Gerald Posner's 2005 book Secrets of the Kingdom is a must-read piece of investigative journalism, detailing the rise of the House of Saud and the history of the relationship between Saudi Arabia and The United States of America. It follows the dual course of the the Saudi's oil fortunes, and the extreme brand of Wahhabi Islam they practice. Along with detailing the usual story, the book also presents some new conjectures, such as the reports that the Saudi's have sabotaged their oil fields with radiological weapons.
In the middle of all of that, there was one sentence in the book that crystallized not only the book, but my feelings about the Wahhabist regime, in general. And that was when Posner quotes someone as saying:
"The Saudis were terrified that someone was going to be a better Muslim than they were."
Despite the fact that like any organized religion
, Islam has many beliefs and practices I don't agree with, Islam still is somewhat multivalent
, giving value and meaning to many different areas of life, and historically has managed to make great progress in certain areas, because of this. The world owes a lot to the value that Islamic culture put onto different fields of endeavor, such as architecture
. Wahhabism, on the other hand, seems to put no value on any other area of human life than fulfilling the law of Islam. It is what the word meme
meant in its original connotation: a mental construct that doesn't refer to anything external, but still manages to replicate itself. A social prion
, with just as insidious of consequences. This quote gave me a view of the actual psychological set-up of the Saudi kingdom: everyone's sense of self-worth has been stripped away, and the only way they can continue to prove their worth (both psychologically, and to avoid the religious police
), is to outdo each other in displays of Wahhabists fervor. Anything else quickly gets pushed away.
And this is my basic understanding of the situation, and why I think other analyses fall quite short: for example, while Noung has given us many brilliant analysis of the area, often I think that I am reading the history of the Crimean War. Politics of the Nation State don't explain Saudi and Wahhabists goals. From the viewpoint of a conventional nation state, the Saudi's main goals are to develop their oil wealth and build regional stability. From the viewpoint that everyone in Saudi society, from top to bottom, has been brainwashed to think of themselves as worthless, the main goal is to try to fight off the yawning fear of being discovered by investing in more and more fanatical displays of anger towards everyone who considers themselves to have value apart from the Wahhabi creed.
Fighting against nihilism can be a very futile process, especially the type of self-referential, self-justifying nihilism that the Wahhabists in Saudi Arabia practice. It is probably this deep-seated nihilism, the belief that NOTHING ELSE MATTERS, except for the duplication of doctrine, that makes Saudi Arabia so hard to deal with. There are other factors, such as Saudi Arabia's great oil wealth, and their ability to at least pretend to be playing by the rules, but overall I think it is the deep psychological belief that nothing else could have value that makes the Saudi's so impossible to deal with. And since they apparently can't be dealt with, all that remains to be done is to talk tough with Iran, and bomb villages on the Pakistan border regions, all the while that the Saudis and Wahhabists fund terror and continue their strangehold on the global economy.
Deep seated psychological beliefs are hard to deal with, even with the best military in the world. And there is no cure for mad cow disease.