Should Obama be visiting Saudi Arabia?

OK, I understand that Realpolitik means we probably have to do business with this government but a Presidential visit? What’s the next stop? Uganda? Because let’s face it, vile as the anti-gay laws are in Uganda it is Pink Paradise compared to Saudi Arabia and some of the other Gulf states. According to Wikipedia homosexuality in Saudi Arabia “is punished with imprisonment, fines, corporal punishment, torture, capital punishment, and chemical castrations.” And this is the place that Air Force One touched down in and the President stepped forth wreathed in smiles?

OK, the debate. Do we put their barbaric laws to one side with a mild ‘different strokes for different folks’ and continue with them as a strong ally in the region (but are they really)? Do we take a middle course and say, OK, we’ll continue to do business and stay allies but there is no way we’ll be sending our President or anybody else other than essential bureaucrats anywhere near your country with its toxic laws? Or do we go the whole hog and treat them and all who do likewise as the pariahs they should be?

I’m really tempted to go for the last but I realize that may not be practical. The second option it is then. At least it’s easier to stomach than the first.

I think this is the part where your post falls down.

Yes, there are things our allies do that we don’t like. The Saudis aren’t great with women’s rights either. Or the rights of foreign workers. Or religions other than Islam. But, as a matter of reality, we want them to be our allies more than we want them to change their stance on human rights. Not much else to it than that.

Well, he will have to visit it eventually on the Haj. [/conservative_uncle]

Hang on… the leader of the country that, until quite recently, had a secret network of torture sites, that killed several hundred thousand civilians on a bogus pretext, that continues to detain civilians without trial - now for a decade, that spies on its allies, and its own people sytematically, that imprisons more citizens than any other country on earth , etc, etc, etc … should now turn its nose up at an ally it’s supported for 30 years?

There’s not exactly a battle for the high ground here.

There is the added consideration that, contemptible and anachronistic as SA’s absolute-monarchical government might be, we really should not want it destabilized in the slightest degree, because the most powerful opposition on the ground is ultra-Wahhabists to whom the House of Saud is not conservative enough.

I’m okay with him visiting - so long as he doesn’t hold hands with the King.

The real issue here is whether Obama bowed to the king… again!

How else is he going to get his orders?

Yes, he should be.

Saudi Arabia is essentially the only stable power in the Gulf Region at this time. Iraq is near civil war, we have poor relations with Iran and the remaining Gulf states exist at the whims of the Saudis. They are the only “game” in town.

Should the US continue to pressure the Saudis for reform? Of course we should. Unless the Saudis reform their system it’s going eventually become untenable and a Saudi Arabian civil war would be yet another nightmare scenario for the Gulf.

Regardless of Saudi Arabia’s many flaws, it is a necessary US ally in the region and President Obama recognizes that fact.

I don’t think Obama has anything to worry about, unless you know something we don’t.

That, and they spend $60 billion a year on shiny killing machines

Am I wrong…or is outlawing homosexuality in an Arab country an oxymoron?

How so?

It is a stereotype about Arab men – how true it is I do not know – that they are much given to buggering boys.

I don’t object to it any more than I object to Obama visiting the UK (where there is a government-promoted religion, Christian priests are automatically assigned offices in government, and there are standing though rarely enforced laws against blasphemy), or visiting Japan (where they still execute people by hanging, almost 99% of trials end in a conviction, and trial by jury is primitive at best), or having a meeting with Pope Francis (insert complaints about abortion/homosexuality/married or female priests/child abuse etc.) There are lots of countries that do things we don’t like, and if we snubbed them all we’d be a pretty lonely superpower.

I suspect they draw a distinction between the two activities. So does the West, for that matter.

Between what two activities?

Comparing the UK and Saudi Arabia is ridiculous. In England and Wales, at least, the blasphemy laws no longer exist, and even before that, “rarely enforced” would be quite an understatement. The death penalty for blasphemy was abolished in 1676 - we’re well over 300 years ahead of Saudi Arabia in that respect. The “government-promoted” religion isn’t great but its promotion by government is almost non-existent. In practice, the US government is far more pro-Christian, despite the official separation of church and state. Christian priests are not automatically assigned government positions, although some have positions in Parliament. Again, I’m against this, but the reality is significantly different from what you’re saying.

Being a homosexual and buggering boys. This isn’t really the thread to pursue such a discussion, though, so I’ll decline further comment.
Sure, Obama should be visiting Saudi Arabia, as long as good relations with Saudi Arabia serve the U.S.'s economic, military and political interests. I admit looking forward to a time when this is not the case, though.

Well, I’ve heard that in Europe, you’re not considered gay unless you take it up the ass; playing the penetrator-role with another male does not damage your straightcred. Maybe it’s the same in Arab countries.