Dec 24,2018 – JORDAN TIMES – HASSAN A. BARARI
Long-time observers of Jordan argue that Amman’s regional international alliances have helped the country keep its head above water. Jordan’s foreign policy, therefore, has been anchored in two pillars: positive engagement in regional issues, like Palestine and the war on terrorism, and keeping an alliance with a great power, Britain then the United States, and at least one regional power.
For this reason, domestic opposition has little, if any, impact on decision makers handling foreign policy. To be sure, the domestic opposition has never enjoyed any credible and committed outside backer. On the contrary, it is the state that has been garnering support through decisive and credible external alliances. This fact has led the elite to believe that Jordan’s survival is a regional necessity and that the international community would not allow Jordan to descend into mayhem.
Some Jordanian liberals who have influenced, in no small amount, the economic policies of the country, have relied on their perception, or even misperception, of the centrality of Jordan when they mismanaged the economy. Their economic arguments were based on shifting sands! Jordanians are impoverished and employment is almost at 19 per cent. And it is as if the poverty of people is not enough: the level of government debt is unprecedented. In short, the economic policy that the liberals have endorsed has weakened Jordan. Some liberals even went as far as saying that Jordan is so central that the allies would not let Jordan down.
That naïve argument does not tell us if it is in Jordan’s best interest to rely on the intentions of its allies. In international politics, it is not possible to talk about permanent alliances. I wonder if Jordan’s allies ask the government to accept the unthinkable, like the infamous deal of the century, what Jordan would do. The price of non-compliance may be high. Who would replace the United States, for example, which helps Jordan with over $1 billion a year? Hence, chances are high that Jordan finds itself with no real allies if it decides to defy the requests to accept the deal of the century.
I strongly believe that Jordan is not without alternatives. The most suitable one is to embark on genuine democratic reform. If Jordan can just do that, then the government would be both responsible and responsive to the priorities of Jordanians. It is hardly possible to talk about this current government as responsive to the needs of people. Good governance also could help the country control its fiscal policies, a step that can alleviate the economic hardships.
I am not saying that there are not economic solutions, but I think that Jordan should avoid a situation where it finds itself between a rock and a hard place. Jordan can say no to its traditional allies but in this case, it needs to fix its politics internally. Over the course of more than 15 years, all governments have followed the same policies that have enfeebled both the country and the people alike. This should be the number one lesson for all of us in this country. We cannot just rely on allies!