US Must Keep Khashoggi Murder In Perspective

"Ooops" - The Saudis

It’s a brutal world out there.  Countries do horrible things.  Government officials often are complicit.  If America’s relations with countries around the world were predicated on dealing only with those whose record of respecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness mirrored ours, the number of flags exhibited at the State Department’s Hall of Nations would be small indeed.

And yes, even journalists at times find themselves on the wrong end of a government that does not abide by our legal and moral standards; it’s happened over the years in Central and South America, Eastern Europe, Russia, China, the Middle East, and elsewhere.  Such apparently happened to Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi shortly after he entered his nation’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey earlier this month.

As the evidence of his grotesque murder mounts, the question for the United States is how should our nation react; what should we do in response?

Some in Washington clamor for drastic measures, up to and including a serious reevaluation and down-grading of our longstanding diplomatic, economic, security and national defense relationship with Riyadh. Others counsel silence.  The appropriate response lies somewhere in between; but tempered by the fact that this horrible incident has little if anything to do with the United States directly.  It is, at its core, a crime by Saudis against a Saudi.  There simply is no vital U.S. national security interest at stake.

Additionally, this event should strengthen our resolve to ensure that all our military, economic and diplomatic “eggs” are not placed in one “basket” (namely, Saudi Arabia) in the region.  And, securing commitments from other allies in the area that such behavior as apparently engaged in by the Saudi government against Khashoggi will not be practiced by these other countries, and rewarding such commitments with enhanced ties, will serve us well and send an important message to Riyadh.

If this tragedy forces the U.S. to take a realistic but measured assessment of our dealings with all players in this region, some good may come of it.  But those employing the Bully Pulpit of a congressional seat or a media outlet to demand short-term and drastic measures in response to what appears a singular criminal act by another nation, would be a serious mistake with long-term consequences — a situation far too-oft repeated by the United States in dealings with that part of the world since the end of World War II.

Bob Barr is a former Congressman who represented the citizens of Georgia’s 7th Congressional District in the US House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. Bob heads Liberty Guard, a non-profit and non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting individual liberty.