SUMMARY, ANALYSIS, PUBLICATIONS, AND ARTICLES
Think Tanks Activity Summary
(For further details, scroll down to the PUBLICATIONS section)
The Heritage Foundation weighs in on what the US reaction should not be towards Saudi Arabia in terms of Khashoggi death. They conclude, “The problem for the United States is that Saudi behavior is destructive. But leaving the Saudis to go it alone would merely be more of the same policy that got us where we are today. Since 2011, when most U.S. forces left Iraq, declining U.S. influence has paralleled rising regional violence — and Iranian power. That violence isn’t our fault — but given how rotten the regimes in the region are, we shouldn’t have expected them to behave any better. Kicking Saudi Arabia to the curb now is tempting, but it will only quicken the descent by making it clear to the Saudis that they’re on their own against the Iranians. Breaking this spiral won’t be easy. It may not be possible. Yet we must try to convince the Saudis that their actions, far from enhancing their security, are undermining it. Ironically, Khashoggi was right about that; the reaction to his death is proof of it. Our response to it should be guided not by self-righteous outrage, but by our interest in talking the Saudis down from their ledge.”
The Washington Institute says the Saudis must pay a price for the Khashoggi murder. They note, “outside investment becomes even more urgent — and yet, acts like the killing of Khashoggi that raise reputational risks also cast doubt on the trustworthiness and stability of the kingdom and make attracting capital much harder. Moreover, while providing new forms of entertainment — movies, concerts, theme parks — provide an outlet for young people, they are not sufficient to achieve his transformational aims: Young people also need space to think, talk, assemble. And smart leadership would understand that, in a time of genuine transformation, there must be room to release tensions and frustrations. Maybe experience will yield such understanding. For now, the Trump administration must impose a price but with a clear purpose; it should be less to punish Saudi Arabia and more to convince the king and MbS that there must be a change in behavior.”
The CSIS also looks at the Khashoggi murder. They conclude, “The United States can respond in many ways. There can be an executive branch reaction, which I expect to be fairly limited in scope. Congress could also respond. Several groups have issues with Saudi Arabia, many of whom have a voice in Congress, and this event may unite them and give them a rallying point. There’s the threat of punishment through the Global Magnitsky Act, but I’m not sure we’re going to have clear enough evidence to pursue those kinds of consequences. I have a hard time believing that the U.S. government is going to sanction Saudi Arabia. We have a very broad and very deep relationship that encompasses military issues, intelligence issues, financial and commercial issues, and educational issues. So, I don’t think we’re on the verge of sanctions, but I also think it is hard to believe there won’t be consequences. I also think U.S. businesses are likely to respond, especially if there’s sustained congressional pressure. Mohammed bin Salman was seen as the great hope for change in Saudi Arabia, and that drew a lot of business interest. If there’s a sense that Saudi Arabia is not going to change the way people thought of it, or that Mohammed bin Salman is a liability rather than an asset, you may see a lot of U.S. business interest in Saudi Arabia dry up.”
The Carnegie Endowment looks at the Saudi response to the Khashoggi murder. They conclude, “The United States should take advantage of Saudi Arabia’s vulnerable position and capitalize on the king’s personal involvement to ask for concessions such as serious negotiations in Yemen and the dismissal of death penalties hanging over the heads of certain Saudi activists. Riyadh may be more amenable to these steps in return for Washington’s willingness to reconsider potentially harsh Magnitsky Act sanctions, which allow the U.S. government to punish human rights abuses. Both sides have an interest in repairing the damaged U.S.-Saudi relationship. Unless the United States acts soon, domestic threats in Saudi Arabia will ease off. When that happens, Riyadh will feel more comfortable. But Washington must be deft. If it puts too much pressure on Saudi Arabia, there will be side effects: higher oil prices due to market instability and emboldened, hostile Iranians and Houthis. What’s more, the kingdom could conceivably use its regional media empire, money, and universal Islamic outreach to disrupt U.S. policies in the Middle East and in Africa.”
