Jim Hoagland says the Saudis might be able to save themselves.
Thus the accusation of “enemy” misses the point: It gives the Saudi regime credit for a decision-making ability and a focus on regional and world affairs that it has in fact lacked for years. Saudi Arabia has stumbled into causing harm to the United States and its own interests. It has not charged in with premeditated malice.
This Saudi vacuum was not inevitable. And it may not be immutable. In the early 1970s, King Faisal mixed shrewdness and ruthlessness to make the sparsely populated kingdom a major player in world politics. In a series of interviews over a decade with Faisal, his two successors, Khalid and Fahd, and the current day-to-day leader, Crown Prince Abdullah, I developed a sense of a flawed but still workable system that could adapt, slowly, to global and local change.
Hoagland is too optimistic. The time for reform was ten years ago. Five years ago was late, but still feasible. Today, the Kingdom is the walking dead.