In the modern society where every country is forced to respect sovereignty of other countries irrespective of their military capacity, soft power is becoming the best answer to countries that seek to remain influential in the world. Hayden defines soft power as “a persuasive approach to international relations, typically involving the use of economic or cultural influence.”1 In the past, countries which had military superiority were able to rule the world. However, this is no longer the case. Countries with the capacity to influence and persuade others to join their course emerge as the strongest nations. Although military power is still very important, its relevance in defining the power of a country is increasingly diminishing.
The United Arab Emirates can learn a lot from its regional powers in the Middle East such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, and Iran on how to become a regional power. One of the most important lessons that this country can learn from the regional powers is that it is important to take maximum advantage of strength that a country has over others. For instance, Saudi Arabia has taken advantage of the fact that it is the leading oil producer in the world to exert its influence on global oil market. Given the importance of oil to the economy of all countries around the world, Saudi Arabia cannot be taken for granted on global issue. It is using this economic advantage to influence the world. It is able to persuade other countries to work collaboratively with it in an effort to achieve specific objectives. The following are the specific lessons that the United Arab Emirates can learn from these regional powers.
- Take advantage of the existing national resources to gain economic power and to influence political affairs of the region just as Saudi Arabia has done.
- Never take a neutral position in the regional conflicts. Taking a neutral position gives the country an image that a country is weak and not willing to help in resolving these conflicts. This strategy has often been applied by Egypt.
- The foreign policy of the country should be in line with the emerging political environment in the region and it should emphasize on protecting the Emirati citizens. This is a policy that Israel has perfected.
- Sometimes it may be necessary to take advantage of the challenges that other countries face to negotiate beneficial deals for its citizens. Turkey is currently using this strategy in the on-going refugee problem in the Middle East and Europe.
Building the UAE Soft Power Strategy
As mentioned above, building a soft power requires an understanding of the possible strengths that may put the country ahead of the rest even if it is only in one area. The United Arab Emirates needs a framework that can enable it develop its own soft power.2 The Soft Power 30 Index provides specific areas of focus that this country address to develop its own plan. The index provides six areas that a country should focus on to develop its own soft power. The first one is education.3 The government should spend more in enhancing education among its citizens. Illiteracy should be completely eliminated or kept at bare minimum. Institutions of higher learning should be adequately funded to enable them engage actively in research that will solve local problems.
Engagement is another important factor in this framework. The government should engage all the stakeholders, both in the public and private sectors, in coming up with policies that can be used to solve local problems.4 Governance is another critical component of this framework. Good governance that does not tolerate corruption, mediocrity, favouritism, and such other related vices is critical in enabling the country to become a regional power. The fourth element is the digital factor. The modern society has become heavily dependent on information sharing. Knowledge is a very powerful tool that enables people to undertake various tasks without straining. Knowledge sharing makes it possible for new skills to be developed among people in various professions. Culture is another factor in this framework that helps in developing soft power. Emiratis should be proud of their culture and they should try to spread it to the world through mediums such as filmography and literatures. The final factor in this framework is enterprise.5 Countries such as United Kingdom, United States, and Germany are at the top of the soft power index because they have empowered their citizens economically. The government of United Arab Emirates should consider spreading its wealth to its citizens.
How the UAE Can Benefit From the Soft Power 30 Index
The United Arab Emirates can benefit from the Soft Power 30 Index to build a framework for its own soft power strategy. As it seeks to become a regional power, this country should keenly study other regional powers in this index and determine what catapulted them to their current positions. For instance, the United Kingdom is ranked top in this soft power index ahead of Germany and the United States. One of the factors that have enabled this country to be in this top spot is language. The United Arab Emirates should also strive to take maximum advantage of the growing relevance of Arabic language in the global society. Its citizens should know how to read and write and they should not give foreign languages preference over their own local languages.
A critical analysis of the soft power index shows that nations that empower their citizens economically emerge as the strongest and most influential in the world. The top ten positions in this index are dominated by countries which have empowered their citizens and practice democratic form of governance. The governments topping this list do not have absolute control of wealth. China, the second largest economy in the world, does not appear in the top 25 in this list. Similarly, Russia- the country with the largest nuclear warheads in the world- is not even ranked in this soft power 30 index. These lessons are very beneficial to this country because they will help it achieve the desired success.
This index is also important to the United Arab Emirates because it will enable it to understand the country that it should seek strategic partnership with in its quest to become a regional power. Having strategic partnership with influential nations makes it possible for the country to establish a strong framework of global partners that they can work with collaboratively to achieve common goals and objectives. The country should ensure that its foreign policies are relevant to the events taking place in the international community.
Brown, Carl. Diplomacy in the Middle East: the international relations of regional and outside powers. London: Tauris, 2001.
Dexter, Gail and Ngaire Blankenberg. Cities, museums and soft power. Washington: American Alliance of Museums Press, 2015.
Fürtig, Henner. Regional powers in the Middle East: new constellations after the Arab revolts. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.
Hayden, Craig. The rhetoric of soft power: public diplomacy in global contexts. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2012.
- Craig Hayden, The rhetoric of soft power: public diplomacy in global contexts (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2012), 41.
- Ibid, 48.
- Carl Brown, Diplomacy in the Middle East: the international relations of regional and outside powers (London: Tauris, 2001), 55.
- Gail Dexter and Ngaire Blankenberg, Cities, museums and soft power (Washington: American Alliance of Museums Press, 2015), 68.
- Ibid, 56.