Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)
Normally think tanks are non-governmental independent organizations. Researchers and analysts engaged with think tanks use a technique called hit and miss. If they miss then it is another fine day for them and no harm done. However, if their analysis hits the bull’s eye, then it is an altogether different story. The country, which enjoys the attention of almost every think tank across the globe, is Saudi Arabia. Despite the fact, it is ironic to note that the Kingdom is one of those very few countries, which don’t have any proper think tanks. In other words, we simply let other talk about us and analyze our culture and our policies. This has been going on for many years now. Even a minor development in the Kingdom elicits huge response from think tanks. With the release of each analysis about Saudi Arabia, they claim that it is different this time around. To be honest, it is us the Saudis who have helped them develop this way of thinking. To cut a long story short, I would directly pose this question: Where are Saudi think tanks? Analyses about Saudi Arabia have increased in volume and frequency after the so-called Arab Spring. It is true that we did feel the winds of change but we simply adjusted the sails accordingly. But again it is healthier for us Saudis to talk about ourselves frankly and more openly because the more we are open, it becomes easier for us to spoil the parties of thank tanks who try to paint a different picture of Saudi Arabia. In the past, we have seen so many distorted analyses about Saudi Arabia and it is something at this time that can only be corrected through independent Saudi analysts who in their writings shouldn’t act as public relations experts for the country but they should be qualified to make useful analyses to be used as indicators or tools for decision makers. There is no harm in drawing a wrong conclusion about some particular issue. We should not forget: To err is human and nobody can predict the future precisely. We need think tanks in the Kingdom to help promote Saudi interests globally and to help the country make informed decisions in every sphere of life. Nowadays, Saudi Arabia has many educated men and women who can prove to be valuable assets to such organizations. Think tanks can initially be established in Saudi universities by utilizing their libraries and research papers and over time can start functioning independently. There is an abundance of many former Saudi government employees either civilians or military who can prove to be instrumental in research and analysis. Saudi Arabia is playing a key role in the international arena and is considered one of the regional military and economic powers. The Kingdom’s important position increases the need for establishing independent research centers. And having independent Saudi analysts can be an asset for the official side to fathom the changes of attitudes in the Saudi general public. Utilizing analyses from Saudis instead of foreigners could prove to be much more productive and sincere. Written by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim. Need for Think Tanks reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al-Mulhim.