Voices from the right wing, prominently featured in Rupert Murdochs Wall Street Journal, are warning that the grisly presumed murder of Jamal Khashoggi by a hit squad made up of persons close to crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman should not mean the end of the close US relationship with Saudi Arabia.
I would concur with one part of this argument, which is that we should wish the country of Saudi Arabia well. But the current relationship of Washington and Riyadh is pathological in a lot of ways, and a policy rethink on both sides would benefit both countries.
Saudi Arabia is not the largest oil producer in the world, but it is the largest oil exporter, which is what is important. The US and the Russian Federation produce similar amounts, but they use most of it domestically. Saudi Arabia is important because it is the worlds swing exporter. It can export a lot or much less, and still get along because of its relatively small population.
The US has used the security umbrella it provides to the wealthy but weak Saudis as a leverage to have them up their production and flood the market at key points. They do this to weaken countries like Iran, which have far less flexibility and suffer when prices of petroleum are low. Or they do it to lower US gasoline prices to help the party in power.
The US also depends on the Saudis to buy US arms. Since the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have wound down, companies like Lockheed Martin and Boeing would suffer if they did not sell weapons abroad.
But both of these bases for the Saudi relationship with the US are very bad for everyone on earth. Burning petroleum to fuel cars puts billions of tons of the heat-trapping gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually, which is threatening human welfare and civilization.
Petroleum has to be kept in the ground and the governments of the earth must marshal all their resources to make a rapid, as in 10-year, transition to public mass transportation and electric vehicles fueled by the wind and sun. The cynical US use of Saudi Arabia to flood the market must stop. Indeed, this tactic often lowers gasoline costs as an incidental side effect, thus delaying the transition to electric vehicles.
Saudi Arabia itself must get off its own dependence on oil exports, which Riyadh recognizes, and develop sustainable industries that will allow the country to develop normally after the end of oil.
Massive arms sales are also bad for both countries. The US is spreading around highly sophisticated death and destruction machines. Owning them has tempted the Saudis into the disastrous Yemen war, which threatens the civilians of the latter country with mass starvation. If the Saudis think such an event will not boomerang....