January 9, 2014

What's the Saudis' secret (besides all the money in the world)?

When I was young, one of the most popular predictions was that the Saud ruling family of Saudi Arabia was on its last legs and would topple any day now. After all, Saudi Arabia is the greatest prize in human history, as the secret American geological mission during WWII wrote back to FDR. 

And the Saudis don't impress that many visitors. But, generation after generation, they seem to be able to scrape together enough brains to figure things out and bet accordingly. 

So, there they are. The Shah is gone, the Soviets are gone, Saddam is gone, Qadaffy is gone, the Assad family is bad shape, Morsi is out of power, and so forth, while the Sauds are still there. In fact, they seem to be in a lot of places these days, although the recent American opening toward Iran has to count as a setback. The Israelis are still there, of course, but Israel and Saudi Arabia never got along all that badly and seem to be pretty buddy-buddy these days.

The War Nerd writes:
Let’s try a different theory: that the Saudis know exactly what they’re doing. That they are, in fact, geniuses at exporting trouble while keeping the homeland quiet. What other Middle Eastern faction has held power as long as the House of Saud? They’re coming up on a century in control of the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and in that century they’ve buried a lot of groups that looked a lot shinier and more modern, starting with the Al Rashidi, who were more cosmopolitan, tolerant, and adaptable than the Sauds. The Sauds crushed them anyway.

Same with the Hashemites, although they've hung on to little Jordan.
Then there was the rise of the Communists. Nobody even remembers that 50 years ago the Middle East was crowded with clever, university-educated Marxist Arabs who were going to sweep the bad old monarchies away. Now, the last Marxists in Syria are a very small, weird militia fighting with Assad against a tidal wave of Sunni jihadism. 
The Ba’ath, who were going to secularize and modernize the Arab world, have seen their ideology vanish completely, so that even the guys fighting for so-called Ba’athists like Assad are openly fighting for their sect, not pan-Arab socialism. 
The Middle East has been Saudi-ized while we looked on and laughed at those goofy Saudis who didn’t understand progress. No wonder they’re content to play dumb. If we took a serious look at them, they’d be terrifying. 
And of all their many skills, the one the Saudis have mastered most thoroughly is disruption. Not the cute tech-geek kind of disruption, but the real, ugly thing-in-itself. They don’t just “turn a blind eye” to young Saudi men going off to do jihad—they cheer them on. It’s a brilliant strategy that kills two very dangerous birds with one plane ticket. By exporting their dangerous young men, the Saudis rid themselves of a potential troublemaker while creating a huge amount of pain for the people who live wherever those men end up. 
Saudis have shipped money, sermons, and volunteers to Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Russia’s North Caucasus just as they’re doing now in Syria. It’s a package deal—to get the money, you have to accept the Wahhabism and the volunteers. And it works. The Saudi package is usually resented at first, like it was by the Afghans who were outraged to be told they were “bad Muslims” by Saudi volunteers. 
But Afghan Islam has been Wahhabized over time. The same thing happened much more dramatically in Chechnya, where Saudi volunteers showed they were serious about war and religion, a nice change from the coopted quasi-Soviet imams the Chechens had known before. Saudis like Ibn al-Khattab, Abu al-Walid, and Muhannad (all noms de guerre) provided the only real jobs a young man could get in Chechnya, and in the process did a great job of miring the Chechens in an endless war that has killed something like 160,000 people while forcing Chechen women into Saudi-style isolation, eventually leaving Chechnya under the control of Ramzan Kadyrov, a second-generation death-squad commander who does most of the Kremlin’s killing for them. This is a typical Saudi aid result: A disaster for the recipients, the Chechens, and their enemies, the Russians, but a huge win for Saudi. Same thing is going on in the rest of Russia’s North Caucasus, especially in Dagestan, where the Boston Marathon bombers’ parents live. 
And one aspect of that victory is the elimination of potentially troublesome young males who might have made trouble inside Saudi. 

Are there more general lessons that can be learned from the success of the Sauds? Maybe they are the wave of the future?

51 comments:

Anonymous said...

They do as they're told all the way to the bank via the petrodollar regime. Is this a mystery?

