Saudi Arabia and France: Taming and Appeasing Trump

One of William Shakespeare’s plays, “The Taming of the Shrew,” tells the story of a rich young man who goes to extreme lengths to marry a powerful merchant’s daughter, well-known for her recklessness and malice. The young man uses many ploys in order to tame her. The tricks he uses vary from violence to feigning insanity to depriving her of worldly comforts. Then, after a long struggle with her astute husband, the daughter becomes the most obedient of all her sisters and her father doubles her inheritance.

Perhaps, due to the fact it’s a comedy, it’s appropriate to see this play as a political metaphor for the way that world leaders deal with President Donald Trump. Trump, famous for combining television entertainment and immense wealth with reckless populism, and who manages to provoke the right and the left and prompt violent reaction from foreign nations, international political and legal institutions, and American and international media outlets alike.

Some world leaders, for example former Mexican President Vicente Fox, have lost all self-control. Fox used incredibly undiplomatic words to respond to Trump’s calls for building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico that Mexico would pay for. Fox’s vulgar hashtag that he used to respond to Trump became one of the most popular hashtags on twitter. Similarly, an Australian senator printed a picture of Trump on a doormat along with the words, “Australia: Not your doormat.” In contrast, other leaders, like Russian President Vladimir Putin, praised Trump throughout his presidential campaign. Putin even said that Trump “is smart and talented.” Similarly, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said that he considers Trump to be “a realist.”

The last two examples show how praise is one way to Trump’s heart. Indeed, Trump invited Duterte to visit the White House and responded to Putin’s compliments with even higher praise for the Russian leader. Moreover, Trump was prepared to establish a historic relationship with Putin if a series of scandals had not erupted. The U.S. intelligence community proved that the Kremlin significantly contributed to the failure of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Russia damaged Clinton, who was Trump’s Democratic rival during the presidential election, by hacking her campaign. Further, it is suspected that Russia coordinated with a significant number of officials connected to Trump, including his son and son-in-law.

Some Arab countries were quick to get the message about how to deal with Trump. For instance, the Emirates offered deals to Trump’s businesses, and Bahrain rented some rooms in Trump’s hotel in Washington. However, Saudi Arabia, which has been apprehensive ever since Congress passed a law allowing for Saudi Arabia to be held accountable for the Sept. 11 attacks, went above and beyond the level of this mollification and praise. Saudi Arabia used all its economic and political weight to call a meeting between dozens of Muslim and Arab leaders and President Trump in Riyadh. During the meeting, Saudi Arabia paid homage to Trump by expressing its great respect and appreciation for him. Further, Saudi Arabia ended the meeting with what was called “The Deal of the Century.” The economic and political deal was supposed to usher in a new and unprecedented era in the Middle East and Arab world, bring an end to Iranian influence in the region, and solve the Palestinian question. However, the great deal of the century was quickly reduced to two fundamental elements:

First, American endorsement for the appointment of the son of King Mohammed Bin Salman Bin Abd Al-Aziz as the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. Second, American support for extorting Qatar with serious allegations that have no real substance or credibility. Meanwhile, the goal of reducing Iranian influence has been forgotten and the Palestinian issue has been entrusted to smaller, insignificant players committed to Israel’s agenda. In addition, Trump’s tweets supporting Saudi Arabia and its allies’ allegations against Qatar quickly faded away. Subsequently, U.S. Defense Department and State Department officials were forced to attend to the crisis and limit the damage caused by the “petulance” of their president and his greed for deals.

In addition, after President Trump faced harsh criticism from world leaders at the Group of Seven and Group of 20 summit meetings, he appeared to be isolated. French President Emmanuel Macron presented a clever new approach to dealing with Trump that allowed Trump to restore his wounded pride. The delightfulness of French courtesy and tours of hospitality, from the tomb of Napoleon, to the Jules Verne restaurant in the Eiffel Tower, to Notre Dame, to lunch on the river Seine, had a serious effect on Trump and his wife. Indeed, Trump tweeted about the beauty of Macron’s wife and suggested that he might go back on his decision to pull out of the global climate deal.

In short, the heart of the matter is that Trump’s conceited nature cannot, in the end, predominate if it damages the policies and interests of America. Moreover, treating Trump pleasantly and giving him warm receptions that honor him is more important, and less costly, than trying to bribe him to support the issues he opposes.

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