The Washington Institute says the Khashoggi murder shows the Saudi power structure. They note, “The kingdom’s once-broad power structure now appears to rest on the shoulders of two men. King Salman, age eighty-two and in declining health, is increasingly a mere figurehead, albeit a diplomatically convenient one for Riyadh during the Jamal Khashoggi crisis. The fiction of his rule was preserved most recently by a telephone call from President Trump and a short visit with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The royal orders sacking a key media advisor to MbS and four intelligence officials were issued in the king’s name, though it is unclear how involved he was in the decision. Meanwhile, MbS has become the most powerful crown prince in Saudi history. Since replacing his father as defense minister nearly four years ago, he has steadily concentrated all the kingdom’s disparate military forces under his control. When he orchestrated the resignation of former crown prince Muhammad bin Nayef last year, he transferred leadership of the Interior Ministry to MbN’s young nephew while emaciating the institution’s past dominance in security affairs. Likewise, when the crown prince’s last obvious rival, Mitab bin Abdullah, was accused of corruption and locked up in the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton last November, he was stripped of his post atop the powerful Saudi Arabian National Guard and replaced by a peripheral family member.”
The Cato Institute argues the US-Saudi relationship was in trouble before the Khashoggi murder. They conclude, “With the increasing divergence between Saudi and American interests, the Khashoggi murder offers an opportunity for lawmakers. Sanctions legislation, or legislation forbidding the use of U.S. forces to back the Saudi-led War in Yemen, would send a clear signal that Saudi behavior is unacceptable. It would lay the groundwork for a future administration to adopt a more balanced approach to the Middle East, one focused on stability, not on supporting the goals of any one state. And it would reorient American foreign policy to more accurately reflect the reality of the global oil market: that Saudi Arabia’s future increasingly lies in selling its resources to Asia, not the West. Once, the U.S.-Saudi marriage of convenience served both sides well. But it was just that — a marriage of convenience. With changes in the oil market and regional security, the rationale for the relationship has been diminishing for years. It has undoubtedly taken time for opinion in Congress and elsewhere to catch up to this reality. It may take longer still — into the next administration — for the White House to finally acknowledge that the Saudi alliance no longer serves U.S. needs. But the shock of Khashoggi’s death has created an opening to reassess this alliance, highlighting that Americans have no shared values with Saudi Arabia, and perhaps, fewer shared interests than they thought.”
The CSIS looks at the perils of withdrawal in Afghanistan. They note, “a U.S. exit would likely trigger a departure of European and other foreign forces from the country and a collapse of the Afghan regime. It is difficult to overstate the psychological impact of a U.S. exit, as Afghans fled—or tried to flee—the country. The Taliban, with support from Pakistan and limited assistance from countries like Iran and Russia, would likely attempt to seize and hold urban centers like Kandahar, Lashkar Gah, and eventually Kabul. Now, the Taliban does not control any cities in Afghanistan… What should the United States do? The Trump administration should work with the Afghan government and regional powers—including Pakistan—to reach a political settlement with the Taliban. But it is unclear whether the United States will succeed. After all, only a quarter of insurgencies end with a settlement. Nearly three-quarters end on the battlefield. Since World War II, insurgent groups successfully overthrew a government or gained independence in 35 percent of insurgencies, and governments defeated insurgents on the battlefield another 36 percent of the time. If negotiations fail or continue to drag on, then what? U.S. policymakers and the public need to carefully think through the implications of withdrawal. A precipitous exit might be worse than the status quo.”
Escalating Political Violence in United States
What does it mean for the future?
A racist white supremacist anti immigrant’s person kills 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue. Another pro-Trump person in Florida mails bombs to over a dozen prominent Democrats. Last week, someone fired four gunshots into the Volusia Republican headquarters in Florida. A Republican congressional candidate, Rudy Peters, was attacked with a knife by a Clinton supporter at a festival a month ago. Republican senators are attacked while eating dinner at public restaurants. A few weeks ago, Shane Mekeland, a Republican running for the Minnesota House of Representatives suffered a concussion after being punched in the face.
