The Clash of Ideologies: Middle Eastern Politics and American Security

The Clash of Ideologies: Middle Eastern Politics and American Security

The Clash of Ideologies: Middle Eastern Politics and American Security

The Clash of Ideologies: Middle Eastern Politics and American Security

Synopsis

How do ideologies shape international relations in general and Middle Eastern countries' relations with the United States in particular?The Clash of Ideologiesby Mark L. Haas explores this critical question. Haas argues that leaders' ideological beliefs are likely to have profound effects on these individuals' perceptions of international threats. These threat perceptions, in turn, shape leaders' core security policies, including choices of allies and enemies and efforts to spread their ideological principles abroad as a key means of advancing their interests.

Two variables are particularly important in this process: the degree of ideological differences dividing different groups of decision makers ("ideological distance"), and the number of prominent ideologies that are present in a particular system ("ideological polarity"). The argument is tested in four case studies of states' foreign policies, primarily since the end of the Cold War: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Turkey. As the argument predicts, ideological differences in these cases were a key cause of international conflict and ideological similarities a source of cooperation. Moreover, different ideological groups in the same country at the same time often possessed very different understandings of their threat environments, and thus very different foreign policy preferences. These are findings that other prominent international relations theories, particularly realism, cannot explain.Clash of Ideologiesgoes beyond advancing theoretical debates in the international relations literature. It also aims to provide policy guidance on key international security issues. These prescriptions are designed to advance America's interests in the Middle East in particular, namely how U.S. leaders should best respond to the ideological dynamics that exist in the region.

Excerpt

This book examines the effects of political ideologies on America’s security relations with Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East. This subject is of the highest significance in terms of both policymaking and the development of international relations theory. Events repeatedly demonstrate this to be the case. Although both George W. Bush and Barack Obama early in their presidencies indicated that ideologies would play relatively unimportant roles in their Middle Eastern policies, developments soon pushed both administrations to reverse course. Bush attributed the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks perpetrated by al Qaeda to this group’s profound ideological differences with the United States, and he made similar assessments about the root sources of America’s enmity with Iraq, Iran, and Syria. These judgments led Bush to make regime change in these states a central component of his foreign policies. The most important—and costly—dimension of this objective was the 2003 decision to invade Iraq and the subsequent efforts to democratize it. To Bush, increased liberalization in the Middle East would significantly improve America’s security. The result, as the president explained in his Second Inaugural Address, was that “America’s vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one… So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.”

Although Obama’s pragmatic foreign policy inclinations ran even deeper than Bush’s, he too was pulled in a more ideological direction by Middle Eastern developments. Massive popular protests that swept across much of the Arab world in 2011 resulted in the ouster of three authoritarian leaders, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, and Muammar Qaddafi in Libya, and in increased political repression in many others, including Bahrain, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen. Obama called for liberalizing reforms—even in America’s authoritarian allies—as the best way of ending the protests and ultimately building more stable relations with the United States (the president, for example, ultimately pushed for . . .

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