Our Faustian deal was this: As long as the Saudis kept our oil prices low, bought our fighter jets, housed our fleets and drones and gave us cover in the region, they could keep their country proudly medieval.
It was accepted wisdom that it was futile to press the Saudis on the feudal, the degradation of women and human rights atrocities, because it would just make them dig in their heels. Even Hillary Clinton, as secretary of state, never made an impassioned Beijing-style speech about women in Saudi Arabia being obliterated under a black tarp.
During the first gulf war, fought in part to protect the Saudis from an encroaching Saddam, a group of Saudi women — artists and academics — got excited by the presence of American female soldiers and went for a joy ride. The clerics branded the drivers “whores” and “harlots.” They received death threats and lost their jobs. Driving by women, banned by custom, was made illegal.
America was mute. Our government did not even fight for the right of its women soldiers protecting Saudi Arabia to refuse the Saudi directive to wear an abaya and head scarf when off the base.