What to do when you’re an all powerful oligarch with unrest sweeping your region and zillions in the bank? Convince the people they want money more than freedom:
Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has laid down a $37-billion bet that his fabulously rich ruling family can avert getting caught in the wave of uprisings sweeping aside authoritarian Arab regimes.
After three months away, convalescing in Morocco, the 80-something-year-old returning king dispensed billions (estimates ranged as high as $37-billion) upon arrival at Riyadh airport, while hundreds of acolytes danced with swords on fine carpets to demonstrate their fealty. Thousands more lined his motorcade’s progress, dutifully paying homage. The king’s latest largesse, on subsidies, unemployment benefits, pay raises and housing promises, hardly dented the hundreds of billions in Saudi coffers filled by an estimated fifth of the world’s pumpable oil.
It’s not really in the United States’ best interests for the House of Saud to fall at this time, nor for many of Saudi Arabia’s more stable neighbors and business partners, but I’ve long agreed with the idea that democracy was a cure for the excesses of Islam. If King Abdullah wants to secure his family’s position, he needs to embrace genuine reform and before the people decide their freedom is worth more then his billions.