Foreign Policies Affecting Middle East
It is often claimed that foreign policy making that significantly affects Middle East states is either the idiosyncratic product of personalistic dictators or the unreasonable result of domestic instability. As a matter of fact, it can only be sufficiently understood through analyzing the multiple factors common to all Middle Eastern states, namely, the foreign policy determinants (interests and challenges) and the foreign policy structures and processes. Foreign policy determinants is the factor in which decision-makers respond when shaping policies while the foreign policy structures and processes deals with the inputs made by various actors into a policy addressing the determinants (Hinnebusch 2003, p. 1).
American and Israeli National Interest in the Middle East
The two oft-cited American interests in the Middle Eastern region following the end of the Cold War are the security of oil supplies and the security of Israel. Primarily, the American national interest is to secure U.S. access, along with its Western allies to oil supplies in the Gulf under reasonable prices. Thus, it directly follows that the U.S. has an interest in protecting the security of the Gulf States that are major sources of such oil supplies.
Israel’s perception of its own national security threats are weighted heavily towards a strategic and military calculus. Concern over the growing military capabilities of the rejectionist states stimulates Israel’s desire for technologically advanced conventional weaponry to offset the conventional superiority of the combined forces of its regional Arab and Iranian enemies (Robbins & Leggett 2003, p. 1). Nonetheless, less visible and more complex nonmilitary threats to Israel’s national security go underemphasized in this strategic and military calculus (Martin 2002, pp. 20-40). Paying for a strong defense puts a substantial strain on the Israeli economy. The economy is challenged to overcome the lack of natural resources (e.g. water) and the lack of Israel’s own secure sources of energy, gas and oil supplies that are critical for its developing economy. For all these reasons, Israel looks to its close U.S. alliance for strategic and military assistance, as well as for economic assistance that is indispensable for its national security (Hartung & Berrigan 2002, p. 2). This has triggered the Arab world to perceive the special relationship of U.S and Israel as encouraging their worst fears concerning the regional ambitions of Israel (Brom & Shapir 2002, pp. 87-89).
9/11 and its Impact on Foreign Policy in the ME
September 11, 2001, was a clarion call for reexamination of U.S. relations with the Arab World. From an Arab perspective, the attack on the World Trade Center signified the depth of anger that Arab populations felt for U.S. support for Israel and lack of U.S. concern for the plight of the Palestinians under Israeli occupation (Perlez 2002, p. A23). After 9/11, moderate Arab governments earnestly hoped that the United States would rededicate itself to a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instead, the Bush administration focused on the war against terrorism and its Middle East policy called for the disarmament of Iraq and ultimately the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
Middle East and Globalization
While for much of the world globalization is associated with growing interdependence and the spread of ‘zones of peace’, in the Middle East the decade of globalization (1991-2001) was ushered in by war, was marked by intrusive U.S. hegemony, renewed economic dependency on the core and continuing insecurity, and ended with yet another round of war in 2001. These events significantly shape the contemporary foreign policy affecting the Middle East.
In the early 1990s, prospects looked different to some observers: the end of the Cold War, the second Gulf War, and the advance of economic globalization seemed to provide a unique opportunity to incorporate the area into a ‘New World Order’ in which the struggle for power would be superseded by the features of the pluralist model — complex interdependence, democratic peace. The defeat and discrediting of Iraq’s militaristic Arab nationalism, the beginnings of the Arab—Israeli peace negotiations, and a Washington-imposed Pax Americana were to facilitate creation of the co-operative security arrangements needed to tame the power struggle. The consequent dilution of insecurity, together with the exhaustion of economies from arms races, would allow economic development to push military ambitions off state foreign policy agendas. Access to the global market and investment would both require and encourage policies of peace (Solingen 1998) which, in turn, would foster regional economic interdependence and co-operation in resolving common problems such as water scarcity. This would create vested interests in peace, while public opinion, exhausted by war and acquiring enhanced weight from democratization, would restrain state leaders. In consequence, the regional system would move, in Korany’s words, ‘from warfare to welfare’. The final displacement of Pan-Arabism by the doctrine of state sovereignty would allow ‘normal’ state-to-state relations based on shared interests and accord non-Arab states such as Turkey and Israel legitimate membership in a ‘Middle East system’ (Barnett 1996-97; Ehteshami 1997; Korany 1997; Tibi 1998).
