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  1. #1
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Arab Spring comes late in Kuwait

    Moderator's Note

    I have merged a small thread 'Arab Spring comes late in Kuwait' and 'Impact of the Arab Spring on Saudi Arabia' into this newly created thread (ends).


    Dozens of Kuwaiti protesters stormed parliament late on Wednesday, as hundreds more demonstrated outside. Eyewitnesses said they were demanding that Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah step down. Hundreds of people, including opposition lawmakers, have been protesting weekly outside parliament over alleged corruption.
    Link:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-15768027

    The BBC reports a previous demo over the PM earlier in 2011 and a no confidence vote being defeated.

    Given the strategic role of Kuwait in providing facilities for the dwindling US presence in Iraq I am sure there's ample reason to watch.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 11-17-2012 at 08:59 PM. Reason: Add note after merging
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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Populaces are evolving. Governments seek to sustain the status quo. This creates gaps that can be exploited by both internal and external actors seeking change.

    Now is not the time to push for concepts of American brand democracy, nor for "universal" values as currently defined by the US government (which frankly find little universality within the US, let alone without); nor for foreign leaders to step down.

    Now is not the time for governments to cling doggedly to dated forms of foreign policy or to equally dated forms of domestic policy or concepts of governance. Now is the time for governments to listen very carefully to those they seek to influence or govern. Now is the time for governments to become far more flexible in their ability to tailor and implement small changes that target directly at the most important concerns of these evolving populaces.

    Change is scary, and for those governments who focus on "control" as the measure of success there will be frustration and increasing challenges. For those who can embrace the uncertainty of approaches that are less controlling and more influential, there will be continued success.

    Remember, ideology does not create these gaps. Insurgents do not create these gaps. Trans-national terrorists do not create these gaps. These are the tools and agents of opportunity. States also have opportunities in this evolving environment if the politicians possess the courage and vision to assume reasonable risks to reach out and take advantage of the same factors that these illegal opportunists leverage currently.

    We should not fear instability, as it is a metric of progress. But there are risks. The greatest risk, however, is to fear change and to cling to artificial stability imposed through "rule of law" and "increased security force capacity." Seek justice, not law. Justice is blind, but the law can be a directed tool of the state and quickly lose it's justice component, particularly in times when states feel threatened. Current forms of government are threatened. Current politicians are threatened. States and nations are not at risk here. We must ask these leaders what it is they truly seek to protect?

    We live in exciting times of dynamic change. But to overly seek to resist or control that change is the most dangerous course of all.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Populaces are evolving. Governments seek to sustain the status quo. This creates gaps that can be exploited by both internal and external actors seeking change.

    Now is not the time to push for concepts of American brand democracy, nor for "universal" values as currently defined by the US government (which frankly find little universality within the US, let alone without); nor for foreign leaders to step down.

    Now is not the time for governments to cling doggedly to dated forms of foreign policy or to equally dated forms of domestic policy or concepts of governance. Now is the time for governments to listen very carefully to those they seek to influence or govern. Now is the time for governments to become far more flexible in their ability to tailor and implement small changes that target directly at the most important concerns of these evolving populaces.

    Change is scary, and for those governments who focus on "control" as the measure of success there will be frustration and increasing challenges. For those who can embrace the uncertainty of approaches that are less controlling and more influential, there will be continued success.

    Remember, ideology does not create these gaps. Insurgents do not create these gaps. Trans-national terrorists do not create these gaps. These are the tools and agents of opportunity. States also have opportunities in this evolving environment if the politicians possess the courage and vision to assume reasonable risks to reach out and take advantage of the same factors that these illegal opportunists leverage currently.

    We should not fear instability, as it is a metric of progress. But there are risks. The greatest risk, however, is to fear change and to cling to artificial stability imposed through "rule of law" and "increased security force capacity." Seek justice, not law. Justice is blind, but the law can be a directed tool of the state and quickly lose it's justice component, particularly in times when states feel threatened. Current forms of government are threatened. Current politicians are threatened. States and nations are not at risk here. We must ask these leaders what it is they truly seek to protect?

    We live in exciting times of dynamic change. But to overly seek to resist or control that change is the most dangerous course of all.
    Thanks for neatly encapsulating one of the most important challenges facing the Arab World and Africa. The US, on the other hand, really needs to look beyond counter-terrorism and energy security.

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    Thanks for neatly encapsulating one of the most important challenges facing the Arab World and Africa. The US, on the other hand, really needs to look beyond counter-terrorism and energy security.
    This applies to US foreign policy as well. When a system of foreign policies are designed for an era and mission that no longer exists (as the US Cold War based, "GWOT"-shaped containment grand strategy is) similar "gaps" occur. When that policy is seen as promoting an artificial stability dedicated to an increasingly irrelevant status quo it also creates motivations in the populaces of the affected nations to be more apt to participate in acts of transnational terrorism.

