4 thoughts on “Promises in the Dark

  1. Well, what did you expect? After Biden’s done everything in his power to reduce oil production in North America, how can he not beg the Saudis to save him? It’s not as if he can kick the Greens out of his administration, admit he was wrong in public, and return to Trump’s policies. Abandoning a campaign promise is a mere bagatelle; imitating Donald Trump is a mortal sin.


    • I have no strong views on energy policy, and no great sympathy for environmentalism, but I don’t see how Biden’s supposed reduction of oil production explains very much.


      I don’t even see how it’s a reduction. Anyway, who in Biden’s administration would have to go before he could take the action you favor?

      As for Saudi Arabia, here is Donald Trump’s statement of principle on that subject, “Standing with Saudi Arabia”:


      Stylistically, this trash could only have come from the Trump Administration, but substantively, it could have come from any US administration from FDR through Biden. Translation into ordinary English: “The murder of Jamal Khashoggi was a terrible crime, but despite my pretensions to Machiavellian realpolitik, I’m going to stand here with a straight face and exonerate the people responsible for it, because, well, money is at stake. Money trumps everything And yes, I’ve done my share of bragging about ramping up domestic oil production at any environmental price, but that won’t stop me from debasing myself and my country by begging these monarch-criminals for lower oil prices. It’s not as though I have anything to lose.”

      So, on the contrary, I’d say Biden is doing a pretty creditable job of imitating Trump on this one.


      • A more accurate paraphrase would be “We don’t actually know that the murder of Jamal Khashoggi was done on the orders of the government of Saudi Arabia, and until we do know that we’re not going to punish Saudi Arabia collectively. We do know some of the people responsible for the crime, and we are trying to punish them.”

        And while it’s technically true that US production of crude oil is now roughly where it was when Biden took office, it’s a matter of record that Biden tried to reduce it, ordering a moratorium on oil and gas leases on federal lands in his first week in office. Remember, also, that the end of 2020 was a low point in the demand for crude oil, thanks to various COVID lockdown measures, so just keeping at the same level of production we had then isn’t adequate to meet the rising demand. We ought to be producing well above the 2019 record levels now, and it’s Biden’s doing that we aren’t.

        Also, why would a Machiavellian object to setting foreign policy based on profit? It’s morality in politics that Machiavellians dislike. A true realpolitiker would consider allowing moral outrage at a heinous crime to bear any weight in diplomacy as the mark of a naive idealist, unfit to govern a country.

        Finally, my original point was that Trump could afford to badger Saudi Arabia over Jamal Khashoggi, because US oil production was rising sharply during his tenure; and Biden can’t do so, because – through his own actions – US oil production is not rising anymore. By pandering to environmentalists Biden has lost all his influence over the Middle East in general. A wise man would have connected the dots, realizing that Green policies required indulging the Saudis; but no one has ever said that Biden is a wise man.

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        • To continue in the same skeptical vein as your comment, I don’t suppose we are fully certain that Hitler was responsible for the Holocaust, never having put him on trial in a court of law, and not having received from him a signed, notarized communique on Third Reich stationery, announcing the intention to enact the event. But if he were still alive, a sensible person might infer that when the leader of a totalitarian dictatorship with a proven history of deception presides over a crime committed by officials of his regime on official government property, then claims to have no knowledge of what happened, it is safe, if only out of a sense of caution, to doubt him.

          Likewise, the idea that 27 members of Saudi officialdom might, on a sheer, rogue whim, have dismembered someone in the Saudi embassy, after officially summoning the victim’s presence there–without official sanction–is preposterous. It’s the kind of thing someone might say if they were casting about for something, anything to excuse the behavior of Donald Trump, but doesn’t otherwise have a plausible motivation.

          A Machiavellian lie is not one that makes the liar seem abject, pathetic, and stupid, but that’s the effect of Donald Trump’s transparently dishonest attempt to exonerate the Saudis in order to beg them for financial favors.

          If your main point was to claim that Trump could “afford” to badger the Saudis, I guess my main retort is that it’s pretty pathetic that despite being able to afford it, he didn’t take so much as a step in that direction. Since Biden is “technically” in the same situation as Trump, it’s equally sad that he hasn’t and won’t, but also unclear why he can’t “afford” exactly the thing Trump supposedly could.

          Here’s an article from today’s Times that suggests that environmental concerns don’t explain high gas prices, and wouldn’t, if ignored, do much about them. It also suggests, plausibly, that Biden’s Saudi gambit isn’t going to help him much.

          Again, though I have no strong view on the matter, I don’t find your offhand dismissals of “the greens” all that convincing. Environmental concerns are, after all, a response to climate change. Whatever one thinks about it, one can’t legitimately dismiss it as a non-issue, as you evidently do.


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