When former US President Barack Obama said that America’s allies were enjoying a free ride, his comments provoked a wave of anger and criticism. But the truth is it was not a slip of the tongue even when he tried to justify it later. It was a direct message expressing his thoughts and his vision of the world and the international order in general.
Obama did not believe in traditional alliances, and was not convinced of the extraordinary US power, and considered it one of the world powers, along with other emerging powers such as Russia, India, China, Brazil and others.
This has been reflected in his foreign policies and behavior. He was bored and grumpy in foreign policy meetings, but his face reverberated when the talk turned to domestic politics and partisan machinations. He was a fierce internal fighter and a coward external affairs leader who surrounded himself with a circle who was interested in the breaking news in TV screens more than with Iraq or Afghanistan.
The former president was not interested in the liberal international order, and left it to collapse. The relationship with Saudi Arabia worsened. For decades, behind the calm and partial balance the region has enjoyed was because of Saudi Arabia’s alliance with the most powerful country in the world, despite all the subversive forces, the mad leaders and the terrorist groups.
With America’s withdrawal during the era of Obama, Saudi Arabia was forced to maintain regional stability, fighting Iranian-backed terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Houthis, and Sunni terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda and ISIS. Paradoxically, Saudi Arabia has maintained the international system inherited by America itself in the 1950s from Great Britain, and which was abandoned during the Obama administration. The latter allied itself with forces explicitly seeking to destroy the regime, such as Iran and even the Muslim Brotherhood and Hezbollah. The United States deliberately turned a blind eye to Hezbollah terrorist operations such as the Casandra project until the nuclear deal was concluded.
In this global chaos, the meeting of Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Trump in March of last year was an important event in international relations, not only because it restored Saudi-American relations, but because it enforced the alliance between the two countries and thus restored power to the international system which is the safety valve for this bad neighborhood of the world.
The Riyadh anti-terrorism summit attended by Trump was the first American step to confront Iran, effectively ending the legacy of the previous administration. Historically, when large powers withdraw, they open the gate of hell to ethnic and sectarian conflicts, and encourage the rise of terrorist organizations and murderous leaders (ISIS and Assad). This gate of hell almost opened wide if it weren’t for this meeting that reduced the damage and restored stability to the regionMamdouh AlMuhaini
The Riyadh anti-terrorism summit attended by Trump was the first American step to confront Iran, effectively ending the legacy of the previous administration. Historically, when large powers withdraw, they open the gate of hell to ethnic and sectarian conflicts, and encourage the rise of terrorist organizations and murderous leaders (ISIS and Assad). This gate of hell almost opened wide if it weren’t for this meeting that reduced the damage and restored stability to the region.
The American diplomat Dennis Ross wrote an article in the Washington Post stating that the administration should stand behind the Saudi crown prince, because his big positive changes would transform not only Saudi Arabia but the whole region for the better. But what he did not mention is that Washington’s standing behind Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the international level is so important to the people of this region of the globe who want to get out of this terrible nightmare carried out by Iran and terrorist groups, and the Qatari funds that represent the blood running in the veins of extremist groups.
Leftist propaganda has promoted that the Saudi-American relationship is based on security in exchange for oil, but it is a fallacy and a deliberate disregard for the importance of these international alliances to maintain the global order that has been the main cause of growth and evolution in recent decades.
But it is important to go back and analyze this system we lived in in order to understand the great danger of its collapse. This system originated from the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 after the 30-years war broke down Europe, from which began the idea of respecting borders and avoiding invasion and wars between the forces of conflict. With such a new concept, the number of wars and conflicts will decrease, and thus the lives of people will flourish. Wars, of course, continued from Napoleon, who invaded Europe and even Hitler. But the basic idea has not died, and gradually developed, and circulated to large areas of the world. But this system needs protection, strength and states that believe in this concept, not necessarily for the noble goal but for the financial interests and free economy.
Great Britain with its sweeping fleet realized that expansion would mean more profits and money, and the world would open up to it. It wanted to create a world that suited its interests and its strength with striking power. But this British force began to collapse gradually.
Its collapse was over decades and for many causes. Its global manufacturing share was at its highest in 1870, when it was 30%, but it fell in 1910 to 15%, while US manufacturing increased to 25%. Its striking naval power, which was the Lady of the Oceans and Seas with its warships destroying all that stood before it, reached its peak of glory in 1883 but emerged from the competition in 1897 before the American fleet in the East and Japan in the West.
Strong alliances of states
American power, with economic and military resources, inherited the responsibility of maintaining the liberal system. Its global economy which constitutes up to a quarter worldwide has not changed since 1969. Its $600 billion military power is the most powerful of all the world’s forces combined. They have the power to defend this world order, but strong alliances of states are necessary to keep it from collapsing.
Under this international system, the number of wars has fallen in an unprecedented manner in history, free markets that have driven millions out of poverty flourished (China, for example), and the technical sciences and communication and mobility movement have thrived and changed the face of the world forever. All this great development arose in a system that needs strong international forces and alliances, such as the US-Saudi alliance to protect it from the forces that seek to destroy it.
Imagine for a minute if this international system were to collapse, the scene would be terrifying. We would live poor and sick and trapped under the rule of militias and black flags. I am not exaggerating; Just think of Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan.
This article was first published in Arabic.
Mamdouh AlMuhaini is the Editor-in-Chief of Al Arabiya News Channel’s digital platforms. He can be followed on Twitter @malmhuain