A POLITICO/Morning Consult poll conducted following a week of pipe bombs addressed to prominent Democrats and the murder of 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue—among other events—found that a majority of those polled consider political violence to be “widespread.”
Approximately 58% of voters, including 63% of Democrats and 55% of both Republicans and independents found there to be political violence in the U.S. Just over one-third (36%) of those polled blamed Trump on the violence, while just shy of one-third (31%) found Democrats in Congress to be responsible. Roughly 24% had no opinion, and 9% blamed Republicans in Congress.
Meanwhile, a majority of voters also believe Trump is responsible for dividing the country. More than half (56%) think he’s done more to divide the country, while 30% said he’s served to unite the country. But between Trump and the media, most believe the media is the real divider.
No doubt, the level of political violence has escalated this year. And politicians from both sides are encouraging it. President Trump said of a Republican congressman who body slammed a reporter, “Never wrestle him. Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my guy.”
Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said, “You can’t be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for.” She said civility would only return when the Democrats retake control.
California Congresswoman Maxine Waters has encouraged Democrats to harass members of the Trump Administration said, “If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd. And you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”
Even those who want to stay out of the political fray are being threatened. CNN host Don Lemon declared that “white men” are the biggest terror threat to the United States, noted that “there is no white-guy ban” and wondered aloud, “what do we do about that?”
That is a statement that must be troubling to the second largest voter bloc in the US.
The question is: is America that radically divided?
The answer unfortunately, is yes.
An October AP-NORC national survey of 1,152 adults found that 8 in 10 Americans believe the country is divided regarding essential values and some expect the division to deepen into 2020, the next presidential election.
Only 20% of Americans said they think the country will become less divided over the next several years and 39% believe conditions will continue to deteriorate. 77% say they are dissatisfied with the state of politics in the country.
There are clearly serious internal struggles in America. But, are they temporary or a harbinger of worse to come.
Some that see the current problems as the beginnings of a crisis in America follow the Strauss-Howe Generational Theory. This theory says history moves in “turnings,” each one lasting about the length of a human life and four cycles equaling a “Saeculum.” In the United States, the climax of the three Saeculum experienced are the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the Great Depression/World War 2.
What determines these “Turnings” is the way each generation sees itself, which is shaped by historical events that occur in their formative years, and then determine their actions as they grow older and become the decision makers.
The first turning is called the “High.” This occurs after a crisis and is when institutions are strong, and individualism is weak. Society is confident about where it wants to go collectivity. According to the authors of this theory, the most recent First Turning in the US was the post-World War 2 era that went from 1946 to the assassination of Kennedy in 1963.
According to the theory, the Second Turning is an “Awakening.” This is an era when institutions are attacked in the name of personal autonomy. People are tired of social discipline and turn to individuality. This era in the US went from the “Consciousness Revolution” and inner-city riots of the mid-1960s to the tax revolts of the early 1980s.
The Third Turning is called the “Unraveling.” Institutions are weak and distrusted, while individualism is strong and flourishing. The American Unraveling began in the 1980s and includes the current culture war.
Some of the current attacks on American institutions are attacks on established religion, attacks on the American form of constitutional government, and even attacks on traditional American freedoms.
The fourth turning is called the “Crisis.” This is an era of destruction, often involving war or revolution, in which institutional life is destroyed and rebuilt in response to a perceived threat to the nation’s survival.
The warning signs of the Crisis Turning are periods of political chaos, division, social and economic decay in which Americans move to extreme division. These will only disappear after a massive conflict that forces Americans to reunite and rebuild a new future.
The last Crisis started with the economic crash of 1929 and ended with the end of World War Two.
If the theory is correct, America is headed into a crisis period. And, given the level of political violence we see in the news, it could very well be true.
Ironically many of the critics of the theory in the 1990s are becoming advocates given the events of the last 10 years, including the political violence and political gridlock occurring today.
