It’s gone a bit unnoticed because of the catastrophic events in Japan, but just a few days ago, Saudi Arabia actually invaded the tiny country of Bahrain. The Sunni Bahraini Al-Khalifa royal house called in the help of their religious brethren from across the border to suppress the Shiite majority in the country. In other words, the despots of one country are invited to squash the nascent democratization of another country. Iraq, Kuwait anyone?
And it’s not just symbolic: Saudi Arabian troops and tanks are sweeping the streets of Bahrain’s capital Manama, causing casualties and destruction. Isn’t this about as big an event as the civil war in Libya?
I am old enough to remember the days when the entire world stopped dead in its tracks as one Middle East autocracy invaded a tiny neighboring state, and the US corralled a massive coalition to repel it. From that moment on, because in part of the threat Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait posed to the Saudi oil fields, the US was far more deeply enmeshed in the Middle East’s military and political equation than ever before.
Now fast forward to a thousand troops with tanks streaming over the causeway that connects Saudi Arabia with Bahrain. Now, obviously this is different in as much as the Sunni Bahrainian royalty invited the troops to come in to protect them from the protests of the Shiite majority. But to my mind, that makes it just as bad. A military from one Sunni country has invaded another to suppress democracy, because it might reflect, for the first time, the wishes of the Shiite majority, rather than Sunni despots.
This strikes me as more significant regionally than Libya’s internal revolts. Since when does the international community stand by as one country’s military invades another and kills some of its citizens? The answer is a pretty simple one: when the invading country controls 25 percent of the world’s oil supply.