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Gulf States, International Trade and Security


World security is closely linked to international commerce. One commodity that greatly affects trends in international politics and commercial relations is oil. The gulf holds the majority of the world’s proven oil reserves. For a long time however, the region has experienced security challenges mainly from unstable political regimes and criminal elements operating on a religious extremism ideology (Wilkinson, 2010, p. 91). Experts predict that if security is improved in this region it will greatly improve international relations and global economy.

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Using force or democracy to ensure stability in the Gulf

Democracy remains a key challenge to most of the Gulf Cooperation states. GCC states spend a big percentage of their national budgets on security, highlighting it as the main issue that needs to be addressed (Forest & Sousa, 2006, p. 75). Political pundits differ on the best way possible to achieve long-term security in the gulf in order to secure the region’s oil resources and by extension international security and commerce. Some experts advocate for democracy and use of soft force while others advocate for use of raw military power by the US. However, it is safe to conclude that neither seems to be a viable option.

For decades the US has pursued a military based strategy in the Middle East to secure the region’s oil. It maintains military units and hardware in the region as a deterrent force to hostile states such as Iran which are likely to cause further instability in the region (Forest & Sousa, 2006, p. 80). This strategy has so far had mixed success with the region still experiencing instability and insecurity that directly affect production of oil.

On the other hand, democracy has also not had remarkable success. Countries that have fairly stable governments such as Kuwait and Qatar still do experience insecurity that threatens the exploitation of oil in the region.

Levels of analysis

According to Kenneth Neal Waltz there are two levels of analysis; systemic and sub-systemic that can be applied in the analysis of the security situation in the Middle East. These levels analysis will also help in determining the most likely side that will prevail in the proposed security approaches.

In the sub-systemic level actors include individual decision makers in the political systems of different countries whose decisions have significant impact on the world political stage. This level also focuses on the actions of various states and how their actions promote peace or cause conflict (Wilkinson, 2010, p. 198).

Systemic level analysis on the other hand, mainly focuses on the actions and outcomes of a whole system of states in the international community and how their actions affect world security and peace.

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The sub-systemic level of analysis largely brings out the realism approach that mainly concentrates in the actions of the single or individual state actor. Systemic analysis on the other hand leans toward the neo-realism that is mainly fronted Waltz (Wilkinson, 2010, p. 204).

Considering the interrelations between nations in the 21st century and dependence on only one superpower, it’s safe to assume that a military approach for purposes of deterrence and achievement of security in the Gulf is the most preferable approach.

Waltz theory

The above assertion brings the idea of neo-realism to the fore. In the current international order, the structures that are in place act as a constraint to state behavior. It is a setting where anarchy reigns supreme and strong states virtually dictate the agenda based on their interests. Therefore, it suffices to conclude that if the US has the military and economic ability to implement a coercive strategy in the Gulf so that security is achieved, then it is the best way to go.


Forest, J. & Sousa, M. (2006). Oil and Terrorism in the New Gulf: Framing U.S. Energy Policy. New York: Thomson Learning.

Wilkinson, P. (2010). International Relations. New York: Routledge.

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