RT Book, Whole DB /z-wcorg/ DS http://worldcat.org ID 769425275 LA English T1 On Saudi Arabia : its people, past, religion, fault lines--and future A1 House, Karen Elliott., PB Alfred A. Knopf PP New York YR 2012 SN 9780307272164 0307272168 AB A journalist draws on three decades of firsthand experience to profile contemporary Saudi Arabia, offering insight into its leaders, citizens, cultural complexities, and international prospects. Through observation, anecdote, extensive interviews, and analysis the author navigates the maze in which Saudi citizens find themselves trapped and reveals the mysterious nation that is the world's largest exporter of oil, critical to global stability, and a source of Islamic terrorists. In this portrait, we see Saudi Arabia, one of the last absolute monarchies in the world, as threatened by multiple fissures and forces, its levers of power controlled by a handful of elderly Al Saud princes. The author writes that oil-rich Saudi Arabia has become a rundown welfare state. The public pays no taxes; gets free education and health care; and receives subsidized water, electricity, and energy, with its petrodollars buying less and less loyalty. The author makes clear that the royal family also uses Islam's requirement of obedience to Allah, and by extension to Earthly rulers, to perpetuate Al Saud rule. Behind the Saudi facade of order and obedience, today's Saudi youth, frustrated by social conformity, are reaching out to one another and to a wider world beyond their cloistered country. Some 50 percent of Saudi youth are on the Internet; 5.1 million Saudis are on Facebook. The author argues that most Saudis do not want democracy but seek change nevertheless; they want a government that provides basic services without subjecting citizens to the indignity of begging princes for handouts; a government less corrupt and more transparent in how it spends hundreds of billions of annual oil revenue; a kingdom ruled by law, not royal whim. She discusses what the next generation of royal princes might bring and the choices the kingdom faces: continued economic and social stultification with growing risk of instability, or an opening of society to individual initiative and enterprise with the risk that this, too, undermines the Al Saud hold on power.