National security analysts will immediately note the ways in which the massive U.S. arms sale to Saudi Arabia is part of the administration's strategy to reassure Gulf allies of a continued U.S. commitment to the region as the nation shifts its focus to Asia while dealing with the Iranian nuclear weapons program. This is also, though, about U.S. jobs. Boeing* had been manufacturing F-15s on its St. Louis assembly line for the past few years without a firm assurance those aircraft would ever be sold. Cancelling the deal with Saudi Arabia would have been a tremendous blow to both Boeing and the people of St. Louis. I am not among those who argue we should keep U.S. defense spending high in order to support the U.S. economy, but in this case, I think it is naive to assume U.S. domestic politics did not play at least a small role in this sale. I'm sure the congressional delegation of Missouri, for example, is enjoying a late Christmas present today.
Note: the president barely lost Missouri in 2008.
*Continuing a tradition of transparency on the blog and at CNAS in general, I should note that Boeing was a corporate sponsor of CNAS in 2011. A full list of CNAS donors can be found here. (I do not understand why all think tanks do not similarly publish a list of their donors so that consumers of their products can make more informed judgments.)