Trailing Michael Dell in Saudi Arabia

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When I was recently in Saudi Arabia, I visited the impressive campus of King Saud University which sports more than 80,000 students and is making major investments in the science infrastructure of the country.
We also visited SAGIA, the Saudi Arabia General Investment Authority, which is helping to oversee and implement the Kingdom’s competitiveness agenda. Saudi competitiveness as a place to do business is surging among all countries, and particularly in the Middle East. This year, Saudi Arabia ranked 23rd among all countries, up ten positions from its 2007 ranking.
SAGIA’s economic cities program is mammoth in scale — and either could possibly be one of the most foolish or very best gambles a country has made on its own future. Firms like Cisco Systems are embedding their highest speed, next generation information management infrastructure in the foundation of these economic cities — and it will be interesting to see whether the Japanese, Chinese, European, Korean, and possibly even American populations that move into these cities along with Saudi citizens become more than the sum of the impressive parts that have been assembled or not.
But while working through our itinerary, at many of our stops Dell CEO Michael Dell had just been there. According to the people he had met in the goverment and in the academic establishment, Dell had not been to Saudi Arabia before — but it does seem that American firms are investing time in the Kingdom again. . .and their interest is not driven just by oil but by the effort of Saudi Arabia to remake the national and regional economic landscape.
Terrorism is often the lens through which Americans write about Saudi Arabia, but after seeing the country firsthand and witnessing the economic dynamism and change afoot — journalists and other interlocutors are offering a badly distorted picture of the forces shaping the Saudi State and Gulf region.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

22 comments on “Trailing Michael Dell in Saudi Arabia

  1. TonyForesta says:

    I hear you and agree with you David. Your question (“What does it mean to thank someone for his or her service, if that service is as the agent for a war crime?”) raises a disturbing yet important point. There comes a time when support for the troops will be smothered by the sheer gravity of the bloody, costly crimes involved.
    Impeachment is our best hope for affecting any real change.

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  2. Winston Walker says:

    Opinions wanted, does the following seem viable:
    http://www.orbat.com/site/energy/us%20energy%20independence.htm
    The absolute best way for the US to destroy Iran…
    • …and other enemies like Saudi Arabia is to launch a crash program to substantially reduce oil consumption and to produce oil by other means such as shale and coal-to-oil. US should be installing enough capacity that it exports oil.
    • Oh yes, we are quite aware of the environmental issues. But freeze that thought for a minute.
    • Think of a crash program utilizing ALL technologies: more US drilling, coal-to-oil, shale oil, tar sands, N-power, vastly expanded solar/wind, cut transport use by increasing mileage standards/raising taxes. double mileage standards/cut demand by raising taxes.
    • Let’s use round figures. US imports about 13-million bbl/day of crude/products. Lets say US needs to replace 5-million bbl/day that comes from unstable areas and it needs to export 5-million bbl/day to supply the world with oil when it blocks oil exports from countries that need smacking.
    • Okay, increasing mileage standards/decreasing use can cut 5-million bbl/day. Goodbye imports from volatile areas. Produce 5-million bbl/day with the combination of above technologies. That will be needed when you smack – say – Iran. WE blockade its ports and supply the world with the lost 2 million bbl/day or whatever. Let’s arbitrarily assume the US government will need to subsidize this shift to the tune of $200-billion for 20 years. Throw $200-billion more into a mass expansion of N-power – that’s the government contribution, the world is awash with liquidity, money for capital costs is not a problem. Why N-power? Because you need to start shutting down coal generation plants both for environmental reasons and to reduce the pressure on coal prices.
    • Next – back to the greens, and aside from Mr. Dick Cheney we are all greens at some level. Simple politics, and simple good stewardship of the earth says that if you are going to get the greens to agree even on national security grounds, they have to get something in return. So throw $200-billion over 20 years into each of the following: environmental cleanup of the damage caused by the coal-to-oil etc.; $200-billion into subsidies for clean new technologies – solar, wind, whatever; and $200-billion as subsides for mass transit. You are then spending $4 dollars to keep greens happy plus money to shift the existing base from coal to nuclear for every $1 for oil produced by other means.
    • Forget about Iraq for the moment, assume the regular defense/foreign aid/intelligence budget can be cut by $50 billion/year – say less than 10% of existing spending because we wont have to give a hang about the Middle East. You’ve paid off that trillion in 20 years. And in 20 years, with new technologies and a vast expansion of existing technologies like wind and solar producing results, you can start shutting down the extra coal and start drawing down on existing coal, which is used mainly for power plants.
    • You don’t want to cut the defense budget? You don’t like our figures and you want to – say – spend more on clean-up and subsides for solar/wind etc so less is needed for N-power etc? Okay, would you be happy with an additional $50-billion a year? That’s $100-billion/year – what we spend on Iraq without a squeak. It means 0.8% of the current GNP – a lot less of the 2027 GNP. That money won’t break any bank – and it will generate millions of good jobs for the US.
    • It would be nice to build a consensus on this, and if it is presented as a national security issue, and environmentalists are given iron-clad assurances that money will be spent on things they value – reduced consumption, clean-up, new clean technologies – and that the dirty stuff is temporary, they should find it palatable.
    • After all, no one wants to be held hostage to foreigners who hate America and use our money to try and destroy us. Environmentalists are patriots too.
    • But if consensus cannot be quickly built – well, the President keeps telling us we are at war, doesn’t he? Time to put his money where his mouth is. In war you enact wartime measures.