In fact, few of these benign expectations for regional order were realized in the first decade after the Gulf War. Globalization proved to be very uneven in its economic impact on the region and seemed to benefit a few at the expense of the many; as such, it was an obstacle to rather than an impetus to democratization. The Arab—Israeli peace process dead-ended and arms races actually accelerated. While the intractability of regional conflicts and problems helped derail the benign promise of globalization, an equally important factor was the way the much-intensified penetration of American hegemonic power was applied in the region. There is much debate over whether a world hegemon exercises its power in a largely self-interested way or whether successful hegemony means satisfying the interests of a wide range of lesser powers. In the developed core, where Washington must deal with other major powers and is itself locked into interdependencies, its role may be relatively benign; but in the Middle East its power was applied so systematically on behalf of a minority of privileged clients and so aggressively against others that it was widely perceived as a malign hegemon. Many regional states sought to use, evade or appease American power but, given the weakness of the region, it was perhaps inevitable that actual resistance would chiefly take a non-state form. The September 11 2001 attack by Islamic terrorists on the very heart of America led the US into its second Middle East war in a decade. At the end of 2001, the region, far from entering the ‘zone of peace’, was at risk of becoming the arena for a ‘clash of civilizations’. Such an outcome might have been anticipated given the way globalization was ushered into the Middle East — namely by a profoundly unequal war whose outcome gave the Western victors excessive power over the region and insufficient incentive to satisfy the interests and values of the region’s states and peoples.
The Gulf War and its aftermath massively heightened Western penetration of the region in a way the architects of the Baghdad Pact could only dream of. If this had been the price of increased regional security and prosperity, many people in the Middle East might have considered it worth paying. But American hegemony, far from increasing either individual or collective security proved to be counterproductive for regional order.
To a very substantial point, therefore, the regional status quo, lacking indigenous popular legitimacy, is raised on hegemonic external force and on economic and security relations which benefit a relative few. The continuous application of American force in the region is hence important in maintaining the status quo but, paradoxically, further undermines its legitimacy. What is now also becoming increasingly apparent is that regional instability cannot be confined to the region. At least once per decade a major regional crisis, fed by festering conflicts, has erupted and spilled over into a world crisis. In the case of 11 September events, the particular character of the crisis was formed by the dominant features of the current and existing international system, namely US hegemony and globalization. The US response, an intensification of its military intervention in the region, comes out likely to exacerbate and intensify the problem it seeks to address.
Barnett, Michael. ‘Regional security after the Gulf war’, Political Science Quarterly, 111.4 (1996-97): pp. 597—617.
Brom, Shlomo and Yiftah Shapir, Yiftah, eds. The Middle East Military Balance 20012002. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2002: pp. 87-89.
Ehteshami, Anoushiravan. “Security structures in the Middle East: an overview.” in Haifaa Jawad, ed., The Middle East in the New World Order. London: Macmillan, 1997: pp. 97-109.
Hartung, William and Berrigan, Frida. “U.S. Arms Transfers and Security Assistance to Israel.” Arms Trade Resource Center Fact Sheet. 6 May 2002: p. 2.
Hinnebusch, Raymond. The International Politics of the Middle East. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 2003.
Korany, Bahgat. “Alien and besieged yet here to stay: the contradictions of the Arab territorial state.” in Ghassan Salame, The Foundations of the Arab State, London: Croom Helm, 1987: pp. 47-74.
Martin, Lenore G. “Conceptualizing Security in the Middle East: Israel and a Palestinian State, ” in Tami A. Jacoby and Brent E. Sasley, eds., Redefining Security in the Middle East. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002, pp. 20-40.
Perlez, Jane. “Anger at U.S. Said to Be at New High.” New York Times. 11 September 2002: p. A23.
Robbins, Carla and Leggett, Karby. “How the U.S. Plans to Keep Israel on Sidelines of Iraq War.” Wall Street Journal. 3 March 2003: p. 1.
Solingen, Etil. Regional Orders at Century’s Dawn: Global and Domestic In?uence on Grand Strategy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998.
Tibi, Bassam. Con?ict and War in the Middle East: From Interstate war to New Security. London: Macmillan, 1998.