The International Politics of the Middle East

By Raymond Hinnebusch | Go to book overview

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Introduction to the international politics of the Middle East

This book and the study of the Middle East

This study takes the Middle East to be constituted around an Arab core, with a shared identity but fragmented into multiple territorial states; the core is flanked by a periphery of non-Arab states — Turkey, Iran and Israel — which are an intimate part of the region's conflicts and an integral part of its balance of power (Cantori and Spiegel 1970; Ismael 1986: 5—13). Because the Middle East's unique features defy analyses based on any one conceptual approach to international relations, this study will deploy a combination of several to capture its complex reality.

The Middle East is arguably the epicentre of world crisis, chronically war-prone and the site of the world's most protracted conflicts. It appears to be the region where the anarchy and insecurity seen by the realist school of international politics as the main feature of states systems remains most in evidence and where the realist paradigm retains its greatest relevance. Yet neo-realism's1 a-historical tendency to assume states systems to be unchanging, made up of cohesive rational actors, and everywhere the chief determining factor in shaping state behaviour is quite inadequate to understand the Middle East. The regional system, recent and unconsolidated, has been contested by its units as much as it has shaped them and realism's assumption that conflict is chiefly the inevitable byproduct of a states system's anarchy misses the main causes of the Middle East's exceptional war and instability.

Rather, this study will argue that the roots of conflict and much state behaviour are to be found in the peculiar historical construction of the regional system. One aspect of this was an extremely

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