When dancing with the devil, the powerful partner should lead

Saudi Arabia may have lots of oil and idle cash, but that country is in the peanut league compared to the economic and military power of the United States. You have to wonder why our President lets the charming Saudi Prince lead him around like a 4H calf.

Our Central Intelligence Agency concluded with a high degree of certainty that the dear Prince ordered his hit squad to butcher Mr. Khashoggi. Even without the CIA finding, it is pretty clear that the execution was directed from the highest level of the Saudi government. Freelancers do not live long in that autocratic country. The Turkish government has made it pretty certain that the Prince was the mastermind and has furnished convincing evidence.

Instead of calling the CIA’s work into question, a powerful nation would have called the sweet Prince to account and made it clear that we would not tolerate that kind of savage behavior. Indeed, a civilized nation would have told the Prince we will no longer support his vicious war in Yemen. His tactics there have claimed thousands of civilian lives, including about 85,000 children who have died of starvation.

What is even more infuriating is that another senior Saudi prince, Turki al-Faisal, announced to the world right after Thanksgiving that the CIA assessment was dead wrong. He attacked the CIA as “not necessarily the highest standard of veracity or accuracy,” contending the agency should be put “on trial.” Turki’s third-finger insult to the U.S. and its premier intelligence agency should have brought a strong response from our government but there was nary a whimper from the Commander in Chief.

The Prince needs to be told in no uncertain terms that we are calling the shots and that he can no longer get the United States to do his bidding. Let’s grow some courage in our dealings with this and other despots. We can deal with them but it needs to be on our terms. As the powerful partner, we should lead the dance.

Our President has too often let despicable autocrats get the best of him. He has praised Kim Jung Un, a vicious murderer, giving him legitimacy and stature on the world stage at the same time as Kim is racing forward with his nuclear weapons program.

The President has pooh-poohed our intelligence assessment that North Korea is cheating on the loosy-goosy agreement that was made in Singapore. Instead of dancing around the issue, we ought to make it clear to Kim that we will double down on closing his country to international commerce if he does not terminate his nuclear program.

The President has also failed to take seriously the unanimous conclusion of our intelligence agencies that the Russians attacked the 2016 elections and have continually been seeking vulnerabilities in our electronic infrastructure. With no effective push-back from the U.S., the Russians are now escalating hostilities against the Ukrainians again. Trump should forcefully inform Putin that we will not put up with his aggression and that Russia will be cut off from the international banking system if his hostile actions do not come to a screeching halt.

Nothing whatsoever is to be gained by sucking up to the despots when they are doing harm to the national interests of the United States. They need to understand that we are not their weak-kneed supplicants and we should no longer act like we are. We need some backbone in our dealings with Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Russia and the other despotic governments of the world. We can dance with them but we need to start leading instead of just meekly following.

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