on 16 August 2014
House has a helpful set of viewpoints on Saudi Arabia -- her own upbringing in a small fundamentalist Christian Texas town, her long-term familiarity with the Kingdom, and her identity as a woman, by which she gains access to both the male and female worlds of Arabian society. Her account is sympathetic but too honestly critical for royal sensitivities. She paints the Saudi rulers as caught in a paradox. On one hand they have caved in to pressure from extremely fundamentalist religious leaders, and funded a huge effort to promote such religion across the world. On the other hand they have been cowed by US pressure, which broke their will to resist Western interests in 1973 and demanded restrictions on the export of fundamentalism after 2001. House clearly wonders how this highly exclusive culture, this dangerously undiversified economy, and this extremely autocratic government can last much longer without imploding. It's helpful for North Americans to question all the implications of alliance with Saudi Arabian interests, and this book makes good progress on that. I suspect, however, that there's more to be revealed about Saudi Arabia's role in movements for religious supremacism and sectarian rivalry across the region.