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  3. David says:

    Tony,
    I do direct all of my anger at the bastards who sent our men and women into this misbegotten war crime. And I support them in the only way that makes any sense to me, namely doing everything I can to get them home. But you missed the point of my question, I think. What does it mean to thank someone for his or her service, if that service is as the agent for a war crime? I do not condemn our troops, and I do hope with all my being for their safety and safe return. But what of the actions they are condemned to by our leaders? Do I thank them for attacking Sadr City, or for laying waste to Fallujah? That makes no sense.
    What I do is not thank them, but grieve for them and for the Iraqis, who are suffering beyond anything we can imagine back here in the comfort of a nation not being destroyed by an invasion, and by an occupation which is providing nothing toward the well being of Iraqis. What I am thankful for is that, on balance, members of the American military are among the most decent in history. But I cannot thank someone for obeying orders. I can only ask, How did it come to pass that it was possible for the President of the United States to employ good people in a misbegotten criminal act of aggression?
    Thank you for your service, sadly, becomes a trap. Thank you to those who refused, and continue to refuse, to be part of this war crime, is more in order, coupled with genuine compassion for all the victims of this war crime, including our men and women serving in Iraq, many genuinely believing they are part of a just mission. And, I hasten to add, full care for those who return damaged by this war, and full-fledged humanitarian assistance for the Iraqi victims, preferably through the United Nations, but with the United States the primary foreign funding source, and an Iraq free from occupiers and free to sort out its own future.
    Yes, I guess I am a dreamer.

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  4. JohnH says:

    Now the geniuses in Washington have decided to blackmail Saudi Arabia. Not for their human rights record but for–you guessed it–oil. OO-oo. This will really scare King Abdullah!
    http://uk.reuters.com/article/oilRpt/idUKN1340364120080513
    And they expect us to believe that everything we do in the Middle East (Israel excluded) is not primarily about oil!

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  5. Winston Walker says:

    TonyForesta
    About SA, I agree. How do we implement pulling all support from SA and all nations like it without collasping these nations into chaos and having neighboring nations with just horrible records rush in. Russia or China would not just let the peices fall where they may. I would fear the price of gas might approach the $10 mark considering the amount of sweet light crude SA produces.

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  6. arthurdecco says:

    “In my opinion, you’re so far from being what you claim; you’ve lost your right to a civil rebuttal.”
    Did you read this sentence, Mr. Walker?
    Winston Walker said: “Political agendas with indifference or worse toward the opposition(in this case perceived opposition) and without compassion will bear a nation the same results regardless of ideology, a bullet to the head of those in the minority.”
    Can you elaborate on this car wreck of a sentence? I found it incomprehensible.

