The German Leopard 2 main battle tank is hailed by many as the finest tank the world has ever seen. With its 120mm, smoothbore cannon, reactive armor plating, and cruising speeds of 45mph over rough terrain, it is a $5.74million battlefield force to be reckoned with (Military-Today, no date).
Guess who just ordered 62 of these bad boys along with a complement of the world’s most advanced self-propelled howitzers from Germany? None-other than the tiny nation of Qatar. The contract was sealed April 18th and plans are in the works to round the final purchase number to 200 of these tanks, worth $2.6billion (PressTV, 2013).
Michael Ross, as discussed in class, explains three ways in which resource-rich autocratic countries maintain control overt their populaces: citizen buyoff, financial secrecy, and “lavish” military expenditures (Ross, 2011). Qatar certainly has the wealth to accomplish all three of these aims, this particular example benefiting the military. Qatar already ranks 3rd in the world for highest spender of GDP on its military with an average of 10% GDP every year (CIA, 2013). An advanced tank force such as this would command respect from the most developed of world militaries, and strike fear into the hearts of underdeveloped would-be adversaries.
So from what adversary does Qatar anticipate hostilities requiring such an advanced tank force? In the MENA region visited by the Arab Spring, does Qatar too face domestic threats?
With a per capita GDP of $102,800, the highest in the world (CIA, 2013), the citizenry of the monarchic state are usually considered contently docile as they themselves are bought off with tax cuts and government handouts. The true inhabiting population of potential dissidents comes from somewhere further from home: Southeast Asia. As described in my last blog entry, Qatar is to play host to a future FIFA World Cup. This will require the rapid creation of an enormous stadium, vast transportation expansions, and overhauling of all the infrastructure in and around Doha in order to not only accommodate the event, but to showcase the country’s “boundless” wealth. This will require a massive influx of workers to join the already swollen ranks (1.5 million, according to Blake Hounshell, 2012) of migrant laborers, putting their numbers well above the current population of Qatar, which sits around 2 million (CIA, 2013).
Qatar has not been known to treat these workers with ample respect and fairness; The Sponsorship Law of the country dictates that once a migrant worker arrives, they cannot do anything of importance, not even leave Qatar again, without the express permission of their Sponsor (Weingarten, 2011). This veiled indentured servitude allows for the mistreatment and low pay given to the current migrant workers. An influx of migrants would mean an outnumbered Qatar population and the potential for some very overworked laborers that wonder why their construction toiling for a better Qatar did really bear them much fruit.
Qatar has bought off its citizens, has already been known to lavish its military, and now has the ability to conduct a technologically advanced ground war tank campaign. The only remaining domestic threats are those of a foreign origin, and although they may have the manpower, but they lack one key ingredient to posing a threat to their unfair masters : German tanks.
Central Intelligence Agency, (2013). CIA World Factbook. Retrieved from website: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/qa.html
Hounshell, B. (2012, June). The Qatar bubble. Foreign Policy
Military-Today. (n.d.). Leopard 2 main battle tank. Retrieved from http://www.military-today.com/tanks/leopard_2.htm
PressTV. (2013, April 23). Germany’s KMW to sell Leopard 2 tanks to Qatar. Retrieved from http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/04/23/299719/germanys-kmw-selling-tanks-to-qatar/
Ross, M. L. (2011). Will oil drown the arab spring? democracy and the resource curse. Foreign Affairs, 9(5), doi: FRNA000020110902e79100001
Weingarten, E. (2011, March 25). Why qatar seems immune from the arab world's revolutionary fever. The Slate Group. Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2011/03/were_not_gonna_protest.html