Jazz has already looked at President Donald Trump’s Saudi Arabia speech but there really were parts of it which were really good. Trump attempted to toe a line between non-interventionism and “Team America: World Police,” while also encouraging Muslim clerics and countries to be more active in stopping Islamic terrorism. Reason’s Nick Gillespie focused on Trump’s “DRIVE THEM OUT” comments, but the President backed up those statements with pushing religious leaders to focus on salvation.
That means honestly confronting the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires. And it means standing together against the murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews, and the slaughter of Christians.
Religious leaders must make this absolutely clear: Barbarism will deliver you no glory – piety to evil will bring you no dignity. If you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief, and YOUR SOUL WILL BE CONDEMNED.
And political leaders must speak out to affirm the same idea: heroes don’t kill innocents; they save them. Many nations here today have taken important steps to raise up that message. Saudi Arabia’s Vision for 2030 is an important and encouraging statement of tolerance, respect, empowering women, and economic development.
Trump didn’t necessarily lie when describing Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Vision, but to suggest it would encourage more tolerance and the empowering of women is a little dishonest. Reuters noted last year King Salman and Prince Mohammed have been a little vague in how they’ll give women more rights.
It is not yet clear whether Vision 2030 will include politically sensitive social reforms – for example, in education, the judiciary and women’s rights – to reduce the influence of a conservative religious establishment.
Prince Mohammed told Bloomberg last week that “we believe women have rights in Islam that they’ve yet to obtain”. But while increasing women’s participation in the economy is a declared goal of the reforms, he and other officials have so far not promised radical, specific change.
This has not stopped many Saudis from hoping. Mashael, a saleswoman at a Riyadh lingerie shop, said she believed women might ultimately be permitted to drive.
“I can’t wait for the day when women are allowed to drive. I don’t want to spend my salary on transportation or on drivers – it would have been cheaper to let women drive than build the Riyadh metro at a cost of billions of riyals.”
It should also be noted true progress sometimes takes a little bit longer to achieve, and any attempt to whittle away at tyranny is a good thing. It’s possible Salman and company are truly thinking longterm, which would be a good thing. They need to be encouraged to keep liberalizing, even if it Salman doesn’t live to see a truly free Saudi Arabia.
Back to Trump, his comments about achieving “peace in this world,” between the three Abrahamic faiths is a little amusing given his executive orders banning Muslims and others from coming into the U.S., but it’s nice to see him promote peace.
That means promoting the aspirations and dreams of all citizens who seek a better life—including women, children, and followers of all faiths. Numerous Arab and Islamic scholars have eloquently argued that protecting equality strengthens Arab and Muslim communities.
For many centuries the Middle East has been home to Christians, Muslims and Jews living side-by-side. We must practice tolerance and respect for each other once again—and make this region a place where every man and woman, no matter their faith or ethnicity, can enjoy a life of dignity and hope.
One way the Middle East could start increasing peace and prosperity is by actually having a free market. People forget the Arab Spring started after a Tunisian merchant self-immolated after the government targeted him for not having a permit. It’s unfortunate Trump didn’t use his speech to promote a more liberalized economy, but it’s possible he did it during his meeting with the king and other Saudi leadership. The $400B business agreement between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia is nice, but with most of the agreements involving state-owned industries it’s unlikely the private sector will actually benefit. It’s possible Saudi Arabia will see freedom expand as Salman and company start expanding the market from 3.8% private sector involvement in the GDP to 5.7%. It will just take decades to see this come through.
It’s still a little disappointing to see Trump focus so much on Iran, but that’s probably to be expected given Muslim sect difference between Saudi Arabia (Sunni) and Iran (Shia).
For decades, Iran has fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror.
It is a government that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing the destruction of Israel, death to America, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room.
Among Iran’s most tragic and destabilizing interventions have been in Syria. Bolstered by Iran, Assad has committed unspeakable crimes, and the United States has taken firm action in response to the use of banned chemical weapons by the Assad Regime—launching 59 tomahawk missiles at the Syrian air base from where that murderous attack originated.
It’s here where Trump falls in line with the various other American presidents, on attempting to isolate Iran, instead of bringing them into the fold. The concerns about Iran’s motives towards Israel and the rest of the Muslim world are understandable, but I’m not 100% sure it’s the U.S.’ job to make Iran an outlier. If the entire Arab world is to be against ISIS, Iran will have to be involved in that fight as well, because they are against ISIS as well. Trump is sadly making the same mistake as other presidents have, by not encouraging engagement with Iran. The solution is, again, economics because allowing companies to trade with the people of Iran will only increase their desire for freedom. It may take decades for Iran to actually have some semblance of freedom, but there’s nothing wrong with talking to them.
The same could be said with Trump’s decision to bomb Syria. There’s absolutely no reason for the U.S. to be involved in a civil war, especially when it’s bad guys fighting bad guys. The U.S. would be better off leaving Syria be, and getting out of Iraq, because one should never get involved in a land war in Asia. Trump should let the Arab world handle ISIS. He took some steps in his speech, but his actions after the speech will speak more than his actual words.