Saturday, 7 April 2012

Book Review: Sleeping With The Devil, by Robert Baer (2003)

A quick romp through the past, present and possibly grim future of Saudi Arabia, Sleeping With The Devil predicts the imminent collapse of the Kingdom. Unfortunately, the book itself quickly collapses into a heap of smart alecky, quip-enhanced, opinions and worst-case scenarios. Former CIA agent Robert Baer's follow-up to the excellent See No Evil is a disappointment.

With no notes, references or interviews, Sleeping With The Devil defaults to prolonged descriptions of a very few encounters from Baer's personal experiences that did not make it into See No Evil. The resultant stench of lightweight and left-over material is strong, Baer struggling to fill 200 pages with meaningful content. From the wafer-thin personal encounters with shady arms dealers, political exiles and informants, Baer extrapolates the end the House of Al-Saud. In a hastily slapped together Epilogue, Baer advocates ill-conceived, drastic and brutal measures to pre-empt the consequences.

Not that the central premise of Sleeping With The Devil is without merit. Baer outlines the corruption within the Kingdom, and the tight, sleaze-filled and oil-fuelled relationship between Washington DC and Riyadh. The roots of extremism are examined, and the relationships between the rulers of Saudi Arabia and ancient and modern-day Wahhabis, strict interpreters of Islam, receive a brisk overview.

What Sleeping With The Devil lacks is any sense of context. What about all the other corrupt dealings, dollar-blinded deals, and lobbying that pass for policy and politics in Washington DC? How does the threat to US interests that stems from sleeping with Saudi Arabia compare to the many other less-than-ideal global relationships?

Baer rushes headlong into predicting a near-term worst-case scenario in the Kingdom, and history has not treated his foresight kindly. From the perspective of 2012, most other Arab regimes have been overturned, while the House of Al-Saud has proved itself to be more durable and much more stable than most. This does not mean that there is no upheaval in their future, but perhaps there is a more robust method to their apparent madness than they are given credit for.

Subtitled "How Washington Sold Our Soul For Saudi Crude".
212 pages, plus Index.

All Ace Black Blog Book Reviews are here.

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