There are two ways of looking at the events the Kingdom had to face last year or so — challenges that we had to stand up to and sail through or opportunities with promises of change and development. I would say that we’d selected the latter over the former.
In the political arena, we had to deal with the chaos beyond our borders. In Yemen and Syria, it was a direct involvement. The track of events in those two countries dictated such an action; things were getting out of hand threatening not only our borders, but also the stability of the entire region.
This turn of events was the first signal that Saudi Arabia is going through a transformational phase in its foreign policy; it is a new era in which the country is using its political, economical and military clout to seek the best for the country itself and its neighborhood.
The direct intervention in Yemen and being part of the international coalition in Syria were meant to protect the Kingdom but also for the people of those countries. In a world where military interventions are usually frowned upon and looked at suspiciously, the step the Kingdom decided to take was a bit different. It was not an act of war, although it uses the same tools, it was more an act of “governance,” and I am here using the same term Michael Mandelbaum used in his book “Mission Failure: America and the World in the Post-Cold War Era” when he described the US foreign policy in the recent decades.
From the bits and pieces, I have read about the ideas in this books through the article written by Thomas Friedman in The New York Times about the book, I truly think that some of those ideas applies to Saudi Arabia more than the United States. However, the Kingdom is trying its best to help its interventions succeed by avoiding the traps the US had fallen into along the way. One of those traps or mistakes is uprooting the political institutions of the countries. That is why the whole operation in Yemen was carried out with the help of the elected government, and the situation in Syria is being dealt with through the international community and with an unbending insistence to remove the current political system that has ruined the country.
For that, while “The military missions that the United States undertook succeeded. It was the political missions that followed, the efforts to transform the politics of the places where American arms prevailed, that failed,” as said by Mandelbaum, Saudi Arabia is working to make both its military and political missions succeed.
The other clear sign of change in the country is happening in its economical arena. The drop in oil prices, although extremely challenging for a country that is dependent on oil, presented itself as a reminder that we needed to reshape our economy, to break free of our dependence on oil and try to find and exploit the potentials the country has in different areas. That is why we are witnessing and hearing a lot of new strategies and plans to facelift the Saudi economy.
This changing journey will come with its own price and lessons, we need to deal with them, to live through them, the journey is just starting. Along the way, we will need a lot of change in the mindsets as well, we need to change and grow as persons to cope with the changes the country is going through. It may start with the way we work and do business and won’t end with the way we raise our children.