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  7. Winston Walker says:

    arthurdecco,
    It seems you somewhat “ditto”ed yourself in trying to describe me. For everything you hate in the neocons, conservatives, Bushites, whatever you seem to have alot in common.
    1. wanting to take my right to free speech
    2. name calling; barren,bankrupt right wing ideologue, propagandist, outright liar.
    3. Telling me to,”shud-da-fock-up!”
    bellicose-Warlike in manner or temperament; pugnacious.
    That describes you better than I, sir.
    …And for what, a joke. You’d have come off better appealing to who you supposed to be an idiot with an attempt or at least appear to try to educate. Instead you attacked, forming yourself into that which you banter on about disliking so much. Your just of a different point of political view.
    Political agendas with indifference or worse toward the opposition(in this case perceived opposition) and without compassion will bear a nation the same results regardless of ideology, a bullet to the head of those in the minority.
    I bow sir to your greatness and to that of those who agreed with you.

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  8. Winston Walker says:

    Winston Walker said: “It all makes sense now… the liberals are leading us to socialism (which will end in the birth of neocommunism), the conservatives in a conspiracy theory ladened plot are driving us to fascism, and the moderates, well we’re just bumping back and forth trying to slow us down on the way to either path to hell!
    WOW! People please reread the above with a smile on your face, it was meant to poke fun at all of us. If you can’t see the humor then drink or smoke something. Maybe take some Ex-lax for the contipation.

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  9. TonyForesta says:

    Yes David. Yes. As difficult and contrapuntal as it may seem, we must support our soldiers. Contractors deserve much deeper scrutiny, – but our soldiers are simply doing what is asked of them, and performing tasks they are ordered to execute and complete. It is leadership that is responsible for our soldiers, our warfighters work. Government leadership hurls our daughters and sons to war, – not the military. We cannot disparage our soldiers for being hurled into combat by leaders whose aims are prefidious, predatory, and bent on wanton profiteering.
    The Bush government is singularly, and exclusively responsible, accountable, and culpable for the costly, bloody, noendinsight horrorshow, and excuse for wanton profiteering in Iraq. Our soldiers are obeying orders. They cannot be blamed for our leaders abuses, failures, or crimes.
    Focus on holding the Bush government accountable, and our soldiers missions, and operations will change radically and swiftly. America is in Iraq, because the fascists in the Bush government are profiteering wantonly from our bloody, costly, noendinsight commitments to Iraq.
    We need you brother, but I beg you do not misdirect your righteous anger toward our soldiers who are force to obey orders.

    Reply

  10. David says:

    Question for me is whether or not King Saud University is essentially a secular/science-based educational enterprise. If so, with 80,000 students, it is a good thing. As I’ve said elsewhere, I am not at all impressed by the idea of transferrence of power to nations that I would have to describe as pre-enlightenment emerging capitalist states.
    The United States, sadly, has abrogated its place as a force for enlightenment in the world, choosing instead to be a unilateral military force indulging in a crusade which is essentially pseudo-enlightened. In fact, what we have done in and to Iraq is barbaric, and in the process we have unleashed the most barbaric forces in Iraq.
    And while I feel great compassion for the gullible grunts in our armed forces in Iraq (Pat Tillman, God grant him the grace of spiritual rest and his family spiritual comfort and courage as they challenge the assholes in the Bush administration, was not gullible, and called the invasion of Iraq exactly what it was), would someone please explain to me exactly for what I am supposed to thank our men and women sent on this misbegotten mission. I do thank individual troops for every decent act they perform in the midst of that war crime, but it is a war crime. Am I supposed to thank them for following orders and invading Iraq?

    Reply

  11. PissedOffAmerican says:

    HAH!!!
    It always amazes me seeing the braying of a jackass answered by sane communication.
    If a jackass understood sane communication, he wouldn’t need to bray.

    Reply

  12. TonyForesta says:

    Word aurthurdecco. Apologists and fensewalking wingnuts like Winston Walker disingenuously slime librerals hurlinig entirely unsubstantiated, and wildly inaccurate scurrilous aspersions at opponents of the Bush government because the cannot deny or walk away from the obvious facts and glaring truth that the socalled neocons and the Bush government “are driving us to fascism.”
    The latter is factbasedreality, – the former a scurrilous lie.

