Tuesday, September 09, 2008

WHAT'S THE FUTURE FOR THE GULF STATES IF OBAMA'S VISION IS REALIZED?

WHAT'S THE FUTURE FOR THE GULF STATES IF OBAMA'S VISION IS REALIZED?

By Kevin Stoda, Kuwait



In a week that included the Republican national convention in the USA and several labor related deaths in locations in the wealthy United Arab Emirates, i.e. where the financial center Dubai is located, one author from the oil rich land of Kuwait, Dr. Hisham Al-Awadi wrote in the FRIDAY TIMES about his vision of a world following in the wake of a successful Barrack Obama presidency.

THE GULF CONTEXT 2008

As the Republican convention came to an end, news cameras in the Middle East turned on themselves. First, rumors abounded—based on recent comments by the President of France, Sarkozy,--that Israel will likely attack Iran if it didn't get in line with the international community's desires for its nuclear technology practices.

Next, last Wednesday (September 3), a Bell 212 helicopter crashed in the Al-Rashid oil fields off the coast of the UAE. The copter killed 7 on board as the chopper struck an oil rig. The oil field was then shut down.

That very same week in Dubai, two Pakistani well diggers suffocated in a landside thirty meters below the earth's surface. The UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have fairly poor safety and labor rights records

To a fairly significant degree, the GCC states in the Persian Gulf depend on foreign or international labor, so deaths in the workplace tend to affect expatriates from around the globe more directly than Arab nationals, who are often only the absentee employers in the Gulf region.

In this context, Dr. Al-Awadi determined to share his vision of life in Kuwait and the Gulf in 2020.


OBAMA'S PLANS

Al-Awadi described himself as an ostrich in the sand before he found himself listening to Barrack Obama's speech at the Democratic Convention two weeks ago.

That is, Obama's speech had left him and other Kuwaiti's pondering, "How are we going to live without oil?" This question was raised because Obama stated that he planned to make America significantly less dependent on the Middle East for oil by the year 2018.

Al-Awadi stated in his article to the Kuwait Times, entitled "A Life Without Oil and America", that Obama's speech at the Democratic Convention was great and had reminded him of MLK's "I have a Dream" speech.

On the other hand, Al-Awadi noted, "I would say that the some people's dreams are other people's nightmares! And I wondered what type of a nightmare awaits our Middle East, the Gulf and Kuwait. When we wake up one day we will find out that the American cameras have turned focus away from the Middle Eastern scene and oil cities. It hogged the spotlights that were protecting us against the 'bats of darkness'!"

Interestingly, Al-Awadi doesn't criticize the U.S.A. for such a dream or for its desire to bail out of the Middle East—i.e. a culture and region Americans have been having trouble comprehending, especially due to its emphasis on tribalism over building more direct democracy.


AL-AWADI'S VISION

Al-Awadi began his dream for 2020 Kuwait by explaining, "In [the] 19th century, the Gulf region fell victim to the power-sharing competition between Britain and France. Kuwait's value increased substantially because of its strategic location as a route for trade and its proximity toward Iraq, Iran, and India. During the last two centuries, however, the Gulf's strategic value diminished, but its oil value soared, making the region a favorite for America. Now, in the face of America's non-dependence on the region's oil, the region will either make a gradual shift to the next superpower (China) or will be forced to stand on its own feet."

Next, Dr. Al-Awadi envisioned the social and health features of Kuwait's near new future in a world without America being so dependent on it for oil and fuels: "The expat labor issue will be solved soon. This is because the factors that tied down these workers into bearing with desert heat and sponsor abuse no longer exists. The people of the region will go through a period of shock which will ultimately force them to rely on themselves if they choose not to become extinct."

The Kuwaiti author continued, "I do not think that they [Kuwaitis] will return to the pre-oil pattern of living by resorting to diving, raising animals and farming. However, it will be different from the present way of life for sure. Due to life style changes, rich man's afflictions like diabetes, hypertension and obesity will be rare (and this may harm the interests of many doctors and pharmaceutical companies. This is because people will be forced to undertake more activities.)"


CHANGING GLOBAL ORIENTATIONS

Dr. Al-Awadi notes that either the Middle East Gulf Arabs could (a) turn to China as the new cultural hegemon and say good-bye to McDonalds, Starbucks, Pepsi cola, and other western born brand names, or (b) Kuwait could turn inwards and look to tradition and tribes for many social, media, and cultural orientations. (However, Dr. Al-Awadi has not yet seen China produce many new cultural exports of its own—not even hip hop music in Kuwait originates much in China or East Asia. It generally comes from America.)

Al-Awadi noted that over the decades many Arabs have been blaming the West, and especially America for all their social and political ills, so there will be disorientation. For examples, Arab governments who have not been able to please their electorates to-date will not be able to blame the old Western foes and Jews once China become the hegemon. This will cause even more political tensions in years to come.

Arab leadership will stand their naked like the emperor with no clothes if they don't reform (and Al-Awadi doesn't hold out much hope that GCC leadership and Kuwaiti leadership will improve significantly by 2020). In the wake of such continuingly dissatisfying governance, Gulf Arabs will return in even greater numbers for support from tribal groupings, e.g. both politically and socially.

In any case, the demand to learn English and bilingual Arab-English educational institutions will fall out of favor and hurt the employment chances of many Americans and westerners now teaching and working in the Gulf region. (On the other hand, it is likely that bilingual, Arab-Chinese, schools could begin to pop up.)

Nonetheless, as the Gulf has already accumulated a disproportionate share of the world's money supply in recent times, perhaps Gulf States, like Kuwait and the UAE can continue to prosper in years ahead.

Dr. Al-Awadi, concludes his dream by stating, "Kuwait wants to become a financial center. Dubai wants to compete with America's sky scrapers, Gaddafi praises capitalism and flirts with Europe. Obama wants to wash his hands of the region. Arabs look like those who went to [a] just-concluded party. While [other] Arabs are desperate to imitate Americans, America wants to put an end to its oil addiction.

Finally, Al-Awadi writes, "Now that we have stopped imagining, you return to your beautiful American dream."



NOTES

Al-Awadi , Hisham, "A Life Without Oil and America", http://www.kuwaittimes.net/read_news.php?newsid=ODQ3MDk1Nzc2

Dubai Copter Crash Kills 7, Shuts Oil Field,
http://article.wn.com/view/2008/09/04/Dubai_helicopter_crash_kills_7_shuts_oilfield/

Iran Rejects French Warning over possible Israeli Strike, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1018533.html

Two Laborers Killed in Well Collapse, http://www.arabianbusiness.com/530009-two-labourers-killed-in-well-collapse

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