Please see the New York Times article on December 15, 2018 here.
When I flew into Riyadh airport in Saudi Arabia recently, I wondered how I would be received. I was a friend of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi and I had described Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as a “Mad Prince” whose initials could stand for “Mr. Bone Saw.”
In the end, Saudi officials greeted me professionally and respectfully, and I sensed considerable support for the social and economic change that the crown prince is bringing to the country. But the country also felt more oppressive — Saudis were more fearful of speaking frankly with me than they used to be — and there was also an aggrieved nationalism in the air. I find President Trump’s Saudi policy an incoherent failure. Here’s what I found in Saudi Arabia and why I think we should take a much tougher position toward Saudi Arabia and the Mad Prince.
One important global trend: China’s economy is in trouble. Chinese economic statistics are often made up, so it’s hard to know how badly it’s faltering, but factory workers in the south are already being let off for the Chinese new year holiday. This slowdown will also ripple through the global economy, particularly because Europe is also slowing. And while this should make Xi Jinping more inclined to settle trade disputes, it may also make him ready to find some security crisis as a distraction from economic woes.
On Dec. 15, it will be five years since war broke out in South Sudan, killing some 400,000 people. Today a girl in South Sudan is more likely to die in childbirth than to graduate from high school. We need more international attention to try to bring peace and economic development to South Sudan. I’m a fan of people like Valentino Deng (hero of “What is the What”) who have tried to bring schools to that country.
Now here’s my column from Saudi Arabia. And, MBS, if you’re reading this, here’s a tip: You want to show you’re a reformer, then release the women’s rights activists who are being tortured in your prisons. Here’s my take.