On selective outrage



I have consistently criticized authoritarian regimes all over the world—in Russia, China, Vietnam, Turkey, India, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, North Korea and elsewhere. I also criticize the US government for aiding and abetting foreign atrocities, and Trump in particular for frequently praising foreign despots while mocking our democratic allies.

In contrast, many of my critics have a very selective sense of outrage. While they share my criticism of the Chinese atrocities in Xinjiang, they are completely silent on the Ukraine, or Kashmir, or the Saudi atrocities in Yemen:

Thousands of civilians have died in Yemen, and American-made bombs sold to the Saudis have played a key role as the White House has sought to boost the arms industry.

Many of my commenters have such a blind and irrational hatred for China that anything other than single-minded focus on China as the one great evil in the world today is not good enough for them. Pointing to crimes committed in other parts of the world is seen as excusing China. Criticism of the US government is always viewed through the China lens. It’s always about their Ahab-like obsession with the Chinese. Nothing else matters. They lap up any and all conspiracy theories about China, no matter how far-fetched. (A few are probably true, but why believe them on faith alone?) They excuse the many Trump administration lies about China.

Ironically, the US is finally beginning to turn against Saudi Arabia, but not because of human rights. Rather the problem is that Saudi oil production is hurting frackers in the US. Money drives US foreign policy, not human rights.

The coming decimation of America’s shale-oil firms could eventually lead to renewed dependence on Saudi oil. American production is predicted to fall to 10m barrels a day, around half the country’s pre-pandemic consumption. In the meantime near-universal anti-Saudi feeling in Washington is putting the bilateral relationship under great strain. Last month Republican senators in oil-producing states, who had been almost the Saudis’ last defenders on the Hill, turned furiously against the kingdom. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota and Dan Sullivan of Alaska introduced legislation to withdraw American troops and missile-defence systems if it did not cut its oil production. Reports this week that a fleet of laden Saudi tankers was en route to oil-glutted America caused fresh fury.

Note how the “fury” is not motivated by the Yemeni babies being murdered with our bombs. It’s the fear that the richest country the world has ever seen might be deprived of a few billion more in oil industry profits.

So pardon me if I don’t share your highly selective moral outrage.

PS. Peter Navarro has been an especially strong cheerleader for selling weapons to the Saudis.