National branding and soft power |
Kuwait Times - 29 August, 2012
Author: Fouad Al-Obaid
Each age comes with its share of challenges and opportunities. Throughout history, tribes, cities, and nations have vied to control the globe’s resources, and to master the arts and sciences for a military purpose. Numbers were the key to dominance until fairly recently. Primitive technology usually was manpower hungry, and in order to conquer vast spaces establishing dominance, you needed vast resources.
As time evolved, the need for numbers subsided as skills became the name of the game. The more efficiently countries mastered technology, the lesser manpower was necessary. An example would be of a battle between two swordsmen, the chances for victory are dependent on the skills of those battling, and generally unless very-able it would be a one-on-one fight. If we extrapolate the struggle and put a sniper in an open field against a battalion of swordsmen, if the marksman is capable he would be able to take many if not all the swordsmen before they even come close!
Today’s military technology is developing at a frenetic pace, from cruiser-guided missiles to stealth technology, from drones to remote controlled killing machines. This is bringing a whole new set of opportunities and threats for conventional fire-power subdues to smart-power that would allow even the smallest of nations a chance to put up a decent fight, ensuring its defense in case of aggression.
Kuwait has been a prey for at least century, beginning with the battle of Jahra in 1920, cumulating in the Iraqi invasion of 1990, and the Iranian sponsored terrorism of the 1980s. Our small size and limited manpower has always been a cause of concern and will remain as such so long that we decide to maintain the status quo. And yet, the challenges to our very existence are real.
In pursuing a foreign policy strategy that would be effective, we need to do an even better job at creating the deterrence against aggression than we currently have. Military alliances upon which we rely are limited in nature and scope; the changing circumstance should always be factored. Reliance on friends is nice, but nothing beats one’s ability to self-sufficiently stand firm against the waves of time. In the region, there are examples to be studied. Israel has been a country that has survived combined attacks from larger neighbors and has emerged victorious.
With a size comparable to ours we should learn from them. Along with establishing an efficient military, we ought to master the best diplomacy that our money can buy. Kuwait is today known as a country lost into its own political mess, with no clear direction and no real construction boom as is seen elsewhere in comparable sized nations in our region. We need to embrace a differentiation strategy that would firmly place Kuwait on the global map not too dissimilar to Stockholm, Geneva, and Oslo.
Migration has become a reality that is only going to increase in the 21st century. Already outnumbered by foreigners in Kuwait, we should pursue a strategy of diplomatic engagement by inviting as many nations as possible to set shop in Kuwait. We should make it easy for diplomatic representation to open by donating land for the said embassies, and creating an embassy building fund. With that, we should work hard to establish satellite offices and coordination bureaus of international governmental and non-governmental organizations here in Kuwait bringing in a great number of diplomats as possible.
Adopting such a policy would prove to be economically viable, as it would attract high-paying jobs invigorating the private economic sector. If the government wakes up from its current amnesia and decides to streamline projects such as the one proposed amongst other economic diversification plans, it would put impetus on the local economy and firmly set Kuwait on the global map, reducing the likelihood of aggression in the future. Furthermore, by having people from different friendly countries physically in Kuwait with interests to protect, it would make it more likely that our military alliances with such countries would be set for much more time to come.