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March 10, 2005

Saudi Arabia: Democracy vs. Oil

Creative Policy Debate Question 6

Historically, Western Democracies have done little to promote democracy in the Middle East, and have instead relied heavily on autocratic leaders to ensure political influence and access to cheap oil. Thomas Friedman dismisses the West’s traditional policy view towards strategically important Saudi Arabia by referring to is as “a big gas station to be pumped and defended but never to be taken seriously as a society.” After 9/11 US policy towards the Middle East changed abruptly. Now democratization seems to supersede security and stability on the list of Western Policies regarding the Middle East.

How do democracy promotion policies of the Western Democracies conflict, or coincide with the fundamental need to secure a stable flow of affordable oil? With this in mind, what policies vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia should be adopted to ensure both stability and democracy?

Participants in the Saudi Arabia: Democracy vs. Oil Creative Debate

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Comments

[Declan Ganley]

Reads out question

[Brian Williams]

Promoting Democracy in the Middle East isn´t necessarily good for our security. US destroyed an anti-Democratic regime and created a breeding ground for Pan Islamic terrorism. Fostering Democracy in the Middle East can be counter productive to the aim of creating Democracy.

Posted by: AtochaWorkshop6 [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 11, 2005 04:19 PM


[Brian Williams]

If you install Democracy in Saudi Arabia they might vote for Bin Laden.

[Declan Ganley]

I think that Democracy promotion by Western Democracies does conflict with the need for a stable flow of affordable oil.

A couple of policies should be considered. Which is more important, affordable oil or Democracy? It isn´t, clearly, affordable oil. Look at the price of oil now. We would have left them alone. But, obviously the promotion of Democracy is what we found more important.
Any country that has most of its income from oil is cursed-- the country has an endless supply of oil without any responsibility to its citizens.

Therefore we have to cut our dependence on oil.
How? We need to stimulate, outside oil companies, development and entrepreneurship in alternate fuel sources. Short term research should be done in internal combustion engine, long term in totally different fuels.

One Policy Recommendation: Allow tax break to endline consumer of 1-2% of fuel cost rebate, this money goes into a fund which is used to distribute to entrepreneurs in alternate sources of energy. If we do that, it raised a flag of warning to societies that think we HAVE to have oil.

Posted by: AtochaWorkshop6 [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 11, 2005 04:26 PM


[Declan]

Other policy recommendation: Provide sticks and carrots for Saudi Arabia to democratize society. This should be a longish development, from the present society to democracy, so that Bin Laden ISN´T elected. They should be given certain hurdles to hit in their development toward democracy. The punishment if they don´t hit the hurdles is: we don´t buy the oil from you if you don´t hit these hurdles. The hurdles are steps toward democratic, free, open and meritocratic society.

Posted by: AtochaWorkshop6 [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 11, 2005 04:29 PM


[Brian Williams]

Declan has a good, incentive based approach to the implementation of democracy in Saudi Arabia, in phases.
We in the West assume that Democracy is the panacea to the problems of the Middle East: deprivation of human rights, rights of women, theocracy, inequity. All of these ills, we feel, can be overcome if we introduce Democracy to these regions. Declans approach is good if those are the goals.

But I don´t think Democracy will solve all these problems.
Take Algeria. In the 1990s, you had democratic elections, the Salaphite part of the country won and wanted to introduce a strict theocracy, and there was civil war, and the economy and civil society was wrecked.

Look at Pakistan, they had democratic elections, and two of four provinces voted in Islamicists, and they voted in Sharia (Islamic Law). This is a setback for Women´s Rights in Pakistan.
Even in Iraq, the Shiites have been empowered and now Ayatollah Sistani is the most powerful figure in Iraq. And a wing of his group wishes to install Sharia.

By installing Democracy then, we may see that the result is the very opposite of what we hope. If we do install Democracy in Saudi Arabia, it could empower the Wahabis.

On the other hand, in Kuwait, where Democracy has evolved gradually, things are happening more closely to what we would like.

Policy Statement: Democratic-Shock-Therapy should be avoided. A gradual approach leads to more stability. In China there is a slow movement toward Democracy. Recommends an international group to study and analyze the various states in the region and their society, and try to come up with a phased policy for implementing Democracy in that country, taking into consideration their peculiarities: secular autocracy in Egypt to theocratic autocracy in Saudi Arabia. Aim: to avoid shock therapy.

Posted by: AtochaWorkshop6 [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 11, 2005 04:41 PM


[Declan Ganley]

Democracy is not a panacea, but if it can be made to go hand in hand with meritocracy, then you remove the recourse to terrorism and instability.

- Algeria: The best thing to do with irresponsible oppositions is put them into government, because once they realize they are up for re-election, they really have to grow up.
- In Turkey: the present government is not radical at all, because if they were they wouldn´t get re-elected.
- In Iran: If they have free and fair elections, they will elect the reformers.

If you threaten the income from oil in countries that are mainly oil producers, they will reform. That would put the oil producing countries in competition with each other: racing to be more democratic.