Auntie Analogue said...


The Sauds have enjoyed great success in using their exported radicals as proxy armed forces to terrorize their targets - terror functioning to cow the risk-averse liberal West, whose "leaders" and elites force their own populations to submit to increasing sharia-creep, from opposing Islam, and have enjoyed success in using their money to insinuate Moslems and mosques and front groups into the West, all subsidized with Saudi cash. To accomplish these strategic goals the Sauds have become expert at being two-faced, speaking with forked-tongue, using the West's liberal laws against the West from within, and bribing pivotal Westerners with university chairs (as Dean of Harvard Law School Elena Kagan, for one, was instrumental in establishing the Saudi funded Sharia Law chair at Harvard) - yet our nation's Best & Brightest fall for the Sauds' lies again and again.

Sid said...

Saudi Arabia is starting to turn against jihadists, though. They cheered on the Egyptian military when the military liquidated the Muslim Brotherhood.

Saudi Arabia became much more conservative in the 80s, once jihadists started to attack Saudi targets within the kingdom. Yes, much of Islamic terrorism is Saudi Arabia getting rid of its dangerous elements. This is roughly in line with what Pope Urban II called the First Crusade for (part of it was to retake Jerusalem, but another part was to get thousands of troublesome knights out of European Christenom) and what the Imperial Japanese did when they attacked China in 1937 (both to conquer Asia, and keep the military from committing a coup the way it did in 1936).

Hunsdon said...

War Nerd said: By exporting their dangerous young men, the Saudis rid themselves of a potential troublemaker while creating a huge amount of pain for the people who live wherever those men end up.

Hunsdon said: By exporting their dangerous young men, the Mexicans rid themselves of a potential troublemaker while creating a huge amount of pain for the people who live wherever those men end up.

Anonymous said...

It's worth remembering that the US taught them this trick and financed the first instance of it. The Saudis didn't really start exporting their violent radicals until "Charlie Wilson's War'. I can't think of any violent, radical, Wahabi Islamizations exported, supported, and funded by the Saudis until after the US became involved supporting a proxy war in Afghanistan against the Soviets. Before that - say prior to the mid 1980s Saudi-supported Wahabi missionary operations and madrasas seemed to be a relatively benign influence, at least among those not concerned purely by the spread of militant, old-fashioned Islam.

deconstructingleftism said...

If you read my blog- and you probably don't, hardly anybody does- you know that my thesis is that the Whig civilization of England has over the last few hundred years taken over the world where possible by trade and colonization, and where not possible by "democratic" national revolutions. In places where neither was possible, communist revolution has been encouraged to scorch away any indigenous elite intent on resisting this process.

Mostly this has worked quite well. China went from being a communist hellhole to being a capitalist hellhole in remarkably short order. Latin America has resisted to a large extent, either by going medieval (Pinochet, Videla, D'Aubuisson), by relatively effective counterinsurgency (Uribe) or less dramatically by a lot of commercial restrictions (Mexico, as Steve has recently talked about.) But Latin America was never a big deal to the Whigs anyway, it's a commercial backwater.

How do the Saudis fit in this? If you're not an earnest Western liberal you don't see that democracy and the reduction of all religion to Victorian Methodism as a good thing, and you wouldn't have to be real smart to see what was going on. The Saudis just said "We give you the oil and you leave us the hell alone." The Whigs agreed. Sending potentially troublesome young men off to die in unwinnable wars under the banner of glory is an idea that goes back to antiquity, so again you wouldn't need to be real smart to figure that out as a helpful strategy. It doesn't bother the Whigs much since almost all the terrorism is directed places they don't care about, or where the destruction and demoralization of the population is helpful to them.

The Z Blog said...

Another practitioner of this strategy was Franco. When he finally gained power, he had a problem on his side of things. The Communist may have been vanquished, but there were a lot of fascists on his side itching to get involved in the coming war in Europe.

Franco allowed them to form brigades of volunteers to go off to fight for the German side. Most were sent off to the Eastern front where they were killed. Thus he solved two problems. One, he avoided joining the war, but prevented Hitler from invading. Two, he eliminated the nuts in his ranks who could be a threat to his rule.

