Experiencing the Gulf: CCAS Director Solidifies Ties in the Khaleej

In a whirlwind trip across the Gulf in fall 2008, CCAS director Dr. Michael Hudson helped cement the Center’s ties to a region that is rapidly growing in its importance to the world.

Because CCAS is uniquely positioned to disseminate knowledge about the Gulf’s changing dynamics, Dr. Hudson’s tour focused on new thinking in the region via building stronger linkages to academic institutions and research centers and further developing the Center’s teaching and research capabilities in the area. As such, Dr. Hudson visited some of the region’s leading academic, research, and policy institutions. While in Qatar, he met with staff, colleagues, and students at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service campus in Doha. In Dubai, he visited the new campus of Zayed University, a national women’s university now in its tenth year that has achieved international accreditation. He was also greeted by the Dean and several faculty of Effat College, founded in 1999 as the first private women’s college in Saudi Arabia. Dr. Hudson’s experiences at Zayed University and Effat College provided insight into the growing impetus for education and educational reform in the region, and highlighted possibilities for future collaboration.

In addition, Dr. Hudson met with leaders of the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies in Abu Dhabi, the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh, and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development in Kuwait. He also visited with statesmen, business leaders, and royal families, as well as the Center’s existing contacts, including board members in the region.

Dr. Hudson’s trip came at a time when worldwide attention to the U.S. presidential election was at its height. As a result, speculation about what the election could mean for the United States’ role in the world in general and the Middle East in particular permeated his discussions. Dr. Hudson gave three interviews during the trip that focused primarily on the election, one with the Doha-based television channel Al Jazeera English, and the others with the Kuwaiti newspaper Awan and the Saudi-based newspaper Arab News.

Though the U.S. election was the hot topic during the trip, the region’s increasing economic role is crucial as well. “The region has an important role to play in the global economy…it is a growing center of international finance,” said Dr. Hudson upon his return, highlighting another example of why knowledge of and links to the Gulf states are of growing importance in the U.S. and to centers like CCAS. But Dr. Hudson’s trip also came as the global financial crisis began to creep its way into the Gulf, especially financial hubs like Dubai. Housing prices have begun a downward spiral, sovereign wealth funds have taken a hit, and questions about whether the region’s economic and security group, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), can formulate a cohesive policy that will protect the region’s booming economy hang in the air.

Despite the impact that global turbulence is having on the region, the Gulf remains, according to Dr. Hudson, “particularly interesting as an area where new models of development are being formulated.” He expressed a specific interest in Dubai, noting that the emirate offers a “distinctive model of development in today’s postmodern, globalized society,” and is a microcosm of the unique strengths and difficulties that face the Gulf today. Dubai’s problems include demographic imbalance as well as issues of labor, employment, democracy promotion, and political development.

Dr. Hudson’s trip will influence the way the Center imparts knowledge of the Gulf on Georgetown’s campus. Already, students have the chance to learn about the region through classes with leading Gulf analysts, such as Dr. Jean-François Seznec and Dr. John Duke Anthony, and this year they have the “unusual opportunity,” Dr. Hudson noted, to take a class with Prince Turki Al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia, former Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. Further, contacts and ideas gleaned from the trip will inform the Center’s active public affairs program.