Arms and the Saudi Connection
THE connection between the United States and Saudi Arabia, long considered a well established partnership, recently has been elevated in official parlance to the status of a “special relationship.” This honor is not unique among Middle Eastern states-the U.S. also has special relationships with Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Iran-but the decision to use this particular term is significant. It is meant to elicit a sense of satisfaction and reassurance, a peculiar warmth of feeling that no other combination of words will produce. In the dictionary meaning, of course, every relationship is special in the sense of being distinct or different, having a particular character, or being specific to the participants. But as a code phrase, a special relationship connotes something more, omething exceptionally dear and valued, to be honored and protected beyond other rela- tionships in the same class. Thus President Carter’s formulation: “The future of Saudi Arabia and the future of the United States are tied to- gether very closely in an irrevocable way.”
Some irrevocable ties derive from a deep cultural affinity, a perception of common history, or the natural attraction of nations with similar socioeconomic systems and strategic interests.
Often these elements are bound together in a feeling of shared destiny, as in the phrase “the future of the Western world.” But in the present international system this class of irrevocable ties is almost invariably recorded in formal alliances, and clearly Saudi Arabia is not such a case.
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