Americans Should Root For Qatar's Success as World Cup Host
The two nations enjoy a robust trading and economic relationship, a shared desire for peace and stability in the Middle East, and an enthusiasm for a bright future of innovative solutions to myriad challenges.
In the coming weeks, the Middle East nation of Qatar will host the World Cup, the world’s premier soccer tournament. Consisting of 211 national associations and the tournament's governing body, the Federation International Football Association (FIFA) estimates that more than half of the world’s population will monitor the tournament. Concurrent related festivities include elaborate fashion shows, concerts, philanthropic events, and parties.
Just as South Korea did with the 1988 Olympics, Qatar is seizing the FIFA World Cup games as an opportunity to elevate its international profile and enhance its internal infrastructure. Modernizing through its National Vision 2030, Qatar is now creating a lasting and positive legacy. The country boasts state-of-the-art infrastructure and transportation, eight new stadium facilities that will be repurposed for sustainable use following the games, a more diverse energy grid featuring solar and natural gas, and ambitions for a robust knowledge-based and diversified economy. In touting Qatar’s progress towards empowering a workforce of the future, the Emir recently spoke proudly of how more than 60 percent of their university students are women and how more than half of women in the country are in the workforce, participating in civic and commercial life.
A strong, prosperous, and modern ally in Qatar is excellent news for the United States in a vital region. It also means that the United States will be able to build on Qatar’s successes in hosting the World Cup when the United States co-hosts the tournament in 2026 with Canada and Mexico.
The United States has had diplomatic bonds with Qatar now for fifty years. Qatar hosts the U.S. Central Command at its al-Udeid Air Base and cooperates on various issues, including countering violent extremism in the region. President Biden has designated Qatar a major non-NATO ally, and he thanked the Emir of Qatar for his country’s assistance in evacuating thousands of people from Afghanistan. The U.S. Treasury Department regularly works with Qatari authorities to root out terrorist financing and protect the world financial system from abuse.
The bonds between the United States and Qatar are more than diplomacy and national security. According to the U.S. State Department statistics, the United States is the largest foreign direct investor in Qatar, and over 120 American companies are operating there. As of 2019, U.S. exports to Qatar reached $6.5 billion. While people typically think of Qatar's oil and gas sector, U.S. companies also do well in defense, aviation, healthcare, and construction, among others. In turn, Qatar has announced plans to invest $45 billion in the United States. The Qataris have already executed impressive projects, such as the developing of the City Center area of Washington, DC.
In the lead-up to the World Cup tournament, Qatar has not gone without criticism. It has been the subject of scathing reports for alleged abuses of migrant workers during the construction process and intolerance towards the LGTBQ community. Qatar’s response has been to take the issues head-on by overhauling their labor laws to ensure more favorable conditions, address worker grievances, and have senior members of Qatar’s leadership deliver the message publicly that all fans from around the world will be welcomed.
Americans should feel encouraged by these developments. While these work-in-progress enhancements have already achieved significant results, it is good to know that Qatar’s government will continue making significant human rights strides into the future.
The relationship between Qatar and the United States gives Americans a cause to celebrate. The two nations enjoy a robust trading and economic relationship, a shared desire for peace and stability in the Middle East, and an enthusiasm for a bright future of innovative solutions to myriad challenges.
The World Cup is first and foremost about athletic excellence, the shared human experience sports gives all people, and cheering on our national teams. In today’s day and age, however, political and social impacts are always top of mind as well. In this instance, the United States has an interest in seeing its ally and trading partner succeed, and all the early signals are pointing to that success.
Colonel Wes Martin (Ret) has served in multiple joint service commands throughout the world.