Anonymous said...

Don't really know a lot about Saudi Arabia, since it's the classic 'closed' society - a trick they've pulled off without attracting the sort of odium hat journalists and others invariably threw at the former USSR or modern North Korea non-stop.

I expect it's got a lot to do with their huge oil reserves though, and the consequent free rein the US government gives Sadi, plus you've got the traditionally cosy hand-in-glove relationship between Saudi and the USA, cemented by Sadi autocrats and American oil barons, high level politicoes and spooks. Basically the attitude is "they are bastards, but they are our bastards", hence there's no CIA meddling and stirring things up. Also, the Saudi watchdog keeps a check on such real nasties as Iran and the former Saddam. Good ol' fashioned chess-board realpolitik.
Bear in mind that Saudi is rich enough to give its people a good standard of life - and patriotic enough to keep the imported coolies, who do all the grunt work, in the place and let them know whose boss. Of course, a western government would put the coolies in power over the indigenous.
A few weeks back, Saudi unceremoniously kicked plane-loads of afro/asian coolies who were simlpy surplus to requirements. The native Saudis need their jobs, you see.
Western governments were uncharacteristicall silent as were the usual tossers at Amnesty International etc. So now you all know that the western imperative to keep Saudi sweet runs right through the western establishment - even to the agents working undercover in Amnesty International, in fact.

As 'Deep Throat' said "follow the money".

dearieme said...

Wouldn't it be easier just to cut to the chase and call the King of Saudi Arabia the Caliph?

Puzzled said...

This is all very interesting but somehow I am skeptical. How exactly do the Saudi rulers manage to export their most dangerous young men? If they had informants who infiltrated radical organizations, then fingered the most rabid element and offered them a choice of "Jail or Dagestan", I could see how that would work. But is that really happening? Isn't the support for radicals in Dagestan etc coming from private actions of individual Saudi sheikhs? I guess the problem is that anyone who has the answers to such concrete questions would be an intelligence operative who is not talking.

Mark Plus said...

I slightly knew the Iranian-American writer F.M. Esfandiary, after he turned weird, changed his name to FM-2030 and called himself a "transhumanist" (long story).

FM bought into the whole Western progressive narrative about revolutionary transformations "for the better" in the human condition, based the social upheavals he saw from this travels in the 1950's and 1960's. (He never identified himself as a Marxist that I know of, but you can detect a Marxist influence in some of his early writings.) If you can find it online, about 50 years ago Esfandiary published an essay in The New York Times Sunday Magazine titled "The Mystical West Puzzles the Practical East," where he presents his faith in the capital-P Progress religion and how traditional societies have nowhere to go but towards Western-style modernity.

Little did FM realize that human nature has its own agenda which resists what social-engineering intellectuals want to impose on it, and that human societies display homeostatic mechanisms where they tend to revert to previous patterns of behavior over the long run. As Steve writes, 50 years ago Western and Soviet-educated Marxists held the ascendancy in many North African and Persian Gulf countries, with their modernizing agendas to replace Islam and local traditions. But the Saudi ruling elite apparently displays a better understanding of human nature than all of these faux-Western former Muslims, and they had their own plans for the region.

Funny how that works, huh? Our allegedly "ignorant" and "superstitious" ancestors who believed in an invariant and "fallen" human nature don't seem so foolish now, do they?

anony-mouse said...

The Saudis are going to have a problem in the future.

While their fertility rate is above replacement, its no longer wildly so, which will mean that they will have trouble sending many males abroad and keeping others at home to breed.

Anonymous said...

Mybe they remain in power just because they're representative of the worldview of they're subjects, unlike westernized arabs.

Anonymous said...

"Let’s try a different theory: that the Saudis know exactly what they’re doing. That they are, in fact, geniuses at exporting trouble while keeping the homeland quiet."

But say this about Jews, and you're 'rabid' and 'virulent'.

Constantly adding adjectives to certain ideas or views is enough to change public opinion.

We no longer use 'disgusting' or 'perverted' to describe homo culture but negative adjectives often accompany description of the pro-natural/normal side.

