In order to maintain a sense of order between the nations or nation-states of the world, a system of international relations has been formed (Huntington 1993). As countries continue to transact with the other countries in the world a sense of international relations develop between the countries automatically. Over the period of time international relations between countries have developed into a formal system that dictates the relations existing between countries.
The modern system of international relations like they are seen currently have their origins in the 17th century Europe (Knutsennd). The treaty of Westphalia that was signed in the year 1648 signed at the end of the notorious 30 years’ war laid the foundations for the modern international relations to take shape. The system that was signed by the different parties involved in treaty of Westphalia has undergone a lot of changes to take the current form.
Globalization and other recent international trends have made the study of international trends more important than even before. In a highly interconnected world where people exchange ideas and goods with each other, the actions in one country have the potentiality to seriously impact the conditions in other parts of the world.
Core Values of the International System
The theory of international relations deals with three major areas:
- What does the fact of living in a state implies for us.
- How important is it for people living in a state actually is.
- What should the people living in a state think about it?
Briefly put, the theory of international relations let us understand what can be expected from living in a state that is completely caught up in the modern system of international relations.
The theory of international relations deals with five core social values that are provided by the state, viz. security, freedom, order, justice and welfare. These five social values give an assurance to the people living in a country that their basic human relations are curtailed. They also ensure that they could freely stay connected with the outside world and change the system that is prevalent in their own countries.
The core values in international relations are very fundamental to the welfare of the human beings that governments should take all the required steps to protect them. In the past, when the modern the democratic systems did not take root firmly, these values were the purview of the family, tribe, ethnic group, clan, and the religious group to which a person belonged. However, the elected democratic governments of the modern world take all the steps required to ensure that the basic values of the international system are protected.
The major social values of the international system are explained in detail below:
All the major countries need to protect the safety and security of its citizens. For this purpose, countries maintain a range of armed forces like military, police, and paramilitary forces. The main objective of these forces is to protect the country from external and internal threats to the safety and prosperity of the country. Countries also need to protect their people from the non-state players that can harm the security of the place like terrorist organizations. The realist theory of international relations which was pioneered by Morgenthau in the year 1960 postulated countries as competing rivals in the international platform who are heavily armed and pose the danger of going into war with each other at point of time.
Freedom is another key social value of international relations. There are two different kinds of freedom, viz. individual and national. While national freedom refers to staying free from foreign rule and can guarantees the country’s independence, individual freedoms refer to the freedoms enjoyed by its citizens within the country. People should have freedom to express their opinions freely, participate in peaceful protests, and practice the religion of their choice. The liberal theory of international relations which was pioneered by Claude in the year 1971 postulates states as entities that cooperate with each other to maintain peace, prosperity, and freedom to bring about a progressive change in the country (Hernando, 2002).
C. Justice and Order
Having justice and order is one of the primary requirements for the country’s population to peacefully survive next to each other. The core values of the international relations postulate that the governments of the countries should try to promote a sense of social order in the society rather than chaos. The state should act as the official judge, jury, and executioner of justice. The state should also give the people enough freedom to decide upon the justice they want to practice. In many western countries, common people sit in the juries and deliver verdicts on some of the most critical cases. Speaking globally too, countries have a common interest in order and justice so that all the major countries in the world can co-exist with each other well. Having a failed state without any proper order and justice system can pose a big trouble for other countries as anti-lawful entities can pass from one country to the other.
Trade and commerce are two other things that have the potentiality to decide the prosperity of a country. Hence, the country should formulate a proper trading policy that makes the movement of goods and services between countries easier. Due to the importance of justice and social order in the international relations, the International Society Theory of IR that was pioneered in the year 1995, states that nations can at best be characterized as socially responsible actors which have a common interest in the protection of order and justice.
States have the obligation to guarantee the welfare of the state. Welfare does not refer to merely improving the incomes of the people. It also includes providing them with all the facilities that have the potentiality to make their life easier. The basic necessities of life like health and education should be guaranteed to all the people of a country. The international political economy theory pioneered by Gilpin in the year 1987 postulated that international relations is best understood by looking at the world and state in socioeconomic terms rather than political and military ones.
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of the most important countries in the middle-east (Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia nd). Being the largest country in the middle-east, the country enjoys an enormous economic and political clout in the international scene. Saudi Arabia was previously a part of the Ottoman empire. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the current area constituting Saudi Arabia was divided into multiple smaller kingdoms. The founder of the modern Saudi Arabia, Ibn Saud led a conquest that united the four regions that would later constitute the modern Saudi Arabia (Christie 2011). Since then, the country was ruled as an absolute monarchy without any scope for elections and democracy. The laws of the country are based on the Islamic laws which have mostly remained unchanged since the middle ages. Any kind of political activism is ruthlessly crushed by the country’s rulers.
Saudi Arabia is a dominant producer of oil in the world (Critchlow 2014). Most of the country’s economy is depended upon the oil revenues. High oil reserves also made the country to form close relations to some of the major powers in the world like USA and UK. However, according to some analysts, the high oil reserves earned by the country made it stay as a constitutional monarch with little scope for political and economic reforms. The country suffers with a problem that is commonly referred by the economists as the resource curse..
