By Bilal Y. Saab – What is the state of science and technology in the Arab world and the broader Middle East? How does science and technology relate to the promotion and development of good practices of arms control?
The global arms control experience and record so far show without any doubt the crucial and increasing role of civil society and the scientific community in the arms control process. Just think of it this way: government officials, diplomats and bureaucrats often lack the knowledge about certain types of weapons systems and their effects and need the input of civilian experts and medical doctors (if it’s biological or chemical agents) outside government. Long story short, scientific cooperation and integration into the arms control process is paramount.
Should a serious arms control process be re-laucnhed in the Middle East, what role will Arab, Turkish, Iranian, Kurdish, and Israeli scientists play (or be allowed to play)? It might be premature to guess at present given the uncertainties of two developements: One, the Arab uprising and the extent to which it will open up political processes in all countries undergoing transitions. Two, whether or not the 2012 Middle East WMD-free conference will happen, as it is the perfect opportunity to resume the interrupted arms control process in the region. Also don’t forget that the region is not excatly stellar in the sciences. So that by itself is an objective limitation, which hopefully can be remedied with political and economic changes sweeping the region. I urge you to check out the works of my former Brookings colleagues (also good friends) Kristin Lord and Steve Grand on the state of S&T in the Arab world. Kristin has moved on to CNAS and is now director of studies there. She is a terrific scholar of public diplomacy and things that actually matter.