In This Review

After the Sheikhs: The Coming Collapse of the Gulf Monarchies
After the Sheikhs: The Coming Collapse of the Gulf Monarchies
By Christopher Davidson
Oxford University Press, 2013, 320 pp

Predicting business as usual is always the safest bet. Davidson follows a riskier path, predicting that the monarchies and emirates of the Arabian Peninsula will collapse within the next five years. As causes, he cites declining fossil fuel reserves, fiscally unsustainable social pacts, restive Shiite populations, alienated youth, and the impact of the Arab uprisings. But the evidence he presents is not convincing. Much depends on the nexus of declining fossil fuel revenues and outlays on social welfare. But Davidson shares no systematic data on either part of that equation. And so far, the Arab uprisings have served to enhance, rather than undermine, the legitimacy of the Gulf monarchies. That said, the Sunni monarchy of Bahrain emerges as the one government whose grip on power seems most precarious, owing to the resistance of the country’s oppressed Shiite majority. But Bahrain’s ruling family has successfully wed itself to U.S. national security policy; the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain. If Davidson’s predictions do materialize, the United States will be in an awkward position.