Core Values in International Relations and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
A. Security in Saudi Arabia
The problem of security in Saudi Arabia is unlike any other place in the world. It is one of the few countries in the Middle East and in the whole world where the citizens are threatened by both domestic and international terrorism. On the domestic front the country faces some major security challenges from the infiltration of Al-Qaeda and the problems caused by the minority Sunni extremists (‘Saudi Arabia Homeland Security’, nd). From the outside, the country now faces threats from neighbours like Iran and Israel and international terrorist groups like ISIS which want to occupy large parts of the Muslim world and establish an Islamic caliphate. In order to protect the security of the people living in Saudi Arabia, the county has a good police system. Serious crimes that can cause death and destruction are relatively rare when compared with other countries in the Middle East (‘Foreign Travel Advice’ nd). The country also has huge oil reserves that need to be continuously protected from terrorists and foreign powers. A major lag in the security apparatus of Saudi Arabia is the country’s armed forces. The strong threat from external forces like ISIS cannot be faced easily by the country’s relatively weak armed forces. Overall, Saudi Arabia provides good level of security to its citizens when compared with many other countries in the Middle East.
Being a religious monarchy, the citizens of Saudi Arabia enjoy very limited freedom when compared with other countries. The citizens of Saudi Arabia do not enjoy the freedom to express their views publicly against the government and the al-saud ruling family. News and content that is posted on the Internet is heavily censored. People who go against the wishes of the government and the royal family are severely punished. Women of the country face even lesser freedom than that of men. Women are not allowed to go out of the home with a male accomplice and they are not allowed to drive cars. The citizens of Saudi Arabia do not have the freedom to practice the religion of their choice. Despite not having any restrictions on the religion that needs to be followed by the citizens, almost all the citizens of the country are Muslim. Conversion of people from one religion to the other is a punishable crime by death. There is legal protection for the freedom of religion. However, migrant labourers and the very small population of religious minorities have the freedom to practice their religion in private.
C. Justice and order in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has an excellent justice and legal system. Execution of the laws is very strict and the law enforcement agencies are well equipped with all the resources necessary tools to execute their jobs properly. Since the country is an official Islamic country, the Islamic (Sharia) law is the basic law upon which the legal system of the country was built (‘Legal and Judicial Structure’ nd). However, Saudi Arabia uses an un codified form of Sharia for delivering justice. Lack of proper code for Sharia creates a lot of problems while delivering the justice by the courts. In modern matters where the Sharia Law is silent, new regulations are framed by the royal decree. However, the people of country have no say in the framing the laws. The verdict given by the judge in the matter is considered to be final. The country’s court system was created by the first king of Saudi Arabia in 1932 by King Abdul Aziz. The system has functioned very well since without having any major modifications.
Despite having one of the most well-enforced legal system in the world, the country still follows some archaic punishments from the middle-ages like public shooting, amputation of hands and legs, and stoning of people accused of crimes like infidelity and blasphemy. The archaic legal system of the country was criticized by many western human rights organizations for not reflecting the current system properly. For maintaining order in the society, Saudi Arabia takes the help of its strategic partner, USA. The American government guarantees security to the trade and commerce of Saudi Arabia. USA also has a permanent military base in the soil of Saudi Arabia which serves the strategic interests of both the countries.
D. Welfare of People in Saudi Arabia
Being a oil rich country with plenty of natural resources, Saudi Arabia puts a lot of importance on the welfare of its people. The government subsidises services like health, education, oil, telecom, and transportation. Oil revenues make it possible for the government to run the welfare state. Another important reason for doling out multi-billion dollar welfare schemes is to keep the population happy so that will revolt against the country’s royal family. However, the rising population and the falling price of oil is making it difficult for the government of Saudi Arabia to run the welfare state. According to some estimates, nearly a quarter of the country’s total population now live in poverty (Sullivan 2012). Lack of proper skills is also making it difficult for the government to provide proper employment opportunities for the millions of younger people who are entering into the workforce every year. Some analysts also worry about the future of the welfare state when the country’s oil revenues run out.
The State of Things in Saudi Arabia and its Consequences
As the above explanation makes it obvious, the record of Saudi Arabia in complying with the core values of international relations is mixed. The vast oil reserves of the country makes it possible to run a huge welfare state where the local population is subsidized in many of the services provided by the government like education and healthcare. Saudi Arabia also maintains a good control over the security system in the country. However the record of the country in giving good proper freedom and justice is bad. People are required to follow the rules and regulation that are laid down by the government. Even the modern laws related to international trade and commerce are directly passed by the government without anybody consulting the people.
Given the state of the things, in the Middle East, lack of proper concern for the freedom and justice to the people can have serious for any regime that is in power there. As seen during the Arab Spring and the subsequent revolutions in countries like Syria, people are revolting against their governments if they think that they do not enjoy the same kind of freedom and security as that of people in other countries. The 24/7 news channels and social media have made people aware regarding the happenings in the outside world. Lack of proper human rights record could also make the country marginalized globally. Hence, the government of Saudi Arabia should start taking urgent steps for properly modifying its governance structure and make the governance more inclusive.
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- Sullivan, K 2012, In Saudi Arabia, unemployment, and booming population drive growing poverty. Available from :< http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/in-saudi-arabia-unemployment-and-booming-population-drive-growing-poverty/2012/12/02/458e648c-3987-11e2-a263-f0ebffed2f15_story.html>.