Let me put it another way: Connery invents a revolutionary type of metal armor plate. It's intergrated into the design of a new main battle tank; no anti-armor weapon in the world can kill that tank. At some point, someone will develope an anti-armor weapon that will kill that tank. Basically, you build thicker amor and someone will build a bigger gun to shoot holes in it.
Prime example: prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom, there was nothing on the modern battlefield that could inflict a catastrophic kill on an American M-1 Abrams main battle tank. Now, post Operation Iraqi Freedom, that is no longer true. The M-1 Abrams can be killed.
The odds of becoming a casualty on the modern battlefield have nothing to do with the battlefield becoming safer, but rather with the intensity of the conflict being waged + the motivation and ROE's of the forces being engaged.
"Groups with guitars are on the way out, Mr. Epstein"
Dick Rowe, A & R man
Saudi Arabia the best chance for democracy? Really? My understanding is they've had street protest their recently and the military was brought in to put them down so I don't see how Saudi Arabia is the best choice for democracy.
There is also the practical matter that we seemed to have failed horribly in Afghanistan and Iraq so what makes you think it will work in Iran? We've been in Afghanistan for over a decade and from what I understand the Taliban controls most of the country and Opium is there biggest export again.
I just believe that Supporting Al Qeada in one country while bombing other countries because of Al Qeada seems like bad policy. Also, backing some monarchies while at the same time supporting the overthrow of others seems like a bad policy. I strongly believe that trying to impose our views on so many other countries is much more of a threat than Iran.
As for Saudi Arabia, I didn't mean they had the best chance for democracy, I meant that the ideal route for true constitutional democracy at the moment runs through the palace doors in Riyadh. The agitators for democracy in Saudi Arabia at present come from a disingenuous Islamist network that has no real desire to see an Islamic democracy, only a chance to unseat the al-Saud, while at the other end of the spectrum you have a mishmash of minority liberals and Shia opponents. I think the situation is beginning to change as economic pressures mount, and the impact of globalized technology and culture expands its impact, but at present the greatest force for liberalization has come from the top down. It is a complex country with complex problems, and the next few years will be critical to how the US should approach our Gulf ally.
I also would dispute that we failed horribly in either country, and I do not think we should abandon Afghanistan. Furthermore I am not advocating and never have advocated an invasion of Iran.
As for Saudi Arabia the issue is that people conflate the Saudi government, with segments of Saudi society. The Saudi government historically did cultivate Islamism, this has its roots in the Cold War. I'll be brief but essentially the al-Saud (name for the House of Saud) found itself beleaguered by Arab socialist movements being spread from Egypt with the assistance of the Soviet Union. The fomentation of Arab nationalist (socialist) revolutions in Iraq, Syria, and almost in Jordan led to Saudi Arabia taking a sympathizing stance with the Muslim Brotherhood and solidifying its religious credentials as a counterbalance to the Arab nationalist narrative emanating from Cairo. The conflict eventually became exceedingly personal with elements of the Saudi royal family calling themselves the Free Princes fled to Cairo, eventually to be joined by the ousted King Saud who was toppled in a palace coup by Faisal. Nasser attempted to assassinate senior Saudi royals and foment a revolution, and the al-Saud responded in kind. The war became almost overt as Egyptian troops became involved in Yemen, and Saudi Arabia provided shelter and support to the anti-government rebels. This eventually culminated with the Saudi government taking in the Muslim Brotherhood after it was quashed in Egypt and utilizing them as teachers and preachers in the Kingdom. From this beginning Saudi Arabia began to use its flush coffers to fuel the exportation of religious schools and clerical establishments abroad to create an international counterbalance to Arab republicanism. This is where the notion of Saudi religious support for 'Wahhabism' abroad comes from. It has since morphed into a mix of strategic and religious obligation, with the latter predominating in my opinion.
As for Saudi Arabia itself, Saudi Arabia is in many ways a very confused state. The government has aggressively and violently cracked down on al-Qaeda at home and in the region, and has in recent years moved to clamp down upon the clerical establishment and the unofficial Ulema in an effort to solidify its rule and pave the way for moderate reform. The issue in Saudi Arabia is that the al-Saud does not rule alone. Simply put there is a duality to Saudi politics, with the al-Saud having made a contract in the 1700's with Muhammed ibn al-Wahhab the man who's namesake is Wahhabism. The agreement was that al-Wahhab would provide spiritual and religious support to the al-Saud and acknowledge their temporal authority, while they would grant them independence and consultation. It is an agreement that holds to the present day and across all 3 incarnations of the Saudi state, with his descendants the Al ash-Sheikh still controlling the religious establishment. The Saudi royal family justifies its rule by its religious fidelity and alliance with the clerical establishment, who in turn preach the legitimacy of the Saudi crown.
So what do you have in Saudi Arabia? You have a government that is made up of princes and royals who are generally much more educated, cosmopolitan, and consequently more liberal than huge segments of Saudi society. The move towards reform has been a slow and plodding process that has moved on both political and social tracks. The bigger shifts have come since Abdullah took power, but he has disappointed with his slow reforms. Still they are noticeable.
Anyways short answer? No the Saudi government does not support Islamist terrorist groups, it would be suicidal as they oppose the ruling regime. They also have been moving in the direction of exerting greater control over the clerical establishment and creating a more liberalized social atmosphere (though of course they do not call it that). Much depends on the character of the next King, the next real King i.e. one from the next generation. If Abdullah dies and Salman becomes King, it won't really matter he'll be in the grave shortly after ascending the throne.