A conservative should favor cutting off his fingers rather than type what Jim Fossel did while trying to defend President Trump’s overseas trip: praise Saudi Arabia as a fellow capitalist country. “Our two nations may not have much in common, but we do have capitalism and that draws us together.” (“Who Knew Foreign Policy was so Hard,” Sunday Telegram, June 4)

The positive side of capitalism is its association with freedom. If a closed kingdom like Saudi Arabia can be “capitalist,” then capitalism loses an important argument in its favor. The “we’re both capitalist countries” claim is a desperate attempt to justify President Trump’s fondness for authoritarians.

The Saudi royal family is rich. If rich equals good (the Trump formula) then it’s fine to reject the best of the West (democratic republics like France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden) and favor top-down autocrats like Vladimir Putin, Rodrigo Duterte and King Salman. One would hope, though, that a U.S. president would champion, befriend, and stand in solidarity with what has been a highlight of the Western tradition: enduring democratic republics.

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