    Reply

  13. arthurdecco says:

    Winston Walker said: “It all makes sense now… the liberals are leading us to socialism (which will end in the birth of neocommunism), the conservatives in a conspiracy theory ladened plot are driving us to fascism, and the moderates, well we’re just bumping back and forth trying to slow us down on the way to either path to hell!
    Mr Walker, Judging by your post, you’re far from being a moderate anywhere other than in your mind.
    In my opinion, you’re so far from being what you claim; you’ve lost your right to a civil rebuttal.
    Liberals leading to neocommunism!?! (If you could only see me guffawing out loud at the preposterousness of this dismal, third-rate dig at liberalism…lmao! Are you one of those buffoons who believe that anyone who ever tried smoking pot as a kid ended up as a gun-wielding heroin addict on the streets of New Yawk?)
    And as far as your right whing turn of phrase in your faux ‘attack’ on modern American fascists, cloaked as they are by their self-description as ‘Conservatives’ goes: “the conservatives in a conspiracy theory ladened plot are driving us to fascism…” Where’s the conspiracy theory laden plot, Winston? All the evidence I’m privy to shows that America is tumbling head over heels into a fascist nightmare – a fascist nightmare engineered by the well-fed and polished vermin currently infecting the shining corridors of American power under the banners of both of your corporate-controlled political parties – vermin enabled by fools who unthinkingly regurgitate their nonsense like you have just done here.
    There’s no ‘conspiracy laden plot’ anywhere near the accusation of fascism’s takeover of America except in the minds of the usual resentful, self-centered and bellicose suspects who spend their days shrieking out talking points into the on-line eyes and ears of those too polite to tell them to shud-da-fock-up!
    You’re about as much of a ‘moderate’ as any other barren and bankrupt right wing ideologue – no more, no less, though you’re certainly are as much of a propagandist and outright liar as any one of them, aren’t you?
    You people make me weary…Will your disingenuous din ever end?

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  14. Winston Walker says:

    Careful Steve, PNAC for you might be like someone else’s “crazy uncle” or “neighbor.” O’Boy!
    FROM: “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” Blueprint of the PNAC Plan for U.S. Global Hegemony
    Compiled by: Bette Stockbauer
    “Some people have compared it to Hitler’s publication of Mein Kampf, which was ignored
    until after the war was over.”
    Members of PNAC are so self-assured they are advancing America’s best interests that they publish policy papers specifically outlining their plans, plans that many fear may be laying the groundwork for a third world war. Their ideas are peculiarly atavistic, considering the friendly ties that have been forged between most of the major nations during the past ten years.

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  15. Steve Clemons says:

    Susan — my views on PNAC’s agenda are well known and searchable on this site. I don’t support PNAC’s global agenda. I believe I signed two letters at the time that dealt with civil society issues in China and Asia. These letters were not about endorsing PNAC’s entire agenda, though PNAC did promulgate the letters. I supported the substance of those letters and still do.
    I think those I meet in the Middle East look at me as a pragmatic, level-headed, open-minded thinker and none has ever raised the fact that I signed PNAC/China letters.
    best regards,
    Steve Clemons

    Reply

  16. susan says:

    Steve, as a PNAC signatory, how are you received into the Middle Eastern countries you visit?
    “The fundamental essence of PNAC’s ideology can be found in a White Paper produced in September of 2000 entitled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century.” In it, PNAC outlines what is required of America to create the global empire they envision. According to PNAC, America must:
    * Reposition permanently based forces to Southern Europe, Southeast Asia and the Middle East;
    * Modernize U.S. forces, including enhancing our fighter aircraft, submarine and surface fleet capabilities;
    * Develop and deploy a global missile defense system, and develop a strategic dominance of space;
    * Control the “International Commons” of cyberspace;
    * Increase defense spending to a minimum of 3.8 percent of gross domestic product, up from the 3 percent currently spent.
    Most ominously, this PNAC document described four “Core Missions” for the American military. The two central requirements are for American forces to “fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars,” and to “perform the ‘constabulary’ duties associated with shaping the security environment in critical regions.” Note well that PNAC does not want America to be prepared to fight simultaneous major wars. That is old school. In order to bring this plan to fruition, the military must fight these wars one way or the other to establish American dominance for all to see.”

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  17. Winston Walker says:

    *feeding off of Lances’ post-
    It all makes sense now… the liberals are leading us to socialism (which will end in the birth of neocommunism), the conservatives in a conspiracy theory ladened plot are driving us to fascism, and the moderates, well we’re just bumping back and forth trying to slow us down on the way to either path to hell!

