Talking in terms of King Salman, the absolute monarch of Saudi Arabia and speaking as an American, I believe that American values and interests are at stake in the Middle East today. For one, there’s democracy. Saudi Arabia is a monarchic state that doesn’t allow freedom of speech, women’s rights, and an array of other things. This monarchy causes the voice of the people to be drowned out by autocrats – furthermore, the unstable democracies in Iraq and Syria also post a threat to democratization. Both realist and liberals would side by this argument, because both believe in democracy. The second realist assumption states that state interactions are characterised by fear, mistrust, and self help because of animus dominandi and anarchy. Realists believe that humans, by nature, are driven to control others. I would like to bring to notice that an example can be made of the United States of America – by nature, this nation-state is driven to control others; consistently interfering in conflicts in the Middle East, using drone warfare, trying to control radicalisation in Syria, trying to increase intervention of countries in the Arabian Peninsula, and even trying to prevent the rise of China. The United States always seeks to control everything, and this can be directly linked to the second realist assumption.
Liberals, on the other hand, believe that cooperation is possible because of “democratic governance, international institutions and commerce.” They also believe that human nature has a better side; liberals thus believe that human rights and fundamental freedoms should be at the core of American policies.
Another value of America that is targeted in these conflicts is the freedom of religion. Sunni Muslims are being pushed down in Syria and Iraq. My own actor, King Salman, wants to extend his influence to those countries to lessen the Shiite influence. These countries are being radicalised and have no say in the matter – they’re all being pushed to either of the two forms of the same religion, being forced to conform into the radical society, and this could prove to be a big threat to the United States.
As Americans, there’s not much we can do, is there? If virtually everything we do in the Middle East supports dictatorship and/or stronger nations permanently ruling weaker ones against their will, what exactly are we fighting for? However, I have three strategies that the United States could possiblty implement:
1. Involving Saudi Arabia. Now, we know that Saudi Arabia is a key ally of the United States, so we cannot use sanctions or military power against them. What we can do is make sure S.A. is actively involved in resolving these conflicts. The United States should align with King Salman and use his support to counteract the terrorist groups both militarily and economically. Currently, Saudi Arabia is basically sitting outside the circle of conflict and formenting ideas that can cause trouble – overpowering the Shiite’s in Iraq, etc. – we must involve them deep enough that it becomes in their own self-interest to solve the conflict, hence preventing them from creating trouble.
2. Bring Saudi Arabia to realise that democratization in in their self interest. This can be done using diplomacy. Saudi Arabia wants to subdue the rising voice of their own minorities/people, to keep the ruling family in power. Using democracy and increasing the civil rights of their population could help them retain the loyalty of/ remain in control of their people. While the U.S. supports Saudi Arabia, it must support the opposition as well, to bring to S.A.’s notice that democratization is in their self-interest.
3. Transitioning to Democracy. The United States should focus on actively engaging with opposing actors like Iraq and Syria and getting them to agree to democratization and de-escalation. Peace, after all, is in everyone’s self-interest, and, according to realists, state interactions are defined by self help. Although democracy is a threat to many of these countries, we must think of a long-term transition while creating a non-chaotic environment. The ideal example of this would be the United Kingdom, a democratic state that still has a royal family.