Four years ago, on October 7, 2009, Laurent Murawiec passed away. He was an honest man who was unafraid to articulate his world view, even at the cost of offending establishment interests. His analyses hold lessons for anyone who considers him- or herself to be culturally Western. In particular, his conclusions about Saudi Arabia’s antagonism towards the West remain of crucial importance today.
Born in 1951, Laurent Murawiec worked in Europe as a military consultant, journalist and teacher of economics before moving to the United States and joining the Rand Corporation. An expert on Islamic radicalism, two of his books received special attention: “The Mind of Jihad”, published in 2008, which analyses the confrontation between fundamentalism and the West, and most notable of all, “Princes of Darkness: The Saudi Assault on the West”.
The seeds of “Princes of Darkness” were sown at a 2002 briefing that Laurent Murawiec gave to the Pentagon’s Defence Policy Board in which he presented his assessment of Saudi hostility towards the West, and proposed original and provocative countermeasures.
After the stir the briefing created when details of it were leaked, Murawiec no doubt anticipated the uproar the book itself would cause. Yet, Laurent Murawiec was a man of conviction: he published “Princes” in 2005, and was widely attacked in Washington and beyond.
His analysis of Saudi motives challenged the very foundation of US policy in the Middle East. He deconstructed Saudi Arabia’s political agenda towards the West, demonstrating how the Saudis orchestrated the inflation of oil prices and engineered their own ascent on the world stage at the expense of their Western “allies”.
The link he demonstrated between Saudi oil and their acquisition of power was the first layer of the argument. With his insight into radical Islam, he went on to describe the relationship between the Wahhabist philosophy and the governing House of Saud. Specifically, he showed how this extremist Sunni branch of Islam was spending dozens of billions of dollars to propagate its philosophy in the media and literature, and by infiltrating major US and western universities by trading donations for appointments of “approved” Islamic scholars. He accused the Saudis of exporting Jihad, and tied them to “the terror chain, from planners to financiers”.
Taking on such a strategic US partner required not only courage, but also unusual honesty, a quality that Thomas Jefferson called the “first chapter in the book of wisdom”. He was uncompromising in his bottom line: that US foreign policy, with its obsession with cheap oil and strategic interests, lost its independence and – in many respects – sold its soul.
Such fearless honesty cost him his job at Rand Corporation when his Pentagon presentation was leaked. He subsequently joined the Hudson Institute, where he served until his death.
Today, Saudi influence is still considerable. But more than that, applying Laurent Murawiec’s analysis to other regimes raises additional questions about the West’s alliances. For instance, Qatar’s massive program of investment in American and European industries should not blind the West to its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafist organizations and even al-Qaeda elements. Taking this approach further still brings us to China, whose vast foreign investments are steadily increasing its influence and its ability to advance interests contrary to those of the West.
Laurent Murawiec’s message is a warning to the West. Improving geostrategic relations may be necessary, but a red line is crossed when the West’s independence and its values are compromised by its dependence on regimes with markedly different world views and interests. This is a delicate balance, between democratic values and the pursuit of the power and control necessary to protect and advance those values. Too often, Murawiec teaches, we lose our balance.
In JRR Tolkien’s “The Hobbit”, the warrior Thorin offers last words of counsel to the book’s hero, Bilbo Baggins: “There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
Truly, Laurent Murawiec was an exemplary child of a kindly West.