To the editor,

To protect America, we will spend about a trillion dollars this year on defense; factoring in all sources, that’s almost $3000 each. China spends about one-fourth that with four and a quarter times our population, translating to about $180 per person. Next, with 33 million inhabitants, Saudi Arabia spends almost $70B or a little over $2,100 per and 9 percent of its GDP, well over triple the average. Why would a regime the American empire already guarantees, spend more than a communist country over 40 times its size? China has to worry about us and we have to worry about China, but who on Earth do the Saudis have to worry about? No one and everyone.

The Saudis don’t have to waste money sustaining a democracy; the money all belongs to the king and their only need is for us to intercede on their behalf when they step out of bounds and an outraged world futilely attempts to hold them to account. Almost surely, without our support, the Saudi and other Arabian princedoms would soon be history and their people would be about the task of building 21st century governments.

Until recently, the sale of F-35 fighter jets to anyone in the Middle East, but Israel, was unthinkable. But that’s changed with Trump and his approach to bringing peace to the Middle East. Saudi Arabia and UAE have been brought close to an alliance with Israel and are lending their support to “the deal of the century.” Simultaneously, there have been negotiations about supplying them with F-35s, which would eliminate Israel’s historic qualitative military edge. This raises huge implications about the paths these countries will take and of course for what Trump’s deal will look like.

The fact that Israel already has F-35s, can get more and has the nuclear technology to arm them to their full capacity is alarming in itself, but to escalate that arms race, with its multitude of uncertainties, is madness. Do we expect that the princes can maintain their iron grip on power forever? With Israel’s inability to deliver a just peace to Palestine and the thorn of our support for the region’s autocrats, resentment will continue to be infused into democratic movements, like The Arab Spring, fueling extreme anti-US/Israel sentiments.

Either way, through repression of democratic change, or with democratic regime changes built on populist enmity, existential confrontations, that would go much further than the controlled implosion of one country at a time, are assured. This jet represents a major escalation of the arms race in the Middle East. I’m not sure why it’s not viewed by opponents of its importation to Madison as one here, too. But I know I’m not concerned about it not working as advertised. I more concerned that it will work even better than its architects have imagined.

I wish more Americans could empathize and understand; after 16.5 years of violence, that’s touched nearly all of the Middle East, if not directly and devastatingly, then indirectly with the enabling of the most repressive regimes, that of course we’re hated for good reason. Libya had a chance, Egypt and even Syria and Yemen all had chances to move forward, but we short-circuited everything leading to connections with western democracy. How far away from modernity is Iran? Further than it would be but for our meddling but even still, really not so far, if it’s given the basic respect human beings need to progress.

I wish Americans could imagine what little value those widows and orphans – we’ve helped create – place on our objections to those demons from hell because they make too much noise.

John Costello


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