May 6, 2016

Saudi military is increasingly no longer a reward but a duty that sends soldiers home in coffins

Yemenis teaching Saudis a lesson

And in Yemen, they have pushed

Part of the reason the Saudis invaded Yemen was to force their do-nothing military to action: rousing useless officers to combat is one way to jostle the ranks and shake the system. Saudi’s military is increasingly no longer a reward but a duty and one that sends home coffins. Because of Saudi’s macho culture, few Saudis would get caught out saying they’d rather not die in Yemen for King Salman’s pride. This has helped hone and cull some of the indolent excesses of Saudi military culture.

Still, they can’t go too far: to blood the military too much would produce a backlash once sleepy Saudi officers wake up to the ruse. This is one reason the Saudis don’t march on Sana’a, though if they deployed enough troops they certainly could. Absolutists they may be, they cannot afford to upset the army too much.

And this is emblematic of why Vision 2030 is more suited to failure than success
Even in the face of a national security threat, the Saudis cannot deploy their full power because they need reserves to quell domestic foes. Saudi Arabia is still not yet in economic crisis: it has even less social leverage to kick Saudis out of their beds and put them to work.

Saudi citizens already understand low oil prices are partially a result of the kingdom itself, which keeps pumping out oil well beyond apparent reason. As the sovereign wealth funds empty, they will blame not just Iran but the king. Knowing Saudi Arabia is full of oil, they will not see the situation the same as the royals. Rather than deep necessity, it will appear to be a ploy to keep rich princes off playing in the fleshpots of Europe while the masses starve.

This view is dangerous and it will be tempting, because it’s the easiest view to hold. Few groups of people could resist it.

Without political reform, without giving Saudi citizens a say in their future that allows blame to be shifted back onto the masses themselves, this formula is likely to backfire: When things go invariably wrong, when comforts are taken away, when assumptions are shattered, when people have to do things they had been led to believe they’d never have to do, someone will be blamed. In a democracy, the blame is shared between governed and government. In Saudi Arabia, it goes one way to the top.

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