Political tolerance as the foundation of a new world order: The UAE model

Diana Galeeva
Diana Galeeva
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After Trump’s election as the 45th American President, and the Brexit referendum in the UK, the Western world, which according to IR theory has been developing in line with liberalist ideas and philosophies, has started to debate whether this indicates the end of the liberal order.

Many commentators foresee a world order based on populism. However, President Trump’s foreign and domestic policies do not represent the beginning of a new order, it is an only an attempt to create policies that differ from a liberal world order which relies on co-operation and peacekeeping to project power.

Democratic strategy cost millions of lives in Iraq, Somalia, and in the Middle East during the Arab Spring, and so it seems that 23 years after the proclamation of the triumph of post-Cold war liberal democracy and cosmopolitanism declared by Fukuyama’s book “The End of History and the Last Man” (1993), the liberal world order has come to its end.

The liberal world order failed not because of the “liberal” values that characterised it, but because these values have been mistakenly branded as “democratic values” which are seen as dependent on democratic governments/societies. The liberal world order failed because the West’s promotion of liberal values manifested itself in the imposition of democracy on sovereign states, which are perfectly capable of embracing liberal values outside of the context of democratic leadership.

While the Western world wonders what is next, disagreements over the future of the EU, concerns about the Trump’s domestic and foreign policies, and the competing proponents of populism, liberalism and solidarism demonstrate that there is no single clear vision of the future world order. All we can be sure of is that the world has lost faith in the liberal world order, and that the West will not determine its replacement.

If this is the end of the liberal order, what kind of world order can promote influence within the state, and which values and goals should be considered vital? In order to find answers to these questions it is essential to analyse IR theory and, using the main approaches, to propose a possible solution to the political discordance and ambiguity.

There are two other major theories relevant to this discussion in IR: realism and constructivism, and neither can anticipate the future world order independently. To achieve this, we must combine the core principles from multiple IR theories, and in doing so, suggest a new world order based on goodness, which will bring peace in the near future. Here, “good” must be understood as ‘promoting well-being’ and “morally admirable”.

The time of using the word “good” to describe interventions, which kill the innocent, is over; while this may bring short–term victories, history will demonstrate that hypocritical usage of the word “good” causes distrust and disrespect. In the future, states should be defined by their actions rather than their status as either democratic or autocratic – which is a constrictive binary that actually encourages hypocritical politics and often damaging foreign policy.

The values and goals of the new order, which I term “political tolerance” should be based on two main principles: patriotism – feelings of love for a country by the state’s rulers and citizens, generating hard work towards domestic development and the prosperity of the state; and political sovereignty – a principle of international law, meaning that every nation-state has sovereignty over its own territory, domestic affairs, and foreign affairs, along with a principle of non-interference in other states’ domestic affairs.

Despite the lack of a clear theoretical approach, which includes all these values, there is one state, which has based its policies these principles. A new model of this world order of political tolerance could be theorized from the successful development of the UAE, which could become a successful model for positive development in global politics.

The UAE is not the only successful model of state development, but I believe that this is the model, which could be conceptualized and used to suggest a future world order based on the principle of political tolerance

Diana Galeeva

Why not realism, liberalism and constructivism?

Realism considers the international political system to be anarchic and without a supranational authority that can implement rules. The key actors are states concerned with their own security, and their actions are in pursuit of their own national interests. A central preoccupation of this study is power, and realists consider power to be derived from a combination of tangible resources: the size of population and territory, resource endowment, economic capability, and military strength.

According to realist theory, that only great powers can be powerful. However, current global developments demonstrate that states with small populations and territories can also obtain huge economic advantages, and become important players in the international arena. For example, the emerging vacuum of power in the Middle East is due to a decreasing role for traditional leaders – Iraq, Egypt and Syria – and has promoted leadership opportunities for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states.

Moreover, for realists, the theory of a balance of power suggests that maintaining national security depends on greater military capability, as strong states are secure from their weaker neighbours. Any state, which becomes too strong invites the creation of a defensive alliance to limit its power. After World War II and the deaths of more than 90 million people, the values of realism were criticised and global politics moved into a new world order, based on Liberalism.

Liberalism considers worldwide institutions to be key for cooperation between states. Interdependence between states (such as cultural, security, and economic exchanges) help to diminish possible conflict, and replaces the military in promoting honest interactions. During the Cold War, the liberal order became essential to America in beating its rival, the USSR. By establishing a liberal order and creating a foundation of open markets and economic interdependence between democratic states, the US appeared a ‘liberal leviathan’ (Ikenberry, 2011).

With the Truman administration’s decision to make open-ended alliances, the US provided significant aid to other states, while expanding military bases and overseas forces. The US provided the United Kingdom with a major loan in 1946, the Marshall plan financially supported European recovery in 1948, and NATO was created in 1949. After the collapse of the USSR, American objectives in the establishment of liberal economic order went further and became more global.

American foreign policy from George Bush to Barack Obama relied on the concept that democracies do not go to war. One of the most well-known concepts in winning hearts and minds, ‘soft power’, has been central in American foreign affairs since the Cold War. However, these strategies were not only based on soft power initiatives and liberal values; realist values, such as the use of military power and intervention, continue to be a reality, which demonstrates the hypocrisy of power politics.

The aftermath of “promoting democracy” or “peacekeeping” in Somalia (1990), Bosnia-Serbia (1995), Sudan (1998), Serbia-Kosovo (1999), Iraq (2003), and Libya (2011) was the deaths of civilians and soldiers and the failure of states. As Runciman (2008: 2) has observed while analysing the hypocritical behaviour of former and current US politicians (Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and Barack Obama), ‘the specific political problem is that liberal societies are, or have become, democracies.

