Saturday 01 October 2016

Protecting the national interests of any nation requires the development of capabilities to meet a wide variety of challenges. Some of those capabilities may not be necessary every day or may be too expensive to maintain for a long period of time. Latent national power includes those capabilities or resources that the state can generate only when required. The UAE is already one of the more resilient nations in the region, but improving its ability to develop power when strategically required will fortify our prosperity against unanticipated or unlikely threats through the years to come in a cost efficient manner.

Latent national power is typically expressed in terms of mobilizable capabilities. Such capabilities may include population or other resources that can be quickly brought to bear in time of crisis yet do not cost the nation a large amount to maintain. Military reserve personnel, stocks of essential equipment and spare parts and even mothballed ships are classic examples.

National service is perhaps the best example of latent UAE military power. By orienting and providing basic training and military skills to a large number of nationals who are available to support the needs of the nation when called, the UAE builds capacity that might be needed in crisis but does not have to pay everyday for its use. These national service trained Emiratis remain latent until the nation needs them, then they rise up in support.

The development of indigenous sources of weapons system production can also be viewed as a type of latent power. Rather than being forced to depend on the largess of friends and allies, a nation can develop its own production capacity in order to ensure that it will have a guaranteed source of military equipment in time of war. The Emirates Defence Industries Company and its subordinates (Caracal, Burkan and NIMR among them) and Abu Dhabi Ship Building Company are examples of how the UAE has increased its strategic flexibility in this area and created its own sources of latent power.

Latent power can also be built in other areas needed by the nation in time of crisis. Sovereign wealth funds are investment tools that allow the UA to “store” significant financial capacity for times when it is needed, as when oil prices are low. Strategic storage of oil in other nations (such as in Japan) allows the UAE to protect and have a reserve of national economic power outside its borders. Participation as observers or hosts on international organizations (such as NATO and IRENA) gives the UAE great diplomatic credibility and adds to the weight of its diplomatic efforts every day while not immediately committing it to action. In time of crisis this added power will certainly provide useful source to be mined. Finally, the important role that the UAE is playing as a source of wise example (in the efforts again terrorism and as a cultural tent pole for the region) will give it much more influence around the world when its message needs to count during war or disaster.

Although there can be no doubt that future challenges will continue to test the UAE, all the required plans and capabilities are in place to bolster our effective use of national power, plus due to the wisdom of our leadership we also have significant latent power available in the background, developed at a relatively low cost, ready to add to the force of the UAE in any effort. As future challenges emerge, the UAE’s impressive storehouse of latent power is sure to serve its people well and will also ensure the security of our national interests at manageable costs going forward.