How is it possible for very small, very rich, yet militarily weak countries to retain their independence? If the world is as dog-eat-dog as realists depict, why are these states still in business?

Stephen M. Walt, professor of international relations at Harvard University, in a Foreign Policy article questioning why Qatar, the UAE and other tiny wealthy countries are not gobbled up by their “greedy” neighbors.

His theories include:

  • “It turned out to be easier to let local elites run these societies, instead of turning them into sullen and resentful colonies.”
  • “The absence of a regional great power with the capacity to absorb the others… makes it possible for balance-of-power politics to work.”
  • “Once a country’s government and borders have been recognized by others, the status quo takes on a life of its own and efforts to overturn it face an uphill fight.”
  • “Small countries.. enhance their security by making themselves more valuable to others as independent entities than they would be as colonies.”


Credit: Photo by Pepe Pont

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