    We see the Obama administration working on one hand to break from the status quo and to become more supportive of those populaces who are willing to pursue reasonable (if not entirely peaceful) ways and means to achieve change. This is a start, as it is not a blind commitment to forcing the status quo. Equally dangerous, however, is to push for US forms of governance, and current US values; as if populaces everywhere were somehow in the same culture, the same time and place as US socio-cultural evolution is right now. To move another government artificially in such a way is to create an even larger, more illegitimate, and more inappropriate, more exploitable gap in the other direction. Neither internal nor external governments should expect the populace to conform to them, it is governments that must conform to the people.

    For US foreign policy we need to tailor our approaches by nation, and be more respective of differences, and if anything, encourage governments to be more in synch with their own people. We need to find new ways to pursue our own interests that are less tied to artificially stabilized status quos, as this is the primary driver of transnational terrorism against the US.

    This is simply a matter of leadership style. We've been able to get away with "lazy leadership." A controlling style based upon superior strength and wealth. We will need to adopt a more sophisticated and nuanced form of influence-based leadership. The best leaders always spent 80% of their time in influence-based leadership, only applying power as needed, when needed. Lazy leaders are all power, all the time. The US is a lazy leader. Maybe that is what the president meant in his recent comments in Asia... He is seeking to turn this around, but we've been on this path for a several administrations and too many people have come to see such power-based lazy leadership as "what right looks like."

    Just a theory. Governments need to control the one thing they have the right to control, their own actions. They need to then govern in ways that are more attuned to the people they affect, at home and abroad.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Default Impact of the Arab Spring on Saudi Arabia

    Opinion from a regional source... always good to have some non-US perspective:

    http://www.zawya.com/story/In_a_rest...emailmarketing

    Saudi Arabia: In a restless realm

    Saudi Arabia's absolute monarchy watched the demise of its close ally, President Hosni Mubarak, with alarm. The Al Sauds had sought to avoid this dramatic moment of change in the Arab world, even pleading with their American friends to save the Egyptian despot's regime.

    Eighteen months on, however, the conservative rulers of the world's largest oil producer and the biggest Arab economy are learning to adapt...
    My personal sense is that addressing discontent by distributing money will work, at least for a while. Saudi Arabia is not Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, or Syria: a quite large percentage of the population is materially comfortable enough to have a stake in the status quo, and the very strong fear of instability still trumps the widespread dislike for the regime. How long that lasts is anybody's guess.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Saudi diplomat chatting

    Almost a year ago I listened to a Saudi diplomat talking on the regional situation and some of his remarks are relevant here.

    The language used to describe radicals was very strong, akin to them being perverts and following 'destructive ideologies' making them revolutionaries. Followed by 'using the cloak of religion to disguise their naked power seeking'.

    A long time was spent on the KSA's counter-radicalisation programme. The 'hard' and the 'soft'. A 25% pay increase for security forces, funded rewards, 2k had been interviewed and 1k detained.

    A $4b in unconditional aid had been given to Eygpt, after Mubarak's removal, unlike the World Bank and others. KSA had supported the Mubarak regime for many years, it was sad to see him go, but it was the choice of the Egyptian people and they respected that.

    The phrase 'Arab Spring' was a misuse of the word 'Spring' as it had to date been quite bloody; note this was just after he pointed out that the KSA & GCC forces in Bahrain were 'all to protect critical infrastructure, not face civil disorder'.
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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    A $4b in unconditional aid had been given to Eygpt, after Mubarak's removal, unlike the World Bank and others. KSA had supported the Mubarak regime for many years, it was sad to see him go, but it was the choice of the Egyptian people and they respected that.
    Whether they sent the money out of respect for the choices of the Egyptian people or in an attempt to buy influence with the new regime is of course a matter open to question.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

  8. #8
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Standing firm with "more of the same" or shaken?

    The Saudi regime, or extended royal family must be aware of the impact of the Arab Spring, with once friendly, or allied governments being overthrown and replaced with something very different. What I have yet to see is any in-depth reporting on the impact upon the Saudi population.

    We appear to assume the regime using both "soft" and "hard" power is capable of identifying its weaknesses and responding to them. From my very limited reading the regime's response is "more of the same". Whether that is still suitable is the key question.

    What I would be looking for is increasing numbers of Saudis staying abroad after their studies, possibly volunteering to work in other post-Spring countries; more savings leaving and more "disappearances", even renditions back to Saudi Arabia.

    For strategic reasons most Western nations prefer the Saudi regime and avert their eyes from looking more closely.

    I am reminded of a conversation many years ago, possibly by a retired UK diplomat on the radio; he talked about two foreign policy nightmares for the UK: a bearded, junior Pakistani army officer appears on TV and announces a successful coup. Second, a raging bearded, fanatical Saudi face appears on TV to announce all the royal family are dead and the oil is turned off.

    Quite fanciful I thought until a retired soldier responded that this shock had already happened once before - Gadafy's coup in Libya in 1968. At the time the UK had more troops in Libya than their army, apparently to defend the Libyan oilfields from Eygpt (plus RAF & USAF bases).

    I assume national governments have thought through the possibilities and adjusted their calculations over policy.
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    The Saudi regime, or extended royal family must be aware of the impact of the Arab Spring, with once friendly, or allied governments being overthrown and replaced with something very different. What I have yet to see is any in-depth reporting on the impact upon the Saudi population.
    It would be very difficult to assess the impact on the population as a whole.

    Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States are quite different from the states so far affected by the Arab Spring, in a number of ways.

    One factor that I think is much underrated in the West is the extent to which traditional aristocracies are granted a degree of legitimacy, at least as long as they keep bringing home the... well, not bacon, but you know what I mean. To the outside eye there may be little difference between the sheiks, emirs, and princes of the GCC and a ruler like Gaddafi, Mubarak, or Assad. In the Gulf the perceived difference is very large, and it's not limited to the ruling class.

    The second factor of course is that in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf a large part of the populace, in most cases a majority, is materially comfortable enough to have a stake in stability. There is a real envy of the political freedoms and human rights enjoyed in the west, but also an overpowering fear - you could almost call it terror - that liberalizing would bring chaos, collapse, and a loss of all they have.

    I've picked up some repeated threads in time spent in that region: not a scientific survey by any means but comments repetitively heard...

    It's almost a mantra that democracy and human rights promotion are western conspiracies designed to weaken traditional systems so that Westerners can come in and take control of the oil.

    It's often heard that while government is corrupt and it's terrible, the very fact that ruling is so profitable makes democracy dangerous: factions will destroy the country in a fight over the control of the spoils. Corruption with stability is better than corruption with chaos.

    Another mantra: "Osama is good and pious and we all support him, but if he and his people ever took over here we would have a war and we would lose everything"

    In short, I get the feeling (again, through very un-scientific means) that the dominant political positions of Gulf populaces are driven less by what they seek than by what they fear, and that the status quo, for all it's deficiencies, is often seen as better than an unknown and potentially catastrophic change.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

  10. #10
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default A Gulf Sheikh down coming?

    A new book 'After the Sheikhs: The Coming Collapse of the Gulf Monarchies' by Christopher Davidson, a UK-based academic, is published this week and FP has an article that opens with:
    At first glance the Gulf monarchies look stable, at least compared to the broader region. In reality, however, the political and economic structures that underpin these highly autocratic states are coming under increasing pressure, and broad swathes of citizens are making hitherto unimaginable challenges to the ruling elites.
    Which ends with:
    Finally, and most importantly, the vicious crackdowns and arbitrary detentions that have been taking place as regimes have sought to silence these voices are tragic, but are nonetheless helping to dispel the illusion that these unelected, unaccountable rulers have anything in common with the tribal, benevolent rulers of the pre-oil era.
    Link:http://mideast.foreignpolicy.com/pos...cy_in_question

    A shorter summary:http://www.amazon.co.uk/After-Sheikh.../dp/184904189X

    If this was to come about, in one or more nations, the Arab Spring would take a very different form. SWC have discussed the Gulf states before, although in brief - except for Saudi Arabia.

    There is a substantial thread on Bahrain's Unrest:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...t=12530&page=6
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 11-17-2012 at 08:45 PM.
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    Default Inland: Jordan has protests

    The other night several Tweets reported disorder in Amman, Jordan; OK a little way inland from the Gulf sheikdoms, but the same theme - uncertainty comes.

    Protests about fuel prices being the catalyst.

    Two BBC reports:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-20321086 and http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-20335287

    The NYT, which has a number of protesters cited:http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/15/wo...econd-day.html

    King Abdullah is due to visit London next week, for a speech giving; so one wonders will he leave home?
    davidbfpo

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    Default King stays at home

    In my last post I noted:
    King Abdullah is due to visit London next week, for a speech giving; so one wonders will he leave home?
    His visit has been cancelled.
    davidbfpo

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    Default UK and Kuwait to announce security partnership

    The UK will provide expertise in physical security, cybersecurity and counter-terrorism to the oil-rich Gulf Arab state. It comes as Kuwait is experiencing a wave of anti-government protests....it would provide "state-of-the-art surveillance and command-and-control systems as used in the London Olympics".
    Link:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20530427

    Some may say this is a gamble, but since the UK's stance on Bahrain has been to speak quietly not unexpected.
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    Default Monarchism matters

    A good FP article which supplements Post 15. It opens with:
    The Arab Spring was hard on Arab presidents: most of the personalist presidential autocracies are now gone. But no Arab monarchs fell during the Arab Spring. Why did the monarchs fare so well? The strong correlation between monarchism and survival suggests, of course, that monarchism had something (or everything) to do with it.
    Ending with:
    The rest of the monarchs possessed two key advantages over the presidents in the spring of 2011. First, they profited from comparisons between their rule and that of the presidents.....A second factor also helped the monarchs: they could make credible promises to implement political reforms.....The problem for monarchs going forward, in the wake of the Arab Spring, is that these two factors are not at all permanent....The next time around, promises will not likely be enough: real signs of change will need to be clear. Absent that, the monarchs might wind up going down the road of Bahrain's ruling family, ruling over an embittered population that no longer believes promises of reform. That would not necessarily doom the monarchs, especially the family businesses of the Gulf. But it would send them down a dead end of discord and repression.
    Link:http://mideast.foreignpolicy.com/pos...rchism_matters
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