Achieving our interests
It has been said that nations do not have friends, they only have interests. But this saying is valid for other aspects of life too.
People have interests, as do businesses and charities. Interests are relevant throughout the human experience. They are to be protected and pursued to a point where tangible results are available for all concerned parties to see.
Nations have their interests too and the challenge is how they are identified and achieved. German philosopher Goethe once said theory was grey but that real life was green. So how does Saudi Arabia identify, prioritize and achieve its strategic interests?
We are a rising power, one that history will say was confronted with many challenges. But we want the best conditions for achieving our interests. And what are the interests of utmost importance to Saudi Arabia? The following list is a good place to start: A stable Yemen, non-aligned to individuals and states hostile to the peace and well-being of our people or Yemenis; a stable Egypt, able to move further away from the chaos and disorder of the post-Mubarak era, and capable of being a regional partner to interests inside and outside the region; a Syria without Bashar Assad, non-aligned to individuals and states hostile to the peace and well-being of the region as a whole; a stable Iraq, able to move away from the chaos and violence that has engulfed it.
Like Yemen and Syria, it is in our interest to see that Iraq is not used to serve the aims and ambitions of individuals and states hostile to the peace and well-being of the region as a whole. Of paramount importance is a region where nations do not export radical or violent revolutionary movements, or serve as launchpads for nefarious individuals whose aims are a permanent trend of instability throughout the Middle East.
We must also assert our interest that nuclear weapons do not proliferate throughout the region. So how do we state our interests, and what conditions are best to achieve them?
It is important to align ourselves with partners who will help us to achieve our interests. No great power, rising power, newly created or established nation has ever achieved its strategic interests alone. The US did not defeat Great Britain on its own during its Revolutionary War, it aligned with partners who shared the same interest of seeing that North America was not under complete British rule.
Tsarist Russia did not defeat Napoleonic France on its own, it was aligned with three other powers who shared the common interest of not having Napoleon as master of Europe.
Great Britain did not defeat Imperial Germany on its own in World War I, it needed to be aligned with the Western powers and Tsarist Russia to achieve its interests. Bolshevik Russia did not defeat Nazi Germany on its own in World War II. It was aligned with partners who shared the same interests of not seeing Europe dominated by Adolf Hitler.
The US fought in two world wars and a Cold War to prevent a single entity from dominating Europe and Asia. In both world wars the US was involved to prevent Germany from having unlimited access to the raw materials of Russia and Eurasia, and merging it with German manufacturing capacity and technological expertise. The Cold War was the opposite, to prevent the abundance of Russian and Eurasian raw materials from having direct access to the manufacturing capacity and technological expertise of Germany.
To this day the US is working to protect its interests, in that a hostile Eurasia is the only power on the planet that could potentially defeat the US in a conventional war.
Even the US, in the Cold War, had strategic partners to assert its interests.
What we seek in pursuing our interests and achieving them are partners who see the importance of our aims. Simply put, they cannot be more important to us than they are to them. Our interests must be jointly shared with all involved.
It is in our interest that we have relationships that are mutually acceptable, beneficial, and predictable.
Goethe’s colorful remarks, contrasting theory with real life, must be remembered here. We should not have to abandon our core principles during the process of collaboration to achieve our aims or interests.
Who shares our interest in peace and stability in the region? Who else wants the removal of radical, violent and revolutionary ideologies in the Middle East? Which other nations view these interests as important? The satisfactory outcomes that we in Saudi Arabia desire would benefit the Middle East and the rest of the world.
There is more than common cause and overlapping interests here. There are moral and humanitarian principles that we cannot abandon. When one is confronted with evil, and chooses to not take a strong stand against it, then this indifference enables that evil to flourish. Saudi Arabia regards these topics as its core interests. Behind challenging times lie tremendous opportunities — and the potential to emerge from difficulties with a greater standing than before.
We are on the doorstep of tremendous opportunity. For our partners, if they share our common interests and these interests are as important to them as they are to us, they too stand to share in the tremendous opportunities that beckon.
• Faisal Al-Shammeri is a political analyst. Twitter: @Mr_Alshammeri