Because people don’t like hypocrisy, and because hypocrisy is everywhere, it is all too tempting for democratic politicians to seek to expose the inevitable double standards of their rivals in the pursuit of power, and voters’. By following the ideas of democracy and the future “good” for every country a search for hypocrisy has led US policy to be interested in intervention, which would help to maintain dominance and increase access to the natural resources of other states.

Current Western leadership understands the failure of this policy. In her first meeting with President Trump, British Prime Minister Theresa May proclaimed ‘the days of Britain and America intervening in sovereign countries in an attempt to remake the world in our own image are over’ (2017).

Another important feature of Liberalism is the use of worldwide institutions to maintain peaceful co-existence between states. However, as the result of the Brexit referendum is increasingly welcomed by politicians from other EU countries, we might be witnessing the beginning of a “domino effect”, as discussed in my previous article (Galeeva, 2016), which raises questions about the future of liberal institutions. It seems that a Constructivist approach to IR, based on the ideas of strategic cultures, and the significance of identities and norms, could explain the new realities of European politics.

The future of liberalist institutions depends on national identity. For example, though both the EU and the GCC can be seen as “liberal” institutions, they have very different historical/cultural contexts, and it is unlikely that the future of these institutions will be the same. In other words, liberalist institutionalism will continue to be an effective tool in cooperation between states, but only if the states share similar identities.

What is next? The UAE model: Values in practise

While IR theory does not currently provide an explanation for a new order, working towards future peace in the Middle East can be seen in the model of the UAE, which is based on patriotism and political sovereignty. From the realist point of view, the UAE is a small state with a small territory (83,600km2) and population (around 10 million, including 1.4 million citizens), and therefore cannot be perceived as an active player on the international arena.

Despite this, it is one of the wealthiest states in the world, with a per-capita GDP of $67,696, the seventh-largest oil reserves, and the seventeenth-largest natural gas reserves globally. However, the UAE does not rely on these alone. Emirati leadership has worked hard to diversify the economy: the UAE has become a major financial and trading centre, and has increased tourism along with investment in non-energy sectors such as technology. Benefitting from access to natural resources, the UAE has focussed on its own economic development and has used economic advantages for state development, new initiatives, and improving the lifestyle of their own people, rather than intervening in other states.

The rulers of the UAE have worked hard to bring wellbeing into state development; promoting the rights of children, equality, and women’s rights. For example, granting women the opportunity to hold leading positions in political, business and other social structures, including, the Minister of Tolerance Sheikha Lubna Al-Qassimi, Minister of Happiness Ohood Al-Roumi, and Minister for Youth Affairs Shama al-Mazroui.

Moreover, initiatives such as “smart government”, which works 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, demonstrates the rulers’ desire for the development and future prosperity of the country. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the Prime Minister and ruler of Dubai, emphasises the importance of loving the state and working hard for its prosperity and the bright future of its people: “Our mission is to serve our people and nation”, “future prosperity lies in the creative minds of our people; investing in people is an investment in our economy and success”. In other words, the UAE leadership loves the country, and prioritises state development – which is the core of patriotism.

Realist and constructivist approaches

Despite being part of a liberal institution, the GCC, the UAE is a state which also uses more realist and constructivist IR approaches, and maintains a clear position on some very important issues in the region. The UAE follows a strategy of political tolerance. While political Islam and sectarianism have started to play a major role in promoting influence within the region, the UAE has a clear approach of not supporting Islamist or extremist movements.

In contrast, the UAE has been able to use its identity as a Muslim, Arab country to promote Islam as a peaceful religion, and to show respect to other religions and nations. For example, the ‘Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies Forum’ was held in 2016 and the Muslim Council of Elders, which promotes peace in Muslim communities, is based in the UAE.

Furthermore, in 2016 meetings were held with representatives of different faiths and traditions, for example, between HH Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church. UAE foreign policy is clearly based on political tolerance and political sovereignty, while its domestic policy is based on patriotism, and rulers play an important role in this. The ‘good’ values promoted in the speeches of Emirati leadership are similar to the values, which they implement in reality.

The UAE is not the only successful model of state development, but I believe that this is the model, which could be conceptualised and used to suggest a future world order based on the principle of political tolerance. This order is based on two main principles – patriotism and political sovereignty. It is perhaps the time for political hypocrisy to be excluded from politics. Probably the best examples of successful policies in the 21st century after wars and the deaths of innocents, are tolerance, respect and ‘goodness’, which I define as ‘promoting well-being’ and ‘morally admirable’.

People must learn from history and successful examples. Princess Diana is still remembered as the ‘Queen of Hearts’ because of her charity work: health matters, animal protection, and opposing the use of landmines. She was a patron of charities and organisations working with the homeless, the young, drug addicts, and the elderly. It is the time for a new world order where written values become implemented values, the time to implement the successful model of the UAE as the new world order – the order of political tolerance.


Diana Galeeva is a PhD Candidate at the School of Government and International Affairs at Durham University. Her PhD research focuses on theories of power, IR theory, small states, Political Islam and GCC politics. She was an intern at the President of Tatarstan’s office - Department of corporation and Religious organizations (2012), Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Tatarstan, legal department (2011), and the Ministry of justice (2010). Diana received her M.A. in International Relations from Exeter University in the UK, and earned a degree in Governmental Law from Kazan Federal University (KFU). She speaks English, Russian, Tatar and studies Arabic and Turkish. She tweets @diana_galeeva and can be contacted on [email protected].

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