A message to the Saudis
There can be no doubt Saudia Arabia leaders got the message President Donald Trump was sending Saturday. Ironically, it was one former President Barack Obama claimed to be trying to convey — but in which he failed dismally.
Trump has been accused of, in effect, being unnecessarily blunt and forceful when tact would accomplish an end more certainly. He used a mixture of the two on Saturday.
During his visit with the Saudi royal family during the weekend, the president signed agreements for about $110 billion in deals between the two countries. Much of that involves U.S. military aid to Saudi Arabia.
That was the blunt instrument, making it clear that the Obama era of viewing Saudi Arabia as an ally at arms length are over. Now, the two countries are embracing in the battle against both Islamic terrorism and the regional threat posed by Iran.
But something else that happened was equally –perhaps more — important.
In his dealings with foreign nations, Obama too often went out of his way to criticize some of their customs and policies, while apologizing for the United States. It is not too much to say that he sometimes seemed ashamed of his fellow Americans.
On Saturday, the Trump administration made it clear Americans do not agree with some Saudi policies. Specifically, treating women as second-class citizens was spotlighted.
Accompanying Trump were his wife Melania and his daughter Ivanka. Neither wore the head covering common in some Islamic cultures.
There were other signals. Trump’s interpreter during ceremonies Saturday was a woman. In a formal exchange of documents between the two countries, one of the U.S. officials participating was a woman.
The message was clear: Americans do not agree with discrimination against women. But it was conveyed in a subtle, non-abrasive manner calculated to make our position clear without stiffening the Saudis’ backs.
That is precisely the type of relationship needed between our two countries. Returning to it will benefit all concerned.