Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Dissertation: Peninsular Shield Force

As I've mentioned a few times, I spent some time in the Middle East. While I was there, I kept track of security issues in the region, and learned a little bit about the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and its security subsidiary, the Peninsula Shield Force (PSF). The GCC currently consists of Bahrain, the Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, and may expand to include Jordan and Morocco. There are several different ways that I could approach a potential dissertation on the PSF. I've spent a lot of this week collecting links and some preliminary sources from a variety of sources.

There are a variety of topics that would have to be covered, such as the PSF's history, the member nations' various national threat concerns, and other relevant issues. Overarching issues include maritime security concerns, the Iranian nuclear program and Iranian espionage efforts, energy and resource security, economic diversification, local population density relative to security and economic needs, youth engagement, largely expatriate workforces, and pervasive Chinese influence. Other environmental concerns, like water supplies and desertification. (I'm generally skeptical about environmentalism concerns creeping into strategic or security studies, but it's worth noting if only for the human factors.)

Beyond these overarching concerns, some regimes also suffer from internal questions about regime legitimacy. Others, like Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, are concerned with internal sectarian tensions that have allegedly been agitated by neighboring Iran. Oman is concerned with maritime security, to include piracy in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden; Kuwait is concerned with maritime security relative to Iraq; and all of the GCC/PSF nations are concerned with free access through the Gulf of Hormuz. Saudi Arabia and Oman are naturally concerned with continued instability in neighboring Yemen, while Qatar and the Emirates are likely concerned with potential fallout from their increased influence outside the Gulf in places like Libya and Syria. Meanwhile, the Emirates are at perpetual odds with Iran over several strategic islands between the two nations. Internal security concerns include the Shia populations in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, and the Bedouns/Biduns (not to be confused with Bedouins, who are different) in Kuwait and the Emirates. There have also been internal disputes between the GCC nations themselves, such as an alleged Emirati spy network operating in Oman, or a Saudi cleric who claimed that the Kuwaiti Emir was "not qualified".

There are a wealth of recent incidents to discuss as well. These include the Emirates' attempt to hire former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince to organize a Colombian mercenary army, the PSF's deployment to Bahrain in March of 2011 to guard Bahraini infrastructure during the height of the Bahraini civil unrest, and the break-up of several "foreign"/Iranian spy rings in the Gulf during the early months of 2011. This topic would also allow me to rely on several big open source resources, like the CIA's World Factbook, the State Department's annual Country Reports on Terrorism and international travel resources, and the BBC's Country Profiles.

There are a lot of different directions I could go with this particular topic, many different resources I could use, and many different incidents to discuss. The other potential benefit could be that, if I were to make a serious attempt to get a job at the ECSSR, writing my dissertation on this topic would be a good start toward that goal, and I could expand on it if I were hired to work there. Otherwise, it would also be a great way to demonstrate to potential American employers that I have expertise in the Persian Gulf Region, potentially recommending me for work involving the Gulf.

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