Last week the president issued America’s official reaction to the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Ankara. He made clear that this crime, awful as it was, is not sufficient reason to override the strategic reasons for the U.S.-Saudi alliance. Elliott Abrams admires the administration’s commitment to Realpolitik, but only up to a point:
The problem with this analysis [presented by the Trump administration] is not that it is wrong, but that it posits only two options: abandoning Saudi Arabia or embracing it. A tougher Realpolitik approach would promote a third option: use this moment to push the Saudis to do some things we think they need to do that would benefit both the kingdom and the United States. . . .
[I]f the Trump administration’s view is that we should not break with Saudi Arabia (a view I share), then the next step is not to embrace Saudi Arabia but rather [to] specify to the Saudis what they need to do so that they will not be seen as “a repressive throwback to a dark age of the past” [as Richard Nixon put it long ago to a Chinese leader, urging him be more attentive to human rights]. Send the Saudi foreign minister to fix things with Canada. Figure out a way to release the blogger Raif Badawi and the female Saudi protesters who appear to have been badly abused since their arrests. Reunite the Gulf Cooperation Council, [which has been riven by a dispute between Saudi Arabia and Qatar]. . . .
The pure Realpolitik approach is not the one I favor, because I believe the moral element in U.S. foreign policy is critical to its success and to our international standing. But if the administration has decided on a realist approach, go all the way with it: demand a price in Saudi actions for the support we give.