Given their dependence, we should have far more leverage over their behavior than we do. Instead, they are flaunting their leverage over us by threatening to unleash the oil weapon they deployed so dramatically in 1973 after Israel’s victory in the Yom Kippur War (and, in reverse, in 1986, when they opened the spigots to help bankrupt the Soviet Union). But America is no longer dependent on Gulf oil as we were in decades past. If Saudi Arabia allowed oil prices to skyrocket, it would empower its largest regional adversary — Iran — and encourage importing countries to seek long-term relationships with more reliable suppliers, or to accelerate their transition away from oil entirely. And a recession would trigger a collapse in demand that would ultimately hurt its own bottom line, which they could hardly afford when their Yemen debacle is costing them billions per month.
The kinds of arguments Trump himself has levied against our alliances with South Korea or Germany apply with far greater force to our relationship with Saudi Arabia. And if it is easy to win a trade war with China, as Trump claims it is, it should be a piece of cake to win a staring contest with Saudi Arabia.
Even Pat Buchanan, one of Trump’s strongest intellectual defenders, thinks this is one time America shouldn’t put its conscience on the shelf, but instead take the opportunity to back away from a relationship that has long since ceased to serve American interests.