Modern Politics -- Confronting the Costs of War: Military Power, State, and Society in Egypt and Israel by Michael N. Barnett

By Beitler, Ruth Margolies | The Middle East Journal, Summer 1995 | Go to article overview
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Modern Politics -- Confronting the Costs of War: Military Power, State, and Society in Egypt and Israel by Michael N. Barnett


Beitler, Ruth Margolies, The Middle East Journal


Confronting the Costs of War: Military Power, State, and Society in Egypt and Israel, by Michael N. Barnett. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992. xiii + 261 pages. Appends. to p. 269. Notes to p. 343. Bibl. to p. 368. Index to p. 378. $16.95 paper.

Reviewed by Ruth Margolies Beitler

According to Michael Barnett, conventional wisdom dictates that war will contribute to a state's aggrandizement by increasing its control over society. Although he cites other authors, including Theda Skocpol and Charles Tilly, who have countered this "ratchet effect" argument, Barnett contends that most studies concentrating on the influence of war on state power "have failed to recognize how the transformative possibilities reside in the government's manner of mobilizing security-related resources" (p. 6). Thus, the key to understanding the change in state power stems not from the results of the crisis itself, but from a clear understanding of "the activities associated with preparing for war" (p. 7). By establishing a theoretical framework to examine direct, causal linkages between war preparation and state power. Barnett expects to account for the enigmatic findings that war-related processes can either increase or decrease state power.

Barnett cogently argues that a state must perform a masterful balancing act when implementing war preparation strategies by considering three important state interests: national security. political stability, and economic development. His typology of a government's determinants for selecting a war preparation strategy is useful to illustrate the direct connection between the domestic and international realms. For war preparation, although a state must generate revenue, mobilize manpower, and get supplies, societal actors can constrain the state's ability to extract these resources.

Thus, with these elements in mind, a government can choose from three broad mobilization strategies. The accommodational strategy maintains or modifies slightly existing policies, while the international strategy diffuses the costs of war onto foreign actors. Since these strategies circumvent societal constraints, state power is not transformed. State-society relations alter only when the state increases war preparation demands on the societal actors using the restructural strategy. Taking Israel, from 1948-77, and Egypt, from 1952-77, as case studies, Barnett assesses the determinants of state war preparation strategies and their effects on state power.

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