For a professional oil-man who realised that becoming the President of the largest oil consumer in the world would make great sense, George W Bush’s visit to the Gulf this week makes decent marketing sense. Hearing him speak about the need to slowly but surely usher in democracy in these Arab States was touching — not to mention a twee surreal. As a gathering of sheikhs and movers of UAE listened on, the Republican democrat lovingly, but firmly, lectured on the virtues of democracy and how he has constantly pooh-poohed critics both in the United States of New York as well as in countries outside the US who keep insisting that West Asian Gulf kingdoms are not ready for democracy yet.
Such concern and impatience is touching, until one heard the man state in Saudi Arabia that he planned to discuss with King Abdullah “the fact that oil prices are very high, which is tough on our economy”. That is candour of a simmering level. Half of the world that loves Dubya loves him exactly for these ‘let’s-cut-through-the-chase’ moments.
The fact that Saudi Arabia — and the Gulf in general — has to understand that America is having a problem with high oil prices, so if they could please... has to be seen in the context of the latest (successful) sales pitch for American weaponry made by Mr Bush in Riyadh. So the US President went to an area of the world where the ruling oligarchy patiently heard him say ‘democracy’ and listened enthusiastically each time he said ‘Iran’.