The Middle East: War, Democracy and Modernisation, chapter for the WEF Arab summit August 2002

The Middle East: War, Democracy and Modernisation

This chapter was written for the World Economic Forum Arab summit meeting, held in Davos August 2002. I wrote the introduction to a volume of well-written chapters. But having perused them, I concluded that their authors had tiptoed around awkward political and social phenomena. My theme was twofold: after 9/11, war was coming to the region; and the US was in the midst of re-defining policy to the whole region away from indiscriminate support for dictatorships, towards a renewal of the drive for democratisation, interrupted by the creation of a theocratic state in Iran in 1979.

The Saudi representatives at the conference read the chapter by noon, went straight to Dr Klaus Schwab, the WEF chief executive, and said if the chapter was not withdrawn, their funding would be. Despite the fact that the chapter had been cleared through the usual academic procedures–I was assured that 8 readers had examined it–Dr. Schwab did what the Saudis asked. A flurry of speeches then accused me of waging “civilisational warfare” on the region, including the Secretary-General of the Arab League.I suggested a public debate. The Saudis categorically refused.

A number of lessons may be culled from this incident. First, people raised in dictatorships have difficulty in thinking clearly. This is a serious deficiency given modern conditions. Second, the WEF, if judged on this event, provides a venue for the rich and powerful to network, but is concerned not to upset them. Third, analysts like myself should never deviate from our task which is to tell it as we see it. If organisers want guff, they can invite scribes and diplomats. Fourth, a few months after the Iraq II war broke out, I was invited to an Arab meeting in Lebanon. Senior people from Saudi Arabia sat in the front row. An elegant apology, for which I thank them.

About Jonathan Story, Professor Emeritus, INSEAD

Jonathan Story is Emeritus Professor of International Political Economy at INSEAD. Prior to joining INSEAD in 1974, he worked in Brussels and Washington, where he obtained his PhD from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He has held the Marusi Chair of Global Business at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and is currently Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Graduate Schoold of Business, Fordham University, New York. He is preparing a monograph on China’s impact on the world political economy, and another on a proposal for a contextual approach to business studies. He has a chapter forthcoming on the Euro crisis. His latest book is China UnCovered: What you need to know to do business in China, (FT/ Pearson’s, 2010) ( His previous books include “China: The Race to Market” (FT/Pearsons, 2003), The Frontiers of Fortune, (Pitman’s, 1999); and The Political Economy of Financial Integration in Europe : The Battle of the Systems,(MIT Press, 1998) on monetary union and financial markets in the EU, and co-authored with Ingo Walter of NYU. His books have been translated into French, Italian, German, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Arabic. He is also a co-author in the Oxford Handbook on Business and Government(2010), and has contributed numerous chapters in books and articles in professional journals. He is a regular contributor to newspapers, and has been four times winner of the European Case Clearing House “Best Case of the Year” award. His latest cases detail hotel investments in Egypt and Argentina, as well as a women’s garment manufacturer in Sri Lanka and a Chinese auto parts producer. He teaches courses on international business and the global political economy. At the INSEAD campus, in Fontainebleau and Singapore, he has taught European and world politics, markets, and business in the MBA, and PhD programs. He has taught on INSEAD’s flagship Advanced Management Programme for the last three decades, as well as on other Executive Development and Company Specific courses. Jonathan Story works with governments, international organisations and multinational corporations. He is married with four children, and, now, thirteen grandchildren. Besides English, he is fluent in French, German, Spanish, Italian, reads Portuguese and is learning Russian. He has a bass voice, and gives concerts, including Afro-American spirituals, Russian folk, classical opera and oratorio.
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