Whew! For once, one of my predictions was correct: Donald Trump had a great visit to Saudi Arabia. It was a great visit for him, it was a great visit for the Saudis and the other Arab Gulf states, and—last but not least—it was a great visit for magical, glowing orbs.
I want to spend a little time talking about one of the reasons why the trip went so well. I’ll warn you: This is a somewhat taboo subject for progressive foreign-policy types. The subject, friends, is arms sales. Progressives don’t like arms sales very much, but they need to pay attention to them, because they’re one big way Republicans are fighting for—and winning—the votes of working-class Americans who have traditionally voted for Democrats.
While the president was in Saudi Arabia, the Trump administration announced $110 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia—with an additional $240 billion committed over a 10-year period. If you’ve ever worked in government, you know this is what is called a “deliverable,” the clunky management-consultantese term for a tangible outcome of a visit or meeting. When Donald Trump is asked to justify his trip to Saudi Arabia, he’ll cite that $110 billion in arms sales.
There are a few interesting things about these sales. The first is that many of these sales were already in the works. The Obama administration spent eight years quietly selling a lot of arms to Saudi Arabia: When President Obama left office, for example, the United States still had $100 billion in the foreign military sales pipeline with Saudi Arabia and, in 2011, had inked what was previously the largest arms sale in U.S. history with the Kingdom—a $29 billion deal to sell F-15s to the Saudis.