The Crisis and the Mid Term Elections
Could next week’s mid-term elections be a catalyst for the Crisis? Maybe.
There are clearly extremists on both sides who will not accept the results of the election. And, the closer the election outcome, the greater the possibility of renewed violence.
The worst scenario would be a close election, where the control of the House of Representatives is determined by a few close elections that will require recounts. Given the polling, this is a very real possibility.
If control of the House will be determined by 2 or 3 districts where the margin of victory is a couple of hundred votes, the pressure to influence that recount will be great on both the Republican and Democratic sides.
If there is any evidence of fraud, the losing side will consider the election and resultant control of the House to be fraudulent. And, they may very well start protests that could very well get out of control. And, as we know from revolutionary history, protests can quickly turn into the event that causes conflict as we saw with the Storming of the Bastille in the French Revolution or the Storming of the Winter Palace in the Russian Revolution.
The consequences of a serious civil unrest are being looked at by the government. In October, the Military Times carried out a poll of the uniformed services to see which branches pro-Trump and anti-Trump are. While the military is evenly split in their support of Trump, the poll found the most pro-Trump service was the Marine Corps, while the most Anti-Trump service was the Air Force.
Military men were more supportive of Trump than military women.
Nearly five years ago, the Monitor warned of the growing threat of civil unrest in the United States. Despite a change in president and the US Senate, that threat remains and has grown.
The outcome of the election next week will have an impact on the future. If one party comes out of the election with a clear win, the US may gain a respite. However, if the election results are close and control of the legislative branch of government is in doubt because of some very close elections, we can expect extremists on both sides to take advantage of the situation.
Keep in mind that after the election, politicians will start looking forward to the presidential election in 2020. While Trump’s re-nomination seems secure at this time, we can expect at least a dozen Democrats to announce their presidential campaign in 2019. Many of these candidates will try to boost their campaign with inflammatory rhetoric against Republicans and President Trump. And we can expect Trump to respond in kind as he is accused already of being responsible for the political violence environment since running for president and during his presidency.
So, can America step back from the brink? That’s where social models like the Strauss-Howe Generational Theory come into play. They postulate that the US must go through a crisis to come back into some sort of order.
No one can say with certainty that the US is doomed to a period of violence.
Either way, the next few weeks may play a large part in the future of the United States.
What Not to Do About Khashoggi
By Theodore R. Bromund
October 23, 2018
The death of Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of Saudi Arabia offers a terrible temptation to the United States: We can indulge our outrage at the expense of our interests. We have few good options but giving in to that temptation would be the worst thing to do. Everyone involved in this scandal has performed poorly, if not disgracefully. Saudi Arabia has been caught lying about Khashoggi’s death. President Donald Trump has sided both with and against the Saudis, thereby earning brickbats from all sides. Turkey pretends to care about Khashoggi but imprisons more journalists than any other nation. And then there is Khashoggi himself. It’s awkward to speak ill of the dead, but Khashoggi’s relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood was not a mere youthful flirtation. Just a year ago, he called on the Saudi leadership to cooperate with them, and to lead a unified Arab world to support the Palestinians in their fight against Israel. That doesn’t justify killing him.
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The U.S.-Saudi Alliance Was in Trouble Long Before Jamal Khashoggi’s Death
By Emma Ashford
October 22, 2018
The murder of Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul has left Washington reeling — and Riyadh bewildered. Whether Saudi leaders didn’t expect to get caught, or simply believed themselves above reproach, they appear to have been taken by surprise at the outpouring of criticism. Indeed, Khashoggi’s death feels like a watershed moment in the U.S.-Saudi relationship. Suddenly, many in Washington are finally willing to admit that Saudi Arabia — a country they have long treated as a friend and partner — is little more than another murderous Middle East dictatorship. The White House may still be supportive, but newspapers are printing criticism, think tanks are returning Saudi money, and Congress is actively considering sanctions. This moment has been a long time coming. Khashoggi’s murder caps years of growing dissatisfaction about the Saudi alliance. Like a failing marriage, the United States and Saudi Arabia have long been drifting apart. Diverging U.S.-Saudi interests, and an increasingly reckless Saudi foreign policy have taken their toll on the relationship, even as domestic repression has grown inside Saudi Arabia.
