Spot the Suzerain

Speaking of ugly culture! Did we hear that 2011 was a bumper crop for global arms sales? $66billion, up from the previous year’s measly $21.4billion worth of mechanized death. In fact, weapons sales to Saudi Arabia alone ($33.4billion) were greater than total global sales for the previous record year (2009, $31billion). Do these preposterous exchanges of wealth & trophy remind anyone else of ancient kings offering tribute to one another? Rare spices, a ruby pendant, and a shipment of wheat to proclaim fealty —> 84 advanced F-15 fighter jets, a bouquet of missiles.

Except that with the U.S. & the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, I can’t tell who is paying tribute to whom?! Is it a kindness of the Saudis to support our darling defense industry, or is it a kindness of the U.S. to give collectors-item death toys to a regime that doesn’t need them? Actually, it may be more like when heads of state meet and swap gifts of local significance (a violin from the Italian Ambassador, a rare wine from the French attaché). It’s just that the U.S.’s renowned, signature handicraft happens to be war instruments, of which we dedicate great efforts towards their refinement. The U.S. is like: Here is our exquisite F-15, I do hope you like it. And Saudi Arabia is like: Here are several vaults of cash, I do know how much you enjoy the stuff.

Also from the desk of Weird Empire:

Did anyone read this magniloquent jawn in the WPost about the woman who (maybe) thwarted a rogue Navy provocation of Iran and was (maybe) fired for her meddling? So many taken-for-granted shady dealings and “back-channels to rogue states”. Glad to know that when you peel back the curtain of empire, everyone involved sounds like a massive dill. Anyhow, one passage will jump out as silly self-mythologizing to anyone who has visited Egypt:

From there on, her life would seem to unfold as if it were an episode of “Alias” or “Covert Affairs.” One time, “I hired a car and driver and drove across the Sinai from Cairo to the Israeli border, with Abba [sic!] blaring on the stereo and feeling rather like Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” she recalled. Destination: Eliat, on the Red Sea. Mission: scuba diving.

Driving from Cairo to Eilat to go diving is the equivalent of driving to the Outer Banks to go… diving. You just drive there. And maybe you play loud music along the way! She seems like someone who took to heart that corny H.S. Thompson exhortation: “Walk tall, kick ass, learn to speak Arabic, love music and never forget you come from a long line of truth seekers, lovers and warriors.” Barf. Must’ve been written during his tenure at ESPN.com.

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