Anti-normalites are clever.

Chicago said...

One fairly decent book is 'Sleeping with the Devil' by former CIA officer Robert Baer. It gives an idea of why they're bad and why any replacement would be worse.They've got bags of gold, a religious ideology to sell and have the prestige of being the guardians of Islamic holy sites. In 2010 they contracted to buy up to $60 bn worth of weapons from us. That's really just buying US protection since it seems inconceivable they could actually absorb and use that much weaponry; who would they be fighting anyway?

Anonymous said...

"They do as they're told all the way to the bank via the petrodollar regime. Is this a mystery?" - and sentence #2 in war nerd's piece: they successfully export their trouble to others. but then that is increasingly becoming a more and more prevalent strategy all over the world.

Rrrrrroger said...

Don't know if this is at all applicable but it reminds me of the polygamous sects in the Mountain West who drive most of their boys into town and drop them on a street corner when they get to be 14 or so and are hard to handle and compete for the girls' attention.

DR said...

Neoreactionaries would point to Saudi Arabia's decidedly non-democratic government. Even dictators like Assad, Mubarak or Qaddafi maintain the pretense of democracy. Fundamentally they derive their mandate from the (supposed) will of the people.

When the secret police suppression mechanism leaks, and dissension starts being visible on the street, that opens the floodgate. Once it becomes visible that large swarths of the population actually oppose the "Presidents" of these countries, the regime's raison d'ĂȘtre is exposed as a lie.

In contrast this doesn't matter for the House of Saud. It doesn't and never has derived its right to rule based on the consent of the people. It doesn't try to stammer, lie or make excuses when someone asks it "Why are you in charge?" It simply answers: "Because we are, deal with it."

Moldbug 101 really.

Anonymous said...

Lesson #1: Have the world's largest oil reserves.

Anonymous said...

I think exporting all their potential trouble makers to other countries is pretty much it. It's simple but effective.

Awakened said...

There is conspiracy theories that the house of Saud is in fact scotch-irish.

jody said...

is this the real war nerd, or the obvious impostor who wrote a column back in 2012? it kinda sounds like the real guy is back.

Anonymous said...

Steve: "Are there more general lessons that can be learned from the success of the Sauds?"

Er, America needs comprehensive emigration reform?

Anonymous said...

No need for triple package.

http://nyp.st/1a3QhhX

Double package will do. Study by day, sing by night.

Gubbler of the Society of Reformed Chechenistics said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_Posner#Secrets_of_the_Kingdom

Saudis greased a lot of palms.

There was also the spoils system. No middle east nation during the Cold War was more pro-American.
Israel need not be pro-American since America was pro-Israel.

Thomas O. Meehan said...

This saudi strategy is also in many ways Mexico's strategy. Mexico used to be a friendly base for all sorts of Latin Leftist intrigue. You could export revolution to anywhere from Mexico, except of course Mexico itself. When the Marxist students of Mexico rose up they were mowed down by the police in short order.

Similarly, Mexicans in the United States are abetted in demanding their "Rights" by the Mexican government. If they demanded similar latitude in Mexico they would get pounded into the ground.

Anonymous said...

"Saud ruling family of Saudi Arabia was on its last legs and would topple any day now"

That was because the Saudis were borrowing dollars when oil was $10 a barrel and having trouble paying it back. With the Bush Betrayal oil is now $100 and the US will have trouble squeezing productivity out of the middle class to pay the debts.

"Let’s try a different theory: that the Saudis know exactly what they’re doing."

I personally think that the Saudis have an unusually small population for such vast mineral wealth, but not so small to be irrelevant like Brunei. They have more disposable income that say Iraq. Unlike Russia they have no desire to be a technologically advanced nation, so they are much loved by arms merchants in European capitals and DC.

Anonymous said...

Peace at home and trouble abroad. The Saudi formula in a nutshell.

Btw, Freedom House rates Saudi Arabia as one of the least free countries in the world. It rates a 7 for political rights and civil liberties, its lowest possible rating.

SFG said...

" Dean of Harvard Law School Elena Kagan, for one, was instrumental in establishing the Saudi funded Sharia Law chair at Harvard"

The capitalist really will sell you the rope you're going to hang him with, as Lenin said, eh?