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The U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan: The Perils of Withdrawal
By Seth G. Jones
Center for Strategic and International Studies
October 26, 2018
Recent events in Afghanistan have reenergized those in favor of a U.S. military withdrawal. “Let someone else take up the burden,” urged one opinion piece in Slate. Another in the UK-based Guardian newspaper bluntly noted: “It’s time for America to end its war in Afghanistan.” Some media reports have also suggested that U.S. negotiators in Doha, Qatar have agreed to discuss the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan as part of a negotiated settlement with the Taliban. Yet without a political settlement, which is still a longshot, a U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan would have serious risks. Chief among them would be the resurgence of terrorism and the deterioration of human rights—including women’s rights—that come with a Taliban victory.
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The Implications of Khashoggi’s Death for Saudi Arabia
By Jon B. Alterman
Center for Strategic and International Studies
October 22, 2018
The Saudi government has now admitted that Jamal Khashoggi was killed in the consulate. Most of the other details are coming from Turkish intelligence and are filtered through the Turkish press, some of which are quite lurid about what happened in the consulate. However, we don’t know that everything that’s been reported is true, and we don’t know what investigators found. We will certainly know more in due time, and I strongly suspect that some of what we think we know now will turn out not to be true. Some of what we know is likely to be contested. Both intent and direction are likely to be among the hardest to prove.
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What Does the Saudi Response to the Khashoggi Scandal Mean?
By YASMINE FAROUK
OCTOBER 19, 2018
It is impossible to understand Saudi Arabia’s response to the recent disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi without taking into account the complicated politics swirling around Riyadh and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Domestic politics now leave the kingdom most vulnerable to a harsh U.S. response. Riyadh’s reaction has been bewildering and, for many, infuriating. It started with the Saudi consulate’s denial of any knowledge of Khashoggi’s fate. When the story refused to blow over, the crown prince raised discussions of Saudi-led investigations and “cooperation with the Turkish government” while vehemently denying any Saudi responsibility. The official Saudi press agency also published a warning that any international sanctions could lead to retaliatory sanctions. This threat was not just aimed at the United States; it was also meant for Saudis living in the country and abroad.
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What Does Khashoggi’s Murder Tell Us About the Saudi Power Structure?
By Simon Henderson
October 22, 2018
The traditional way of looking at Saudi Arabia has been that the royal family rules by consensus and with caution, choosing leaders based on experience and seniority. That template has been increasingly invalidated since the accession of King Salman in January 2015 and the emergence of his thirty-three-year-old son Muhammad bin Salman, who has been crown prince and heir apparent since June 2017. Under MbS, now the kingdom’s de facto day-to-day leader, Saudi Arabia has begun transforming its economy (in the form of his “Vision 2030” plan), its society (e.g., opening cinemas and giving women the right to drive), and its religion (a supposed reversion to a more “moderate Islam”). Yet he has not opened the political sphere to ordinary Saudis; he also appears to have sharply reduced the role of the wider al-Saud family, sidelining thousands of princes.
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U.S. Must Impose a Price on Saudis, But One With a Clear Purpose
By Dennis Ross
October 30, 2018
The murder of Jamal Khashoggi has dominated international attention for weeks. Sadly, his death may have more impact on Saudi Arabia and its future than did his articles for the Washington Post. In the best case, where his killing was not ordered but was the result of overzealous Saudi operatives, there is still something grievously wrong with a policy designed to silence dissidents or critics, either by rendition or intimidation. As important as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s efforts to modernize the kingdom, and to reconcile Islam with modernity, may be, the killing of Khashoggi and the kingdom’s shifting stories cross the line. Nothing justifies them. The blowback against the kingdom is warranted and there needs to be a price.
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