Saudi Arabia: The Chimera of A Grand Alliance

Even alliances between countries that share similar cultures and rich, intersecting histories can be acrimonious. France and Israel, for example, provoke vivid and contradictory sentiments for many Americans. Franco-American ties are routinely strained. No one in Washington ever believed that Charles de Gaulle’s nuclear independence, guided by the principles of tous azimuts, shoot in any direction, and dissuasion du faible au fort, deterrence of the strong by the weak, meant that France might try to intimidate the United States. But there were moments when it wasn’t crystal clear whether Paris, free from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, might harmfully diverge from Washington in a confrontation with the Soviet Union. Still, even when things have been ugly, quiet and profound military and intelligence cooperation continued with the French, almost on a par with the exchanges between Washington, London, and Canberra. It didn’t hurt that a big swath of affluent Americans have loved Paris and the sunnier parts of France for generations, and that French and American universalism essentially speak the same language. These things matter.  The United States has sometimes been furious at Israel — no other ally has, so far as we know, run an American agent deep inside the U.S. government hoovering up truckloads of highly classified information. Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, much disliked and denounced by various American governments, is probably permanent: setting aside the Israeli right’s revanchism, the proliferation of ever-better ballistic weaponry and drones negates any conceivable good faith that might exist in the future between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, who never seem to be able to check their own worst impulses. Geography is destiny: Israel simply lacks the physical (and maybe moral) depth to not intrude obnoxiously into the lives of Palestinians. The Gaza war has likely obliterated any lingering Israeli indulgence towards

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