    Reply

  18. lance peeples says:

    If Saudi Arabia is a great place to do business and if China is a great place to do business; and, both are more dictatorships than democracies, then is the US using the wrong governmental model?
    With the conservatives and neocons having their way in the US since Reagan, it appears that they are implementing a softer, gentler form of fascism without the general public’s awareness of our societies transformation.

    Reply

  19. TonyForesta says:

    Sorry for the double post but, for clarity, the last sentence should have read: (“SA should {NOT} be given any support from America or any civilized nation until Saudi Arabians, and the House of Saud who rules them ruthlessly, joins the 21st century and rejects the malignancy, depravity, and bloodthirsty insanity of wahabist islam.”)

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  20. TonyForesta says:

    The problem with Saudi Arabia is it’s primitive, barbaric state religion and malignant interpretation of islam or religion (wahabaism). The predator class through out the world and the respective oligarchs, klans, cabals and cronies that aid and abet the predator class all over the world look to SA economic power, (based souly on the worlds largest known oil reserves) as a profit making stream, – but ignores the sad fact that Saudi Arabia beheads woman in public for exposing their shoulders, or walking unaccompanied by a tribal elder – excuses the fact the certain elements of the House of Saud utilize their otherwordly wealth gleaned from our petro dollars to nuture and support massmurdergangs, (like al Quaida) who actively work to kill all jews, Americans, and infididels, – and cloak the fact that said jews, Americans, and infidels are not allowed to visit and cannot even walk the streets of Mecca or Medina.
    The ends are wildly conflicting. The predatory class benefits from the faustian arrangement with SA, but the rest of the worlds suffers grieviously from the conduct of the SA government, and the malignant teachings of wahabism.
    Selling our souls to an oleaginous shaitans in SA for the wanton profits of the predator class and the oligarchs, cabals, klans and cronies that gain from dealings with SA is doomed to fail.
    Note our former relationship with Saddam, or the Sandinista’s or any of the myriad tyrannical despots America’s predator class armed and supported for the wanton profits of thefew. In the end, the conflicted and odious arrangements blow up in our faces, and while the predator class gets paid coming and going, – the rest of America and the world is forced to hazard and burden the bloody, costly consequences.
    SA should be given any support from America or any civilized nation until Saudi Arabians, and the House of Saud who rules them, joins the 21st century and rejects the malignancy, depravity, and bloodthirsty insanity of wahabist islam.

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  21. JohnH says:

    Saudi Arabia may theoretically be becoming a better place to do business, but as long a they have oil to export, they won’t be internationally competitive on much else. Oil is their comparative advantage, period. Like it or not, that’s their situation.
    As rapier notes, companies will invest in Saudia Arabia to get access to their lucrative market. Meanwhile Saudi Arabia has to invest all those petrodollars and investment dollars abroad, to keep inflation from getting out of control.
    Too bad “liberalization” seems limited to business, not to social problems and human rights. That’s not going to change as long as the monarchy is not beholden to its citizens for raising tax revenue. When you hit up the citizenry for taxes, they demand something in return.

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  22. rapier says:

    Dell and others are they because the Saudis have so much money. Anyone and everyone wants a part of it. So much they don’t know what to do with it all.
    The money is dollars and it’s a problem. It’s causing sever inflation in the Kingdom, the region and the entire world. Many of the dollars are being directly recycled by ‘investing’ in US Treasury paper. One of the worst investments of all time, getting miniscule actually negative returns denominated in a sinking currency. This price insensitive buying in turn makes interest rates too low thus encouraging ever more leveraged speculation and malinvestment.
    Meanwhile some of those dollars are being deposited in Saudi banks for Saudi currency. Where do those riyals come from? They are printed up since the bank has that dollar on deposit. They comes the tricky part. The dollars still go out to buy up Treasury paper. Money creation on steroids. This is what China does, Japan too. This is the engine of the worlds inflation. Money creation turbocharged with Nitros, because of the absurd dollar based system
    Well anyway Dell and the rest want those dollars to invest in something other than Uncle Sams paper. Everyone wants a piece of it.

    Reply

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