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One recurring criticism of the Obama administration is that it has presided over a collapse in confidence among America's Middle Eastern allies. Jennifer Rubin, for instance, claims it's "remarkable that our allies feel so abandoned." The Saudis have been sharply critical about signs of American weakness. Senator John McCain has declared that the U.S. has lost "all credibility" in the region.

Courtesy of Scott McConnell, former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates gives us a look at what all this carping really means from his memoir:

[Saudi King] Abdullah ... wanted a full-scale military attack on Iranian military targets, not just the nuclear sites. He warned that if we did not attack, the Saudis "must go our own way to protect our interests." As far as I was concerned, he was asking the United States to send its sons and daughters into a war with Iran in order to protect the Saudi position in the Gulf and the region, as if we were mercenaries. He was asking us to shed American blood, but at no time did he suggest that any Saudi blood might be spilled. He went on and on about how the United States was seen as weak by governments in the region. The longer he talked, the angrier I got...

So the next time you hear someone complain that America's "allies" in the Middle East are upset about the lack of American leadership on this or that, remember that what they're really cheesed off about is the fact that American blood and treasure are not being put on the line to defend their interests.