Middle East Dilemma: The Politics and Economics of Arab Integration

Middle East Dilemma: The Politics and Economics of Arab Integration

Middle East Dilemma: The Politics and Economics of Arab Integration

Middle East Dilemma: The Politics and Economics of Arab Integration

Synopsis

In the 1990 the Gulf War, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Arab-Israeli peace process and the trend to market-driven economies impacted the regional political and economic order of the Arab world dramatically. How do these events affect the processes of Arab integration? Is the idea of an Arab political and economic comunity in the broadest sense no longer viable? What lessons can be learned from recent attempts toward the future of Arab unity? A team of respected political scientists, historians, and economists carefully assesses the state of regional integration and cooperation, and explains why integration in general has proven so elusive. From the unification of North and South Yemen, to the struggle for Mahgreb unity, and the experiences of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council, this book presents a complex portrait of the history and prospects for Arab integration.

Part I examines the trends and points the way toward a more rational Arab order. Bahgat Korany reminds us of the continuing relevance of the balance-of-power in understanding Arab world dynamics. Bassam Tibi traces the decline of the Arab "imagined community" and the rise of the Arab state system. Part II offers five case studies exploring the political forces behind integrative attempts on the subregional level. Essays include Mustafa Al-Sayyid on the short-lived "United Arab Republic" of Egypt and Syria; and Abdul Khaleq Abdulla on the hastily established Gulf Cooperation Council. In Part III, economic integration and development are discussed. Roger Owens reviews the efforts to organize an Arab common market. Yusif Sayigh offers a blunt critique of the Joint Arab Economic Action project. Finally, Michael Hudson raises the possibility of a new model of inter-Arab coordination based on sovereign institutional realities and rational collective choice.

Excerpt

Michael C. Hudson

Arab integration? One does not have to be an Orientalist of the kind that Edward Said so deftly deconstructed to wonder whether this is an oxymoron. So pervasive today is the image of Arab disintegration that we tend to forget that the dream of Arab nationalists has always been of the far more robust term, unity. But decades of bitter experience, often maliciously exaggerated by hostile commentators, has turned even dedicated Arab nationalists into cynics, and the quest for unity to many has become a bad joke. How many times have we heard that famous aphorism about the Holy Roman Empire adapted to the “United Arab Republic” (between Egypt and Syria from 1958 to 1961), to wit, that it was neither united, nor Arab, nor a republic.

The quest for Arab unity has been a dominant theme of Arab politics in the twentieth century. Recent developments, however, have rendered this dream more elusive than ever, as the Arab world's external dependence and internal fragmentation have increased. The weakening and eventual collapse of the Soviet Union as the patron of Arab nationalist regimes and the growing penetration of Israel and the United States into domestic Arab arenas clearly have dealt major setbacks to the pan-Arab project. Israel's humiliation of Gamal Abdel Nasser in the 1967 war was a body blow to Arabism. More recently the hollowness of Arab unity was devastatingly exposed when a U.S.-led international coalition that included several Arab states crushed Iraq, following Saddam Hussein's ill-conceived effort to swallow Kuwait. On the internal level as well the fragmentation of political culture in many parts of the Arab world has tarnished the ideological claims of Arab nationalists concerning the viability—even the reality—of an Arab . . .

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