Saudi Arabia: The immense outreach of soft power

Faisal Al-Shammeri

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Nations project power in multifarious ways. Today, the United States is not only the largest economy in the world; its dollar enjoys the world’s reserve currency status. In addition, the enormous capabilities and wealth generated by its military industrial complex allows it to do things which no other nation in history could accomplish. The US can choose the place and time for securing its interests and reserves the right to determine the measure of its decisiveness.

As formidable as Washington is, in the immensity and scope of the power it wields, this unparalleled reach extends even to its soft power. Irrespective of the concerns expressed by its detractors, the supposed decline in its fortunes and the misgivings harbored by its opponents, the presence of the United States in every nook and corner of the world remains undeniable and inescapable to this day.

US industry and Hollywood

For instance, the products manufactured by its company Proctor & Gamble is estimated to be consumed by over 90% of households in the Middle East. The clotheslines of its famous brands are considered worthy of emulation by many across the world. American movies and its entertainment industry have extended their sway across the four corners of the globe. While the US continues to improve its soccer, the rest of the world is gradually becoming better at the US’ favorite game, basketball.

The iPhone, iPad, MacBook, Microsoft, Intel, Adobe, Ford, Boeing, GE, and many other American brands are commonplace and integral part of contemporary life. In addition to its aircraft carriers, its special forces and its famed Air Force, it is the US’ soft power that makes it unique in the world. Until the time any country matches this soft power of the US, it will be hard to replace it as the sole global superpower. So what precedents have been set by the US, which can serve as a basis for others to follow? Even more audacious than this line of enquiry is the question whether the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has similar resources and capabilities at its command.

Our religious heritage

Let’s start with the obvious. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is at the center of the Muslim World and is the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. Coupled with this is the fact that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) treaded on the sands of Arabia, which is something we should never forget as it is the greatest asset we possess for being the true font of humanity. The world’s Muslims face in the direction of Mecca and Medina for prayer and they plan to visit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj at least once in their lifetimes. What better means does one need to reach out to the global populace than this! It is our identity and our heritage. The fundamental premise of Vision 2030 is that it is not just a goal to be reached, but a daily practice for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia itself. It is pointless to discuss vast amounts of hydrocarbon reserves lying within the borders of the country. However, what is the potential for investment of the wealth generated from it on a global scale?

The King Salman Foundation has very quietly been working from Africa to Asia, in the Middle East and even in the Americas. With the emergence of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as one of the youngest leaders in the world, our students abroad are also following his example. The students of Saudi Arabia are engaging in local community projects such as hurricane relief efforts, aid distribution, working in food shelters, local community outreach initiatives, etc.

There is a story worth recounting. It is the story of an emerging power, which holds an important place on the global stage in many arenas. This is not only indicative of its hard-earned prosperity, which one our forefathers could’ve scarcely imagined, it is also a story wherein the blessings were used to develop a strong, modern nation, which attained global recognition. It is a nation that has still not realized its full potential to attain its rightful place. The strength of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia lies in its people and their multi-talented prowess. Its strength lies in the positive impact its citizens make every day.

Faisal Al-Shammeri is a political analyst based in Washington DC. He tweets @mr_alshammeri.

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