Too bad there's no such thing as eHarmony for diplomacy. Imagine if presidents and foreign ministers could fill out a national profile and be matched with allies by a computer algorithm that prescreens across 29 dimensions of compatibility. That might prevent world leaders from entering into or sticking with some obviously troubled relationships.
Take the liaison between the United States and Saudi Arabia. Some of the traits and attributes eHarmony scientifically analyzes for long-term compatibility are spiritual beliefs, passion, sense of humor and traditionalism. Were two nations any less suited for one another?
Of course, nations aren't normally looking for life partners. Most observe British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli's dictum: no permanent enemies, no permanent allies only permanent interests.
That's certainly what President Bush is trying to promote with a $20 billion arms deal for the desert kingdom permanent interests, such as the free flow of oil. That doesn't mean he couldn't benefit from a little eHarmony analysis of our strategic bond. The United States may not be seeking a soul mate in Saudi Arabia, but it also shouldn't fall deeper into what is, in some respects, a homicidal relationship.
So many factors mitigate against U.S.-Saudi bliss. Fifteen of the 19 terrorists who carried out the 9-11 attack came from Saudi Arabia. Osama bin Laden is the scion of one of the kingdom's most notable families.
According to figures made available to the Los Angeles Times by the U.S. military, 45 percent of all foreign militants targeting U.S. troops and civilians in Iraq are from Saudi Arabia. The next most prolific purveyors of jihadists, at only 15 percent, are Syria and Lebanon combined.
A recent report in the Wall Street Journal detailed the continuing role of the Al Rajhi Bank, Saudi Arabia's largest Islamic bank, in serving as a financial conduit for extremist groups, including al-Qaida. According to CIA reports and federal court filings by the Justice Department, the Al Rajhi family has been a major donor to Islamic "charities" suspected of being fronts for terrorism.
American JDAMs Joint Direct Attack Munitions are supposed to win over the reluctant Saudis? Don't count on it.
Here's the profile: Repressive society guided by an extremist religious ideology, key members of which are closely associated with terrorist groups inimical to U.S. interests, seeks like-minded partners for war against infidels.
American presidents and diplomats shouldn't need scientific research to know that for the United States, this is not a match made in heaven. And when it comes to Iran, which fits this profile as perfectly as Saudi Arabia, American leaders grasp the contradictions. So why does Saudi Arabia get showered with $20 billion in sophisticated weapons while Iran gets warnings and economic sanctions?
One reason is that in Iran, the clerical regime is inimical to U.S. interests, while the Iranian people, by and large, hold friendly perceptions of the United States. In Saudi Arabia, it is the regime that is, by and large, friendly to U.S. interests, while Saudi citizens have an unfortunate penchant for plotting terrorist attacks against American civilians and military personnel.
Another reason is the serious threat posed to the Gulf states by a huge Russian arms deal with Iran for 250 advanced Su-30 fighter aircraft. Vladimir Putin and the mullahs there's another terrible relationship begging for intervention. If it's bad for the United States, it's good for Russia under Putin an eventuality Bush missed when he looked into Putin's eyes back in 2001.
American-supplied Saudi smart bombs, however, aren't likely to keep Iranian fighters out of Saudi Arabia. More important, they're useless against the threat emanating from within Saudi Arabia.
The United States needs its Saudi allies to cut off ideological and financial support for jihadists and close its borders to suicide bombers. That's in our national interest. And, as the eHarmony folks might say, it's the foundation of compatibility necessary for a lifetime of joy.