How 'bout the Saudis? Well, they're fighting the hell out of terrorists... or at least the guys that are terrorizing their border with Yemen. The USG seems to have pretty well given up the ghost on this one; here's Spencer again:
“Based on these assurances, the [U.S.] ambassador [in Riyadh] has approved… the provision of [U.S. government] imagery of the Yemeni border area to the Saudi Government,” the February cable reads. Although the war on the Houthis was petering out, the imagery could enhance “Saudi capabilities against Al-Qaeda activities in this area.”
What's the moral of the story? Despite the U.S. military's persistent use of the term "capability" as a synonym for a weapon system -- a semantic manifestation of wishful thinking wherein the provision of a piece of gear is the same as transfer of the tactical and operational competencies that equipment is meant to enable -- we all need to come to grips with the fact that absent the elaboration of very specific consequences for "bad behavior," partner nations are going to use the stuff we sell or give them for "counterterrorism operations" to do pretty much whatever the hell they want. There's two ways to handle this: 1) we can just figure out a way to have less heartburn about this disappointing reality, recognizing that some sovereign states are going to get theirs so long as we're asking them to take care of some housekeeping on our behalf, or 2) we can find a different way to execute a worldwide counterterrorism campaign than rushing materiel and training to every third-world backwater where al-Qaeda pops its collective head up, imagining as we do that the knock-on negative effects of this decision can't possibly outweigh whatever near-term operational and PR benefits we might gain. Right now we're basically taking Option 1, which would be fine with me if it actually made for effective counterterrorism. But... well... you know (pdf), it's, uh... it's not (pdf). I'm sure it'll be better next time. Or we could be a little more patient, a little more comprehensive, a little less direct, and do a little more of Option 2. Just sayin'.