On Saudi Arabia, Trump Has a Clue

from The Wall Street Journal,

His cardinal fault is his failure to ritualize the expected hypocrisies.

Mr. Trump may be getting a bad rap on one subject—Saudi Arabia. No president would be eager to dump a relationship in which the U.S. has invested so much, though other presidents would wave their hands more artfully to distract from that fact. Mr. Trump’s cardinal fault is his failure to ritualize the expected hypocrisies. Still, the idea that he has given America’s imprimatur to strongmen everywhere to eliminate their enemies assumes that strongmen everywhere are not, by now, clued into Mr. Trump’s basic gadfly act. They were probably among the few buyers who actually read Bob Woodward’s book. Mr. Trump is barely a member of his own administration. His long-term clout is doubtful. He can hardly secure his own position, much less Mohammed bin Salman’s. Let’s also admit what we don’t know. Did the CIA leak its assessment that MBS, the Saudi crown prince, ordered the Khashoggi killing to pressure Mr. Trump? Or did Mr. Trump authorize the leak to pressure the Saudis? We don’t know. If Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had such an A-to-Z view of the plot to kill Khashoggi, why didn’t he prevent it? We don’t know. One downside of a U.S. president being held in such contempt by domestic elites is their undifferentiating rush to be seen contradicting and denouncing everything he does.

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