GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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The security dilemma of Saudi Arabia in the 21st century: turning East for salvation?
Paper Proposal Text :
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is facing an array of structural challenges to its domestic and international security regime. At the crux of these challenges is an economic crisis that carries with it serious security and strategic repercussions in the long-run: estimates surrounding oil production capacities suggest a coming oil peak in the following 10 to 20 year which could potentially endanger the fiscal streams on which the Saudi order has sustained itself on. This situation is complicated further by the concomitant maintenance of reinter policies and the adoption of a neoliberal approach to development. The confluence of these two trends has resulted in the emergence of an unsustainable economic consumptionary paradigm largely fueled by government largesse and necessitated by political and social obligations arising from the Saudi system itself. Aside from basic alleviatory policies (which have marked King Abdullah’s era of reform,) the postponement of genuine political restructuring (having yet to be seriously considered on the part of the Saudi ruling classes) and the lack of government transparency will likely lead to further complications and worsening outcomes domestically as the paradigm exhausts itself in the coming decades.
In the meantime, changes in traditional global consumption patterns, chiefly due to the rise of Asia as well as decade-long attempts in the United States to procure and develop new sources of energy away from the Middle East are challenging the security regime that has prevailed in the Gulf since the departure of British forces in 1971. Energy has been the foundational cornerstone of the security compact that has guaranteed Western – primarily American - aid for the Kingdom. The declining importance of the Gulf and more specifically Saudi Arabia to American strategic interest as a source of hydrocarbon energy - especially in light of recent fiscal constraints which will likely come to exert pressure on limiting over-stretched US military capacities in the region and beyond - should be of grave concern for Saudi policymakers. Certainly, in the short and perhaps even mid-term, the existing military infrastructure dotting the Gulf, the need to protect the SLOCs, and the continued significance and influence of the War on Terror in American strategic approaches will likely mitigate and delay an American withdrawal from the region. Nonetheless, the potential absence of American support in the future and in light of the ongoing turmoil in the region should raise serious questions for the Saudi elite.
This paper is interested in examining possible arrangements and security regimes involving Saudi Arabia and Asia. It mainly argues that the Saudi-American strategic compact is destined to dissolution due to both changes in the factors that have contributed to its initial formation and very real differences in the guiding cultural and political philosophies of these two countries. The dissolution of this compact moreover will coincide with a period of domestic fluidity in the Saudi system, and which will only worsen - notwithstanding a dramatic change in the strategic calculations of the Saudi elite - the emerging security gap. This may prompt Riyadh to turn to some of Asia’s rising powers – whether on a unilateral or multilateral basis – to address its security needs. The paper will consider some of the possible arrangements – on the basis of existing or projected potentialities – and how they might play out for Saudi Arabia in the coming decades.