberty and national sovereignty) of the American people.

Secondly, given the point stated above, namely that the “world stage” is the realm of human rights abuse, America ought, as far as possible, to keep her hands clean from all unnecessary embroilments with “the world,” which embroilments generally fall outside the jurisdiction of a constitutionally-limited federal government anyway.

In this case, factions within Islam are well-known for killing each other at will and with impunity. This is ugly, uncivilized, and grotesque, and the Saudi regime is certainly a participant in that ugliness and incivility. But that’s not an argument for more U.S. intervention in Muslim in-fighting abroad; rather, it’s an argument for less.

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