In a recent column in the Saudi daily Al-Jazirah titled "Thank You America," Muhammad Al-Sheikh described how relations with the U.S. have benefited Saudi Arabia, while Arab nationalism has proven to be "a destructive ideology."
The following translation of Al-Sheikh's article appeared June 18, 2005 in the Saudi English-language daily Arab News:
"What have the Arabs given us Saudis in comparison to what we have gained from our relations with America? I know very well that this is an extremely sensitive issue that many would hesitate to address; they are restrained by a culture of fear that prevents them from confronting controversial and sensitive issues head-on.
"The late King Abdul Aziz, the founder of modern Saudi Arabia, was a resourceful and far-sighted statesman when he chose the Americans rather than the British to come and search for oil in the Kingdom. He did so despite Britain at the time being an important force in the region, with its colonies and dependencies surrounding the infant kingdom. The politics of the time plus the colonial legacies of both Britain and France made King Abdul Aziz distance himself from them and look to the New World.
"Not long after the Americans and their expertise arrived, oil was gushing from beneath the desert sands and the development of the modern Saudi state began.
"Following World War II, the Arab countries had to choose between the two different world systems — communism or capitalism. King Abdul Aziz chose capitalism, the West, and America in particular. Thanks to this relationship that has lasted for more than six decades, we Saudis were able to invest oil revenues in building our country. King Abdul Aziz laid the foundations for a consistent Saudi foreign policy that held the Kingdom's interests above other considerations.
"These are the reasons why the Kingdom flourished while other countries went down or teetered on the verge of collapsing. Those countries bet on the wrong horse and did not realize that survival lies in economic development and modernization. They chose to confine themselves in a cocoon and remain isolated from the rest of the world, blinded by the illusions of nationalism and other false ideologies. It was indeed very strange to hear those fragile regimes labeling themselves progressive while calling us reactionary.
"We must admit that our relations with America were the cornerstone for our development and progress. In return, we must ask what we have gained from our relations with the Arab world. Speaking frankly and unequivocally, all we got from them was trouble. Our brothers, as they call themselves, conspired against us, attacked us, and used all the means at their disposal to derail our plans for unity.
"History has proven that Arab nationalism is a destructive ideology. We, the Saudis, must set our priorities and carefully read history to extract its lessons while at the same time endeavoring to build something new that does not take anything for granted — as has been the case in the past — but that thoroughly debates and analyzes everything. We must rely on an ideology that treats the national interests of this country as the top priority."