Re: *** Most Americans favor bombing Iraq - poll

Robert S. Thau (
Wed, 19 Nov 1997 17:50:18 -0500 (EST) writes:
> Well one thing Reagan gave us was these really neato spiffy military bases
> scattered all over the world. There are 4 known U.S. Bases in Saudi Arabia
> and one unknown. The four are basically on the four corners and the
> "hidden" one is in the middle. Most of the Saudi people don't even know it
> exists. It was built as a total command and control center for the middle
> east, tied into the other four.

Well, let's just hope that the people from whom the existence of this
base is being kept secret are people who don't read FoRK.

> Let 'em posture and bitch. We can basically do what we want.

Then why is Madeleine Albright negotiating with Tariq Aziz right now
over a Russian-brokered compromise proposal, after having sworn up and
down last week that there would never, ever be negotiations? If the
administration can launch bombs at a whim without consequences, you'd
certainly never know it by the way they're behaving.

Actually, if it really were that easy, then I expect Clinton *would*
have bombed Iraq last weekend, as you predicted, and he wouldn't have
to bring in two (not one, but two) aircraft carrier battle groups to
use for staging the air power in any possible attacks, as he has done,
since he could just use the airbases.

However, those airbases are there to protect *our* access to the Saudi
oil reserves, and they are there on sufferance from the Saudi
government, which is not completely comfortable with the notion of
U.S. forces on its soil. Witness, among other things, the unusual
regulations for U.S. personnel operating from those bases (no booze,
restrictions on the dress of female personnel), and the Saudi reaction
to the bombing on one of those bases, where the U.S. government was
denied access to the suspected terrorists.

In fact, the Saudis' own local militants are one of the reasons that
the Saudi government isn't thrilled with the American bases. Not much
is known about them in the West, but the rumors are nasty, and the
airbases make them nastier --- the militants and their sympathizers
see it as a provocation simply to have infidel armies on the ground
near the holy soil of Mecca. (Yes, that is how they think). In fact,
the Saudi reaction to the bombing case has suggested to many people
that the Saudi government thinks it has more to lose by pissing off
the Islamic Jihad, than it has to lose by pissing off the
U.S. government.

So, provoking the terrorists is the cost of having the bases on Saudi
soil, from the Saudi point of view. If the U.S. were to attack other
Arabs, even Iraqis, without some sort of provocation which the Saudis
could sell to their own population, that cost would rise sharply. The
benefit, on the other hand, is defense of Saudi territorial integrity,
and that is something the Saudis don't seem to think they need much
right now. Iraq, in particular, isn't currently threatening anybody;
the weapons surveillance regime would have to go away for quite some
time for Iraq to be able to pose a threat, and as I've mentioned
before, no one is talking about removing the inspectors, just about
easing the sanctions.

(And I haven't even mentioned all the *other* reasons that the Arabs
--- radicals and governments alike --- feel they have for not
cooperating with the U.S. government; once again, see Broder).

So, if the U.S. launched an attack without at least tacit Saudi
approval, and *particularly* if we did something provocative like
launching it from Saudi soil, the Saudis could wind up telling us to
take at least some of our planes and go home. The U.S. doesn't want
this, and neither, of course, do the Saudis, but they probably want a
bombing spree targeted at the royal family even less, and if we force
them to choose, they will.