In 2017, the United States decided to sell more than $110 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, including attack missiles and tanks. This deal may seem like a home run for the United States: jobs were created and the economy was stimulated. Moreover, by strengthening the alliance between oil-rich Saudi Arabia and the United States, President Trump earned praise for his diplomacy and business acumen. However, selling arms to a country currently causing a humanitarian crisis is a major violation of the values that the United States has extolled since its creation.
Saudi Arabia has made it clear that it will use these arms to dispel Houthi rebels in Yemen in order to preserve its regional dominance. These military efforts in Yemen have contributed to thousands of deaths and widespread starvation. This imperfect deal between Saudi Arabia and the United States is concrete proof of the negligence that states show toward geopolitical conflicts when conducting business. With the deal now in place, the United States is culpable for the demise of Yemen and the toxic political climate in the Middle East.
I view the international business curriculum as a vehicle for understanding the balance between the limitless opportunities of our international markets and the intricate, fragile global connections that bind humanity. Classes about technology in global markets enumerate the exciting possibilities of innovation, but classes on war and strategy highlight the lethal effects of combining technology and trade. The curriculum teaches us how we can aid countries like Saudi Arabia with their technology while also stimulating our GDP and diminishing the power of a common enemy like Iran; however, it also teaches us about the pain that we can cause by ignoring the cultural and political ramifications. A fundamental business ethics class combined with courses on the international politics and human rights movement of the Middle East is in itself enough to shed light on the immorality displayed by the current administration.
More importantly, however, the international business curriculum could direct us toward a path to resolving this conflict for regional hegemony. By providing intensive education in both the public and private sectors, the curriculum encourages students to keep a wide range of interests in mind when developing solutions. Thanks to international studies courses, we will recognize that an arms deal cancellation could create opportunities to negotiate a new nuclear deal with Iran and more leverage in implementing United Nations policies in Yemen. With literacy in finance and international trade, student will also realize that a withdrawal protects the United States when Saudi Arabia is sanctioned for its murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and other human rights violations.
While there is no easy solution to Saudi Arabia and Iran’s proxy war, the international business curriculum can create diplomats and businessmen who appreciate that the conflict can be mitigated through strategic policymaking.