Yesterday, Allahpundit picked apart Joe Biden’s decision to not take any direct action against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman after an intelligence report concluded that MBS had ordered the murder of American journalist Jamal Khashoggi. To be fair to the President, it’s a complicated situation with a lot of moving parts and no obvious solution. What I was more curious about was the response from the mainstream media. Our major press outlets have spent years assailing the Bad Orange Man for being too cozy with Saudi Arabia while he was repairing Arab relations with Israel and performing a balancing act in the Middle East. Could they really turn around and just give Biden a pass? I’ll confess to being at least somewhat surprised that many news outlets were willing to immediately take Biden to task, though some used considerably gentler language than they would have when dealing with Donald Trump. One example of this came to us from David Sanger at the New York Times.
The decision will disappoint the human rights community and members of his own party who complained during the Trump administration that the U.S. was failing to hold Mohammed bin Salman accountable.
So the decision was “disappointing” to Sanger. But he immediately turns around and spends multiple paragraphs describing how “the diplomatic cost of directly penalizing” MBS was “too high.” Sanger goes on to paint a picture of Biden as a careful strategist who consulted with his national security team and concluded there was no way to take direct action “without breaching the relationship with one of America’s key Arab allies.”
Not for nothing, but weren’t all of those exact things true of America’s position when Trump was in the White House? Just saying…
Also at the Gray Lady, Nicholas Kristoff was significantly more blunt. Perhaps this was driven by the fact that he had a personal friendship with Khashoggi, but he definitely let Joe Biden have it with both barrels.
The United States government publicly identified Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia as the murderer of an American resident, and then President Biden choked.
Instead of imposing sanctions on M.B.S., Biden appears ready to let the murderer walk. The weak message to other thuggish dictators considering such a murder is: Please don’t do it, but we’ll still work with you if we have to. The message to Saudi Arabia is: Go ahead and elevate M.B.S. to be the country’s next king if you must.
All this is a betrayal of my friend Jamal Khashoggi and of his values and ours.
Kristoff proclaims that Biden “choked.” He describes the failure to directly go after MBS as a “betrayal.” While I rarely get the opportunity to credit Kristoff these days, he is at least being consistent.
The big reveal had to come from the Washington Post editorial board. After all, Khashoggi worked for them and they went after Trump mercilessly for not finding a way to hold MBS responsible. Sure enough, they quickly released an editorial declaring that Biden “should not give him a pass.” But it was still handled as more of a disagreement than an accusation. We’re clearing observing the media evolution from “Orange Man Bad” to “Distinguished President mishandles difficult policy decision.”
We shouldn’t lose sight of what started all of this angst, however. Did Mohammad bin Salman order the murder of Khashoggi? Of course he did, unless his father the King somehow did it without consulting him, and that seems highly unlikely. So why did MBS do it? Because he wanted to and knew he could get away with it. He would have done it even if Hillary Clinton had been president at the time instead of Trump. The United States is in a tough position when it comes to our relationship with Saudi Arabia. Their brutal regime has, for better or worse, been a capable and powerful partner in matters ranging from keeping a lid on Iran to supporting our allies in Israel. There have also been regular reports over the past couple of decades that the Saudis have “made certain problems go away” for us in terms of dealing with terrorists.
I’m not here to criticize Joe Biden’s decision on this matter. His choices were limited and he wound up doing basically the same thing that Donald Trump did, albeit with a few harsher words to make things look better for the press. But I’ll close this out with a question that Biden will have to keep in mind and it was always lurking in the background for Trump. It was asked by Zaid Jilani last night. Is there a hard limit on how many Americans MBS could kill before we actually do something about it?