Wednesday 01 April 2020
At the beginning of the 20th century, the British Empire extended its authority over approximately 412 million people, or 23% of the world's population at the time. In 1920, it dominated an area of 35,500,000 km2, or approximately 24% of the planet, to the extent that it was called "the empire on which the sun never sets" for at least one part of their territory was always in daylight.
Britain is an island, although its size is nearly three times that of the United Arab Emirates, but it remains an island because it is a land surrounded by water from all directions despite its large size. Similarly, according to analysts, academics and experts in international relations, Israel is geographically very small, equivalent to one third of the UAE, but it is considered a regional power in West Asia, along with Saudi Arabia and Iran. How did Israel achieve regional domination? How was the British island able to become and maintain for centuries an empire that many considered to be one of the greatest empires in history? Does this mean that small countries can become influential and dominant, even if at the regional level?
There is much debate about the concept and definition of a small country, especially as this concept is closely linked to many dimensions that directly affect it, such as the military, political, economic, geographical and social dimensions. Moreover, there are different methods used by researchers and strategists, some of whom may occasionally use terms such as the Arab Spring, the Middle East, failed states, and great powers, with the aim to create deceptive ideological disputes to spread chaos among countries. There is no doubt that most small countries lack geographical depth, in other words, their geographical area is relatively limited compared to other countries, so they are sometimes obliged to enter into regional alliances or security and defense agreements with the major countries that have greater global influence, which will inevitably reflect on their foreign policies and dealing with the international system. The United Nations defines a small state as "a very small entity, in size, population, and human and economic resources", without clear criteria of how smallness could be measured.
This term is used to describe a state that has the ability to influence a specific geographical or territorial area, in other words, the capacity of a state to influence at the regional level. In another definition, it is “A country within a geographically defined region, which dominates the region economically and militarily and is capable of dominating regionally and globally, as well as benefiting from energy resources.” In addition, it is recognized or even accepted as a regional power by its neighbors.
Israel has been able to possess nuclear weapons since the beginning of the 1960s with aid from certain great powers, even though it maintains a policy of "deliberate ambiguity". It is one of the countries that declined to sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Whether Israel possesses nuclear weapons or not, it has been able to create a form of strategic deterrence for all the surrounding states. However, is possessing a nuclear weapon capability sufficient for regional hegemony? Some might agree, but, in fact, no country in the world has used nuclear weapons after World War II despite many wars, conflicts, and crises that have occurred worldwide. Now, we conclude that a nuclear weapon may be used only in the event of a global war, because the international community, despite its different interests, will totally reject the use of this kind of weapon. Proof of that is the international reaction to all uses of less harmful weapons of mass destruction, such as chemical weapons used against Kurds in Iraq, and the ongoing Syrian war. Israel is a geographically small and regionally influential country, not only because it possesses nuclear weapons, but also because certain major countries are committed to Israel's presence in the Arab world for religious, political and economic reasons. Furthermore, the Israeli expenditure on scientific research and development reaches 4.25% of GDP, which is the highest in the world. The UAE's spending on research and development in 2017 was less than 1% of GDP, and it was the highest in the Arab world.
However, Israel lacks strategic depth, similar to small countries such as the United Arab Emirates and many other countries due to its small size. It has fought many wars, however, all of those have been out of its geographical location, because any war on its territory would have disastrous consequences.
Having effective, influential and deterrent force, and focusing on investment in scientific research and development and national human power will contribute greatly to the building of the overall capacity of any country. If a country is forced to wage any kind of war, it must seek to engage in it outside its geographical area. States usually enter wars to protect their national interests and when the benefits are greater than the expected losses.
Its geographical position is one of the main factors that helped Britain to become an empire, being an island of relatively large size. The sea was the only way to communicate with the outside world, where ships at the time brought most goods and basic living needs. The state had found itself obliged to meet those needs to maintain security and stability, and the sailing of those vessels expanded from the nearby European continent to the African continent, and thus to the East Asian states, the Asian continent and the South American continent. The ships then needed forward positioning of inventory to continue sailing, thereby creating a number of British colonies to re-equip ships during their sea passage. Some might think that these ships were used only to bring food and other goods, but actually they had contact with Islamic, Persian, and Indian civilizations.
This means that a range of scientific knowledge, crafts, and cultures were brought from abroad, which contributed greatly to the British Empire’s progress. Certainly, geographical position was an essential factor, but without the political will of investing in shipbuilding, it would not have become the empire on which the sun never sets.
Geographical expansion, construction of economic and military bases in some areas of concern within the region, control of economic waterways, and port management contribute significantly to the overall capacity of the state, along with utilizing foreign expertise and attracting global companies in the fields of space, artificial intelligence, and advanced technology. Eventually, all of the above depend first and foremost on the political will and the resolve of the people to bring the UAE into the group of economically and politically advanced states.
Having effective, influential and deterrent military capabilities, and focusing on investment in scientific research and development and national manpower will contribute greatly to building the overall power of the state and achieving regional hegemony. Moreover, all wars must be fought outside the geographical location, because most major cities are concentrated on the coastal strip of a country. National spending on science and technology, scientific research and development, and investment in the development of education must be increased in order to improve the competencies of the national personnel. Maintaining political stability is crucial because political will is a key factor in supporting a comprehensive state power for regional hegemony.
Submarines with strategic deterrent features must be in place, as they can impose their presence in all oceans and near any nation in the world by virtue of international maritime law. The submarine is a secret and a deterrent weapon for any hostile nation, and contributes greatly to a country’s strategic depth. In order to further the strategic depth of the country, port construction must be expanded. It is recommended that the Abu Dhabi Ports Company takes the approach of Dubai Ports World in terms of global expansion.
The United Arab Emirates is able to surpass the other states of the region by creating a socially, scientifically, culturally, politically and militarily educated society through the use of economic, diplomatic, military and information instruments. The cost of living must also be raised, through taxation of certain services, taking into account the interests of citizens, in order to maintain the elite members of society, which will positively affect the population structure.
Internal dissatisfaction and departure of certain expatriate labor may occur because of higher living costs. This may attract the attention of anti-state countries, with the possibility of increased exposure to cyber-attacks and economic suffering. The higher cost of living could be misused by small and medium-sized traders and certain groups of citizens may be negatively affected.
As His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan stated, “A country is not measured by its size, it is measured by the will of its people.” Small states are able to influence regionally and internationally when comprehensive national capabilities are optimally used in order to occupy a central place in the world as set by the state’s political will.