Anonymous said...

The Saudi-backed radicals never target Israel.

Svigor said...


Are there more general lessons that can be learned from the success of the Sauds?

Yeah: rule Muslims with Islamic law. I notice that your quotes from the War Nerd didn't mention that "Wahhabism" is Islamic law. Or rather, that Saud seems to do its level best to make their laws reflect Islam. It's a rather curious omission, but I'm too lazy to go see if the error's the Nerd's (I'm guessing it is - doesn't seem like the sort of thing you'd leave out). That's got to be right at the top of the list of smart things to do to keep Muslim populations in line.

Word verification: Arabity

Svigor said...

Peace at home and trouble abroad. The Saudi formula in a nutshell.

Btw, Freedom House rates Saudi Arabia as one of the least free countries in the world. It rates a 7 for political rights and civil liberties, its lowest possible rating.


I've read that SA ranks higher in economic freedom than the USA. IIRC, their tax burden is a hell of a lot lower than ours. Muslims (or at least, Muslim Arabs) also take privacy much more seriously than westerners do. IIRC, there's an Islamic injunction against sticking your nose in your neighbor's business, or more accurately, prying your eyes into his home. I'm aware of nothing at all like that in Christianity. Sounds like a great way to keep lefties out of everyone's business.

Whiskey said...

The Saudis run one big risk: a Bin Laden type copies Mohammed, raises exile army, overthrows them as a virile, non corrupt new king.

Anonymous said...

"Are there more general lessons that can be learned from the success of the Sauds?"

"Yeah: rule Muslims with Islamic law."

If you have lots of oil to keep everyone happy. And be friendly with the superpower US.

Anonymous said...

Saudis have one advantage over other Middle East nations. Saudi elites and the masses are all part of the same culture. It's Sunnis ruling over Sunnies. Shiites exist but as a small minority.
Iraq was insecure cuz Sunnis ruled over lots of Kurds and even more Shiites.
Syria is unstable cuz Assad who is not Sunni rules over Sunni masses.
Jordan has been peaceful but its situation is also unstable cuz Palestinians are the vast majority.
Lebanon is a powder keg where things can go very wrong cuz of its crazy diversity.

Saudis, by working closely with the Wahabis, have created a national myth whereby the Royal family, the true Faith, and the Saudi masses are seen as part of a single unified entity.

And as Saudi Arabia is the scene of the Hajj, maybe it has a special status lacking in other Muslim nations. They can put on the holy shmoly act.

Anonymous said...

The Saudis are real bad guys – it is no wonder that they have aligned themselves with Israelis.

Their aberrant tribalism and love of money goes hand in hand.

p.s. Remember the sickening picture of W Bush holding the hand of that Saudi king. Retch!

p.s. Lets face it, governments are evil – they stick together like thieves.

Svigor said...

The Saudis run one big risk: a Bin Laden type copies Mohammed, raises exile army, overthrows them as a virile, non corrupt new king.

Right; the caliph is supposed to be elected, which makes the Saud somewhat less than Halal. But elections aren't really how charismatic, effective generals start revolutions, are they? It's my impression they're usually the last warlord standing, which would give a would-be usurper no more legitimacy than the Saud.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

I've read that SA ranks higher in economic freedom than the USA.

Aw hell yeah. You just touch down in Riyadh, hop off the plane, and start your whiskey-and-pork-barbecue joint right there.

IIRC, their tax burden is a hell of a lot lower than ours.

Do you have any idea how this works? Give me allodial title to the US landmass, all the mineral rights to everything underneath it, the Prophet's (pbuh) Heavenly Mandate, and US CentCom in my back yard and I'll lower your taxes too.

Anonymous said...

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1990-12-03/news/9004090966_1_saudi-arabia-young-saudis-movie

Anonymous said...

http://articles.philly.com/1991-03-18/news/25793569_1_colonel-new-world-order-kuwait-city

Anonymous said...

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/4731679/Hamsters-in-jackets-harnessed-for-energy.html

Chinese contribution to science. I guess that solves the oil problem.

