There has been a lot of talk recently about the “free world,” as opposed to the slave world. It is a glib phrase, used by Western politicians, and like most glib phrases it is, to say the least, inexact.
Recently the head of state of the largest and wealthiest nation in the free world greeted the head of state of a smaller nation in the free world. He did so with what is generally described as “pomp and ceremony.” Indeed he used more pomp and ceremony than he has ever used before for any leader of any nation, free or fettered. He came himself to the airport, something he has never done before. He quite literally rolled out a red carpet. He even gave a cocktail party without cocktails in deference to his guest’s teetotalism.
The guest had arrived on several errands. Two seemed strangely disparate: he wanted to place a million-dollar order with General Motors for a fleet of jewel-encrusted Cadillacs; he wanted to ask for military aid to keep his free country from falling into Communist thralldom.
His little corner of the “free world” is a twentieth-century curiosity. The king gets an income of three hundred million dollars a year, hut one out of every three of his subjects has only a tent as a home and only one in twenty can read or write.
Filth and disease are plentiful and life is cheap. Thousands are held in bondage, for human slavery is not only legal, it is a way of life. A convicted thief has his
right hand chopped off and traitors arc tortured with lighted tapers inserted under their fingernails, or by being roasted alive over a slow fire.
How is it then that King Saud, the slaveowner, can be welcomed in Washington with unprecedented pomp? (With more pomp than Pandit Nehru, Winston Churchill, David Ben-Gurion, Chiang Kai-shek, Louis St. Laurent or Anthony Eden, who wasn’t welcomed at all.)
The answer is a realistic one. Without the U. S. red carpet, in its broadest sense, Saud’s country may fall into the hands of the Communists, and that is a had thing. Not a bad thing for Saud’s wretched subjects, who could hardly be worse off under Red slavery than under Saud slavery, but a had thing for us because we then couldn’t have the oil that gives Saud the income he needs to buy limousines and slaves, and maintain a harem of five hundred women.
With a sinking heart, we agree that all this is probably practical and unavoidable. At the moment wc cannot afford to be beastly to King Saud, the absolute monarch of Arabia. But we cannot agree with the sham that labels Saud an Okay-guy because he hasn’t got a Red tag on him but has got oil. Still more, we reject the greatest fiction of all: the pretense that twentieth-century diplomacy is somehow different from nineteenth-century diplomacy, and that because it has become more open it has become more high-minded.
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