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Jed Babbin replies: I agree that we can, we should, and we will go it alone should that become necessary. But our tanker fleet is old, and the aircraft have a lot of maintenance downtime. Moreover, and we don’t like to advertise it, but the fact that Navy aircraft often can’t fill from Air Force tankers due to connection equipment problems, has been in the public eye for years. I’m not obsessed with the Brit tankers, only with reducing the risk to those at the point of the spear. I think having the Brits along helps in that regard.p> PRINCELINGS br> Re: Lawrence Henry’s The Saudi Paradox : /p>
Perhaps another viewpoint of the Saudi military distinct from General Horner’s might provide a contrast to that offered by Mr. Henry:
Back in the late '70s and early '80s I was an Air Force instructor pilot teaching advanced undergraduate jet flying (T-38). I had many Saudi students, all of whom seemed to be princes of the realm. Apparently they were very used to being pampered, as demonstrated with their lackadaisical attitude toward their training. They never studied the flight manuals and were rarely prepared for the day’s mission. Our commanders of course knew this but ordered us to carry them to graduation regardless of their lack of effort or aptitude. And indeed that is what we did. Virtually all of them completed the program, even if they fell back several classes, whereas an American or NATO student would have long before washed out of the program. They did not exhibit very much military professionalism.
They would not fly with any of our female or Jewish instructors. One of these later became an astronaut, another the commander of the USAF test pilot school. Yet because of archaic prejudices like these they denied themselves to learn to fly from some of the very best pilots. There certainly was no “brotherhood of arms” there.
Years later in Saudi Arabia, managing aircrew scheduling for the airlift of troops and material back home after the Gulf War, I had a female Air Force bus driver assigned to me. One day we were to drive from our base to a neighboring one several miles away. After we passed through the gate to our base I had to take over the driving from my driver, because she was not allowed to drive on Saudi highways. She, along with thousands of other female U.S. military, certainly were not afforded any of the respect due allied soldiers by the Saudi military.
No doubt General Horner’s dealings with the Saudis were on a level far higher than mine. Nonetheless I too had to be diplomatic in my dealings with them. And in light of those experiences there are other allies with whom I would rather fight alongside.p>Cordially, br> —
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