MODERN HISTORY AND POLITICS-The Clash of Ideologies: Middle Eastern Politics and American Security

Article excerpt

The Clash of Ideologies: Middle Eastern Politics and American Security, by Mark L. Haas. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. 320 pages. $29.95.

Reviewed by Scott Hibbard

Mark Haas's Clash of Ideologies: Middle Eastern Politics and American Security is an extremely interesting analysis of ideological politics in the context of inter-state relations. Its primary focus is the manner in which ideological variables influence state action, alliance formation, and perceptions of interest. The case studies that inform the research (and where the author tests his hypotheses) include the relations between the United States and Iran, Iran and Syria, the United States and Saudi Arabia, and Turkey's relations with both the European Union and the United States in the post-Cold War era.

One of the strengths of the book is that it is very well written. The structure, narrative, and theoretical framework are both clear and cogent. The really innovative contribution of the book, though, lies in the realm of international relations theory. Haas's project builds on his earlier work, and brings an ideational component into the analysis of inter-state relations. In the process, he moves beyond the dominant realist and neorealist paradigms, and offers a more nuanced understanding of the forces that drive foreign policy decision-making.

The two key variables in this study include the degree of difference between various decision-makers ("ideological distance"), and the number of influential ideologies in a given system ("ideological polarity"). The implications of both variables are important for explaining state behavior. On the one hand, large ideological differences make alliance formation difficult, while ideological affinity facilitates cooperation. This is one reason why state actors commonly promote ideological reformation of rival powers. Ideological polarity, on the other hand, helps to explain how ideological barriers to cooperation can be overcome. Mutual antipathy to a third ideological force frequently provides the basis for collaboration. The result of Haas's analysis is a nuanced understanding of the various ways in which ideas shape perceptions of interest and of threats, and in what contexts particular policies (i.e., ideological "hard line" or ideological "softline") are more effective than others.

The cases that inform this study offer numerous insights, even for regional specialists familiar with the history. A good example is the analysis of US-Iranian and US-Syrian cooperation in the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001. During this period, Iran provided significant material and logistical support for the invasion of Afghanistan, while the Syrian regime aided the American intelligence community and participated in the US rendition program. In both cases, a shared enmity of Sunni militancy provided a basis for cooperation. …