Posted by: AtochaWorkshop6 [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 11, 2005 04:46 PM


[Brian Williams]

I like your approach, but I disagree on one point. If we empower some of these countries, they may choose more fundamentalist regimes.

In Iraq, however, we get some hope, because the result of the election was more moderate than it could have been. That may be a catalyst.
We should encourage people to have democracies by working with each society, but avoiding Shock-therapy. The US and British approach now, may produce different results than we expect. But that may be good.

Posted by: AtochaWorkshop6 [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 11, 2005 04:50 PM


[Declan Ganley]

Policy Recomendation: It´s every human beings right to hold accountable, through an election, the people that make up their government. We should not recognize governments that are not representatve.

If a government is elected, and then won´t relinquish power, the International Community will impose sanctions, and even invade.

Posted by: AtochaWorkshop6 [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 11, 2005 04:53 PM


[Daryl Champion]

Are you serious about invading countries all the time?

Posted by: AtochaWorkshop6 [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 11, 2005 04:54 PM


[Declan Ganley]

You misunderstood, I´m referring to an elected government that won´t leave if the people want them to. And yes, in extreme circumstances, such a government should be removed by force.

There should be a fundamental human right for each person to have an accountable government.

[Daryl Champion]

Algeria would be a good example. If the FLS had been elected and then turned totalitarian.

Posted by: AtochaWorkshop6 [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 11, 2005 04:58 PM


[Daryl Champion] Then in Algeria, they would have received sanctions if they had abandonned democracy after winning.

[Declan Ganley]

Three Policy Proposals:

1.) Into the UN Charter of Fundamental rights, and EU constitution this new right should be added: The right of any person, over the age of consent, to be able to hold accountable those that govern them through free and fair elections.

2.) Fuel tax rebate for investment in research in alternative fuels. To offset dependence on oil: To give a tax rebate to consumers that they would invest in Government approved funds to research alternative fuels: short-term and long-term.

3.) We should set down a list of hurdles for Saudi Arabia to become democratic, and if they meet the hurdles they are rewarded by our purchasing more oil, and if they fail, they will be punished by our purchasing less oil.

Posted by: AtochaWorkshop6 [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 11, 2005 05:04 PM


[Brian Williams]

Two Policy suggestions:

1.) I am calling for the creating of International panel, under UN, to assess on ground level the peculiarities and very regional differences in culture in areas targeted for the development of Democracy. To assess how to best implement democracy, reflecting native culture. This should be a first step before trying to go in and implement democracy.
I agree with Declan´s proposals, but think this study needs to be done first.

2.) Democracy should be implemented with the help of those in the region. We should create bridges with indigenous, democratic groups. This, too, should be done before Democracy is suddenly introduced.

3.) We should be aware of each countries culture, and this is not racism. There are tribal groups for example, which don´t necessarily dovetail with democracy, and we should take that into account when we are trying to implement democracy.

Posted by: AtochaWorkshop6 [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 11, 2005 05:11 PM


[Declan Ganley]

My background is Roman Catholic and Celtic clan, neither of which is totally compatible with Democracy. They´re hierarchical. But that doesn´t make me less fit for democracy.

[Brian Williams]

I think we agree.

I just came back from Afghanistan, and tribalism and Christianity and Islam work together--

What I am calling for is a policy that has the same goals as yours, but an awareness of the peculiarities of the country.


Posted by: AtochaWorkshop6 [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 11, 2005 05:19 PM


[Brian Williams] What about democracy arising from the grassroots, from the bottom, instead of imposing it from the top?

[Daryl Champion] In Saudi Arabia, a very small percentage of people voted.

[Brian Williams] The government prevents Democracy from growing. The advances in Saudi Arabia a few years ago have been crushed.

[Daryl Champion] During an upsurgence of women in Saudi Arabia, women who tried to assert their rights were later punished.

[Brian Williams] There are Saudi Women who want Islamic Law. They are devout, and they don´t want their society to become like ours.
We think everything from the past 200 years in the west should be implemented in these countries, and maybe they don´t want that.

[Public] If we assess their needs and wants, should it be a comittee of native people, or people from other countries?

[Brian Williams] It should be a mix of people from different countries. Then the goals of the democratic society could be tailored to that society, which makes it more appealing to the people.
This way, we avoid using force, and creating resentment.

[Public] How do you get the ideas into the country??

[Brian Williams] Examples work. Examples could include pictures from the Iraqi elections, and pictures of soldiers who were punished for the crimes at Abu Graib.

[Daryl Champion] These committees are formed to make culturally sensitive interpretations of Democracy. And then there would be an evolution to Democracy.

[Brian Williams]

New Policy Statement: To create study committees to assess the applications of democracy on a case by case basis, have the committees include government and non-govt representatives. The goal of the committee is to create a culturally sensitive interpretation of Democracy. And to look at the consequences of introducing Democracy, and the consequences of not introducing Democracy.

Posted by: AtochaWorkshop6 [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 11, 2005 05:34 PM


[Public] How do you avoid committee members having a personal agenda?

