Extremism and America’s oil addiction
President Trump’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia signals his commitment to a severely oppressive theocracy
Imagine that the Holy Roman Empire still existed, with its medieval religious and political systems strangely juxtaposed with modern technology. Imagine this empire’s laws and social norms were based on a fiercely intolerant religious doctrine that subjugated women and left no room for dissent. Now imagine that, despite their rejection of modernity or virtually any outside influences, the rulers of this empire thrived due to their control of a vital natural resource: oil.
Unfortunately, such a medieval society in the modern world is no fantasy. Its name is Saudi Arabia.
When President Trump made his first trip abroad, Saudi Arabia was his first stop, a clear sign of respect and acknowledgment of the Saudis as a key U.S. ally. He then implicitly recognized Saudi Arabia as the “heart of the Muslim world” in a speech to an assembly of Muslim representatives from around the world. As the home of the two holiest sites in Islam, Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia understandably views itself as the guardian of the true faith. Unfortunately, there are few societies more opposed to freedom and human rights.
In this severely oppressive theocracy, ordinary people are strictly controlled, and religious extremism is fostered and funded by the authorities.
Thanks to their oil wealth, the Saudis propagate their brutally repressive version of Islam (Wahhabism) throughout the Islamic world, from Africa to Indonesia to Europe. And while most Wahhabi Muslims aren’t terrorists, Saudi “charities” have for years funded al-Qaida and similar terrorist networks around the world.
Because the fight against Islamic terrorism is above all a contest of ideas within the Muslim world, President Obama understood the need to stop helping the Saudis spread their fanaticism by weening us off our need for Saudi oil (a major factor in his support for fracking). Sadly, his reasoned approach to fighting extremism didn’t last. Under Trump, we’re still tight with the patrons of an Islamic sect that is dangerously hostile to our core values and way of life—as long as they keep feeding our addiction to oil.