Christopher Davidson in an interview with "Bahrain Mirror": By 2018, I am fairly certain that there will be some very significant changes.
2014-12-02 - 9:36 م
Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): The Author of "After the Sheikhs", British professor Christopher Davidson, states that it is no surprise that a Bahraini was the first to produce a full length translation of "After the Sheikhs", pointing out that he was always struck by the vibrancy, intellect, and curiosity of Bahrain's people.
"Bahrain Mirror" did an interview with Davidson, as the Arabic-edition of his book: After the Sheikhs: The Coming Collapse of the Gulf Monarchies, is being launched by Awal Centre for Studies and Documentation.
Davidson is a professor of political science and international affairs and specializes in comparative Middle East politics at Durham University in the United Kingdom. His book, whose first edition was released in the beginning of 2013, is the first academic work that predicts the collapse of the gulf monarchies, which made it one of the most controversial research publications in the world.
Davidson told "Bahrain Mirror" that he is: "fairly certain that there will have been some very significant changes." He also explained that: "a positive example of a constitutional state in either Kuwait or Oman for example, could begin a chain of similar developments in other countries."
Davidson sees as well that: "Such political systems don't seem capable of introducing the necessary measures such as taxation or the removal of subsidies."
Despite criticizing his country's (Britain) attitude towards the movement in Bahrain, Davidson said that "ruling families and autocrats should not assume too much of their friendships with the West, as the Western powers are quick to change and move on, if they need to."
The following is Bahrain Mirror's interview with Professor Christopher Davidson:
"Bahrain Mirror": How did your academic interest in issues concerning the gulf grow?
Christopher Davidson: Having lived and worked in the Gulf states, including writing a PhD thesis on the UAE's political economy and then working full-time as a member of staff at a university in Abu Dhabi, my interest continued to grow. This was further fuelled by a fascination for the study of tribal politics, the Islamic religion, and the Arabic language.
"Bahrain Mirror": Do you think that it means something that the first translated version of your book was done by a Bahraini side?
Davidson: It is no surprise to me that a Bahraini was the first to produce a full length translation of After the Sheikhs. Having visited Manama many times I was always struck by the vibrancy, intellect, and curiosity of its people.
"Bahrain Mirror": How do you expect your book to be received as the Arabic edition is being launched today?
Davidson: I expect the Arabic version of the book to be well received - indeed the English language version attracted interest from a wide audience, including key members of government in the Gulf states, human rights activists, opposition members, and even high profile ruling family members. I dedicate the book to free speech and my belief that provoking open, fair debate is essential for the progress of society.
"Bahrain Mirror": You say in your book: "I began researching and writing (After the Sheikhs) in summer 2009," predicting that the collapse of the Gulf monarchies will be within the next 5 years. How do you see it now as five years have passed?
Davidson: In the original version of the book, which was published at the beginning of 2013, I predicted that within the next 5 years the current system of government in the Gulf monarchies will have collapsed. Thus, by 2018 I am fairly certain that there will have been some very significant changes. That's not to say revolutions, as we have seen elsewhere in the Arab world, but perhaps instead moves towards electing prime ministers, limiting the power of autocrat sheikhs, and so on. Sadly, it is also quite possible that the increased repression of citizens and the increasing dangerous foreign policies of certain Gulf monarchies may also greatly destabilize the region leading to less positive outcomes.
"Bahrain Mirror": Will the collapse you talked about be similar to the fall of the Soviet Union?
Davidson: I doubt we will see a ‘fourth wave of democratisation' as we saw with the fall of the Soviet republics. This is partly because the Gulf monarchies are so different to each other, and democracy still seems a distant but not impossible prospect. It is likely, however, that a positive example of a constitutional state in either Kuwait or Oman for example, could begin a chain of similar developments in other countries. Sadly, however, it is also possible that a series of violent events and confrontations in Saudi Arabia or Bahrain for example, could begin a chain of instability in the other Gulf monarchies too.
"Bahrain Mirror": When reading your book, the reader finds himself overwhelmed with so many details and facts. Would it have been possible to summarize all these informative details?
Davidson: I tried to use as many details, stories, and facts as possible to support the arguments. This explains why there are a huge number of detailed references packed into a 300 page book.
"Bahrain Mirror": You pretty much focused on the revenue-dependent economy and its role in the continuance of these monarchies and the legitimacy it grants them. What could maintain stability in the gulf in case the revenue-dependent economy fails? Would the opposition in these monarchies be able to guarantee the region's stability without revenue-dependence?
Davidson: Unfortunately, with the currently autocratic governments in place, I don't see effective solutions for dealing with the fast approaching collapse of the oil dependent rent-based states. Such political systems don't seem capable of introducing the necessary measures such as taxation or the removal of subsidies. Indeed, if such measures were introduced then the legitimacy of ruling families would be greatly harmed. Opposition movements and future governments must instead focus on honesty and openness - the sooner the populations can be made aware of the economic problems ahead and the type of measures that will have to be introduced in order to preserve stability, the better. This will be no easy task, but with the right strategies in place I believe it is still possible.
"Bahrain Mirror": You say in your book: "Unsurprisingly the new, post-2011 opposition in the Gulf monarchies has manifested itself in different ways". How is that?
Davidson: Since 2011 opposition movements seem better organized, more focused, and more determined. Successful movements elsewhere in the region have provided role models, and new more modern communications (especially social media) have greatly strengthened and emboldened oppositions. Moreover, opposition movements now seem more aware of the strategies and tricks being used by autocratic regimes to weaken them.
"Bahrain Mirror": You stated in your book that gulf regimes have succeeded in convincing the west that they can guarantee stability in the gulf region and that doubts are starting to be raised over that conviction. What we are witnessing in Bahrain; in particular, contradicts this. Britain, for instance, is still explicitly supporting the regime in Bahrain as it is without any political reforms, how do you explain this in light of western support? Will this allow the collapse of the monarchies?
Davidson: From the Western point of view, little has changed unfortunately since the time of JF Kennedy and the Cold War. The belief that vicious, repressive governments could be the ‘caretakers of modernization' and ensure that revolutions didn't take place, still seems with us today. In this sense Britain's ongoing support of the repressive Bahraini government isn't much different to the Kennedy government's support of the brutal Baathist regime of 1963 or the Bush government's whitewashing of Saudi Arabia's likely role in the September 11th 2001 attacks. Nonetheless, ruling families and autocrats should not assume too much of their friendships with the West, as the Western powers are quick to change and move on, if they need to. If there is a sense that ruling families no longer have legitimacy or have provoked too much anger from their populations, it will become increasingly hard for Western governments to still demonstrate that they have foreign policies that are stable and sustainable. Moreover, in a new era of abundant oil, the West and in particular the United States are far less likely to tolerate problematic alliances or relationships with countries such as Saudi Arabia.
It is also currently available for purchase at BIEL-Beirut International Book Fair- Awal Centre Pavilion i4
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