[Brian Wiliams] You want all that input, from all the groups.

[Public] If the committee becomes too big?

[Brian Williams] You´d need procedures. It´s key to do this through the auspices of the UN. They have the most clout. You want to bring in groups that add legitimacy.

[Daryl Champion] If the area you´re studying is too big...?

[Brian Williams] You would hope that the group´s having UN approval would give the members some protection from harassment.

Posted by: AtochaWorkshop6 [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 11, 2005 05:39 PM



[Public] How do you get people to participate when they´re under threat of harassment from their own government?

[Brian Williams] If a country does harass these Democratic study groups, they should face sanctions from the UN. There are other incentives: if you´re group doesn´t participate, your voice is not heard. (That´s the carrot). If you don´t comply, there are sanctions that could be applied. (the stick).

[Daryl Champion] Shame is an important motivator in the Middle East. You are supposed to be Patriarchs, in those governments, and they would not be seen that way if they didn´t allow participation.

[Brian Williams] This could be linked to human rights ratings, payment of loans, IMF, etc.

[Public] While we have this committee, and it may take a long time, who would decide what to do about the oil situation. You can´t freeze their assets.

[Daryl Champion]

You don´t want to get too tough with governments. This is why it´s important to study the cost of NOT implementing democracy, because the government could pay a price for not allowing it. If the government doesn´t reform.

[Brian Williams]

I am sad to say this, but Al Queda is in a way an outlet for the supressed voices of Saudi Arabia. And this has negative consequences for the Saudis. Because the Saudis allowed the US army in, and a lot of Saudi people didn´t like that, Al Quaeda got a lot of popular support. And that created hatred of the US, and resentment also toward the Saudi regime.

Posted by: AtochaWorkshop6 at March 11, 2005 05:50 PM


[Public] There will be intimidation of people who join these committees. How do we counteract that.

[Brian Williams] There will be intimidation of people who discuss Democracy. You´d have to tell the leadership of these countries that there were negative consequences for them, if they threatened members of this committee. You want to lure the government into this.

[Daryl Champion] Make it a phased study process, too.

[Brian Williams] If you force Democratic societies on countries, it can create a backlash. Al Quaeda is a backlash to a kind of Westernization in Saudi Arabia.

[Public] Do you think you would require a military presence?

[Brian Williams]

A military presence should absolutely be avoided. Maybe at the beginning you would have unarmed assistants, monitors, to participate in these study committees with the native members. You want blue helmets, not soldiers and guns.

[Public] I think this should work, but there could still be insurgencies.

[Daryl Champion] This is where the phased implementation is so important. We´re talking about like a 10 year timeframe.

[Brian Williams] Look at the USSR, Chechnya, etc. dictatorships are all over. There is no rosy picture of democracy there. Putin is rolling it back. Only two former USSR countries still are beacons of hope.

Posted by: AtochaWorkshop6 at March 11, 2005 06:01 PM


[Public] During the phasing in of democracy...?

[Brian Williams] The present governments would be there.

Posted by: AtochaWorkshop6 at March 11, 2005 06:03 PM


[Public] Who sits on the committees?? And Saudi Arabia and not Southeast Asia? We do this for the whole world, or just from Saudi Arabia?

[Brian Williams] We´re talking about Saudi Arabia, but it could be applicable to other parts of the world as well. And who sits on the committee: representatives from all beliefs in the society.

Posted by: AtochaWorkshop6 at March 11, 2005 06:08 PM


Conclusions:

2 Policy Suggestions:

1.) To create study committees to assess the application and phased implementation of democracy on a case-by-case basis in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia. The committees would be under the auspices of the UN, and would include government and non-government representatives, dissidents, and relevant foreign experts. The goal of the committee would be to create a culturally sensitive interpretation of Democracy that reflects the cultural realities on the ground in each country of the region. The committee would look at the consequences both of introducing, and of not introducing Democracy. Governments could thereby be made aware of what they have to gain and what they have to lose by political development and reform. A system of rewards and sanctions would be created for adhering to a timetable for phased-in implementation, and to avoid potential intimidation of the committee members by the existing governments. The timetable being considered could extend to ten years or more, and would be negotiated in the process of deliberation by the committee.

[Brian Williams]
[Daryl Champion]

2.)Make an amendment: Anyone has the right to hold their government accountable in free and fair elections.

[Declan Ganley]

3.) To create a fund, using a special fuel tax, that would invest in research into alternative fuels. This would bring into public awareness the fact that there is a need for these new sources of energy, and since they are paying for it through this tax, they would be able to see what results were achieved.

4.) Create a system whereby Saudi Arabia is given a set of objectives, and the completion of these objectives would be linked to carrot/stick consequences. This procedure would be similar to the requirements EU candidates have. The "stick" would be Western refusal to buy Saudi oil.

Posted by: AtochaWorkshop6 at March 11, 2005 06:40 PM


Posted by: flower [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 23, 2006 12:12 PM


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