Gubbler of the Society of Reformed Chechenistics said...

"What's the Saudis' secret (besides all the money in the world)?"

Cuz they got good advice from a British homo.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ZD4153IubY

It seems like the Saudis wagered correctly in WWI, WWII, and the Cold War.
It was protected by US from Hussein. And even when Saudis and US didn't see eye to eye, Saudis never took a strong stance against the US. No strong stance for anything, no strong stance against anything.

And they remained aloof of Pan-Arabism led by Nasser of Egypt with its grandiose claims. It stayed out of the Six Day War that the Arabs lost badly; secular Arab modernizers were humiliated.

Unlike some Arab powers that tried to dominate the region or become the Great Power, Saudis laid low while making lots of money. Gaddafi made big claims, so did Nasser. Hussein acted big.
Saudis, instead of acting big, remained very close to the biggest power, the US. Speak softly and stick with the guy with the big stick.

Shah of Iran was close to US and Israel too but he was too secular and western for many Iranians, and he lost legitimacy in the eyes of Iranians. Saudis, in contrast, bought off their version of the Ayatollah.

Saudis maintained the aura of Islamic piety and tradition, but they were relatively generous with the booty, assuring income and benefits for all Saudi citizens.

Saudi Royal family may be a bunch of jerks, but you gotta admit they were very skilled in balancing the forces and appeasing them enough to make them tolerable and be tolerated by them in return. The family won over the Wahabi clergy, the Americans, and Israelis. At the same time, it played host as center of Muslim world and gave generously to Arab causes to win 'street cred'.
All these things were contradictory and made enemies as well as friends, but the Saudis weathered the storm.

One thing for sure, Saudis never made a total alliance or set forth any clear regional agenda; rather it played many cards at once. Even its relationship with America is purely mercenary, so Saudis never feel obligated to do anything. Its relationship with the Wahabi clergy is cynical but enough to calm them.

Unlike other Middle East nations that went for greatness and fell flat on their faces, Saudis were more realistic in terms of their power and what they could do. More like Hyman Roth than Sollozzo the Turk or Sonny or Moe Green. Lay low and bide your time and make alliances and appease where you can.

I guess Obama understands that trick too. In contrast, a lot of black leaders made it nowhere by being too loud and proud. Obama just played along with the Lib elites and let the Jews, homos, and white libs do all the financing and supporting for him. Get on the gravy train.

Anonymous said...

Toady Arabia

Anonymous said...

IN fact, the way of the Saudis has been like that of Western Europe(esp UK) and Japan after WWII. It pays to be America's poodle.

Germany is America's political bitch but can make lots of money.
UK lost its empire and status but as sidekick of US, it has remained a big player.

Anonymous said...

Was this post by any chance prompted by the pathetic week/decade Spain's royals are having? I don't think Juan Carlos ever had the brainstorm of getting a controlling share in Georgetown University.

t said...

Hey Steve, What's this guy's story? I'm guessing Ethiopian.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/01/09/us-sac-martoma-harvard-idUSBREA081C720140109

Anonymous said...

Isn't one of Saudi Arabia's secrets that practically everyone is a member of the ruling family, at least indirectly?

So all the women really are princesses. And somehow they have the bank accounts to go along with it. Men surely have to spend all their time driving them around to shop. Things could be worse.

Mountain Maven said...

This is a problem we can frack our way out of.

5371 said...

Saudi fertility has probably not declined at all, the figures published in some standard sources are, as for much of the world, free invention.

Rifleman said...

By exporting their dangerous young men, the Saudis rid themselves of a potential troublemaker while creating a huge amount of pain for the people who live wherever those men end up.

African tribal kings did this for about 400 years.

"Dean of Harvard Law School Elena Kagan, for one, was instrumental in establishing the Saudi funded Sharia Law chair at Harvard"

The capitalist really will sell you the rope you're going to hang him with, as Lenin said, eh?


That's because the Cultural Capitalists dominate the media, academia and government policy.

CULTURAL CAPITALISM, kids. Always keep that in mind.

Anonymous said...

What is the Saudi's secret?

The keep Saudi citizenship to themselves.