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Skeptical and Optimistic at the Same Time

Reader comment on item: On Recent Saudi Reforms: A Conversation

Submitted by Alex, Nov 22, 2017 at 11:23

I feel positively toward the reformist ideas Mohammed bin Salman, but I have two reasons for skepticism:

1) The reforms are being applied politically before they are formulated as ideas--I think less in any sinister sense of sneaking them into Saudi behavioral norms in some Marxist-like social engineering, and more out of what I'd call the bureaucratic idealism that one can observe repeatedly in the past in Saudi government proposals for new massive projects. Without a tyrannical, Leninist (or at least Ataturk-like) approach with full propaganda and educational messaging pre-prepared, letting Saudi women drive, for example, looks more like a source of tension than progress. Barack Obama as POTUS tried the surreptitious method of reforming American political culture--passing laws like the Affordable Care Act essentially in secret to fundamentally change American economic culture--and the result was a partisan "wave" election in 2016 that no one predicted.

2) The reforms are being applied politically before being formulated in the realm of ideas. There was a Martin Luther before there was a Martin Luther King, Jr.

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