MBS, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and effective ruler of the country, has been a busy, busy boy. He tried to drive our frackers out of business by flooding the market with oil, but it turned out that Saudi Arabia would go broke first. That may be, in part, what’s motivating some of his recent capers.
He has a vision [weed is more potent that it used to be] of a future in which the Saudi economy has diversified away from oil, relying more on sectors like tech and entertainment. Sure: And I’m a Chinese jet pilot. If the Saudis had to make a living from their talents (and more sand than Pismo Beach), they’d be as poor as mosque mice.. Something like Jordanians – probably worse, because the Saudis have picked up a ton of expensive bad habits.
He’s running an original foreign policy. Intervened in Syria and Yemen – losing. Kidnapped the pro-Saudi Prime Minister of Lebanon. Picked a fight with Qatar. Angling for a war with Iran: The beginning of every war is like opening a door into a dark room – what could possibly go wrong?
The high point has been his purge of many of the richest and most influential members of the Saudi royal family. The claim is that he’s trying to take back much of the elite’s ill-gotten gains. Perhaps he’s been listening to Alicia Munnell. This has meant torturing the Swiss bank account numbers out of various fat thieves. It’s possible that the Saudi financial [ and oil?] reserves are in worse trouble than officially admitted: MBS may be trying to steal some cash to keep the show on the road.
Torture, arbitrary arrest, confiscation, kidnapping, warmongering: Naturally, Tom Friedman thinks this is great. A true Arab Spring!
It seems to me that MBS is in need of some good advice. There is an obvious source: let us look at what a few relevant chapters have to say.
Chapter 2, Concerning Hereditary Principalities:
MBS is the hereditary monarch (soon): his position is (was?) inherently pretty secure, and all the purge crap is unnecessary. ” I say at once there are fewer difficulties in holding hereditary states, and those long accustomed to the family of their prince, than new ones; for it is sufficient only not to transgress the customs of his ancestors, and to deal prudently with circumstances as they arise, for a prince of average powers to maintain himself in his state, ”
Chapter 3: CONCERNING MIXED PRINCIPALITIES
Torturing billionaires and seizing 70% of their assets is never a smart course. ” one has to remark that men ought either to be well treated or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot; therefore the injury that is to be done to a man ought to be of such a kind that one does not stand in fear of revenge.
Chapter 4: WHY THE KINGDOM OF DARIUS, CONQUERED BY ALEXANDER, DID NOT REBEL AGAINST THE SUCCESSORS OF ALEXANDER AT HIS DEATH
Power was fairly widely distributed (among the AL Saud, and the religious establishment) until the other day. There is no tradition of absolute obedience to a single, all-powerful Sultan or King of Kings. Which means that rebellion due to perceived slights ( like torture and confiscation pf wealth ) is conceivable. ” The examples of these two governments in our time are the Turk and the King of France. The entire monarchy of the Turk is governed by one lord, the others are his servants; and, dividing his kingdom into sanjaks, he sends there different administrators, and shifts and changes them as he chooses. But the King of France is placed in the midst of an ancient body of lords, acknowledged by their own subjects, and beloved by them; they have their own prerogatives, nor can the king take these away except at his peril.”
Chapter 6: OF NEW DOMINIONS THAT HAVE BEEN ACQUIRED By ONE”S OWN ARMS AND ABILITY
MBS is inheriting a kingdom, but if he really is determined to transform its economy and ruling structure; it’s as more as if he’s trying to found a new regime. Like Gorbachev. ” It must be considered there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things.” Risky. And the problem is, his goal is not just difficult, but unattainable. The human capital just isn’t there.
Chapter 12: THE DIFFERENT KINDS OF MILITIA AND MERCENARY SOLDIERS
Some sources have claimed that MBS has been using Blackwater-type Western mercenaries to kidnap & torture the local fat thieves. ” I say, therefore that the arms by which a prince defends his possessions are either his own, or else mercenaries, or auxiliaries, or mixed. The mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless and dangerous, and if anyone supports his state by the arms of mercenaries, he will never stand firm or sure”
Another insoluble problem: the Saudi armed forces suck, and everybody knows it. Means that the state is fragile. “The chief foundations of all states, whether new, old, or mixed, are good laws and good arms. And as there cannot be be good laws where there are not good arms, and where there are good arms there must be good laws”
Chapter 17: OF CRUELTY AND CLEMENCY, AND WHETHER IT IS BETTER TO BE LOVED OR FEARED
Again, it’s a mistake to wildly piss off powerful guys without entirely destroying their power. Being loved is nice but you definitely need to avoid being hated. “men more easily forget the death of their father than the loss of their patrimony. Then also pretexts for seizing property are never wanting, and one who begins to live by rapine will always find some reason for taking the goods of others”. Not a secret: nobody will want to risk much capital in Saudi Arabia for a generation or so, after which people forget.