Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)

Political Conditionality of Economic Relations between Paternalist States: Turkey's Interaction with Iran, Iraq, and Syria

Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)

Political Conditionality of Economic Relations between Paternalist States: Turkey's Interaction with Iran, Iraq, and Syria

Article excerpt


IT IS OFTEN ARGUED THAT INTERDEPENDENT economic relations between countries could create a favorable atmosphere to the solution of political problems, thus enhancing peace and security. It has almost become a truism to cite Franco-German relations, and in a wider scale the development of the European Union, as ample examples of this argument. (1) The proof is clearly there: Further interdependence among the western European countries through economic integration led to the emergence of, first, a core 'zone of peace', and then gradually a continent-wide "security community." (2) Along the way, how this integration process started among the European states (the fact that it was almost forced upon them) is conveniently forgotten and the exogenous variables that affected its development over the years are less easily discernable.

Clearly, the European states, before the creation of the rudimentary precursors of the EU back in early 1950s, were not known for their ability of peaceful co-existence. Nor were they noted for their ability in conflict management/resolution. However, it does not automatically follow that the emergence of an economic community and integration brought peaceful qualities to the "old continent." It is without doubt that economic interdependence, after a certain level of interaction between member states, has enhanced peaceful ways of problem solving.

Even though the economic factors and cooperation within the EU have attained prominence vis-a-vis politics, involving "negotiations" and "bargaining" (economic terminology) rather than "threats" and "warnings" (political terminology), it was clearly "high political" concerns that forced Germany and France (the core and motor of European integration) in the first place to cooperate on their coal and steel production. (3) This is not to argue that today's EU moves with the same considerations as Europe had done 50 years ago. While today's EU has become too "complex" and overly "interdependent" to be governed simply by political considerations, it is clear, as argued by the neo-functionalists, that the decision to embark on this road was taken by the political elites with emphasis on the political. (4) It has become increasingly commonplace after the initial political impetus that further trade and economic cooperation eased the way for further political rapprochement and integration. Nevertheless, it was the original political (not economic) willingness that had opened the way for political (and economic) cooperation.

In an age where the merits of "globalization" and its companion "regionalization" are much cherished and seen as ultimate cures for "old" style political problems associated with the "high politics" of the realist paradigm of a bygone era, it is difficult (or at least problematic) to assert the primacy of politics over economics. What is more difficult in today's increasingly interdependent world is to find proofs of clearly politically driven economic relations. Nevertheless, the argument of this article is that in the proto-capitalist states with authoritarian regimes (incidentally both go hand in hand (5)), it is political logic that determines economic activity. Similarly, economic relations between such states or with such states are also primarily determined by the political perceptions of the ruling elite in a given country and the nature of the political relations with such a country (exogenous variable) where the "greater good for the greater number" does not necessarily become a factor that determines policy.

In any political system, economic needs and pressures have important bearing on the formulation and substance of foreign policy, though the extent and nature of this influence varies between parliamentary democracies, guided democracies, authoritarian governments, and totalitarian regimes. (6) At another level, history shows that choices between economic systems for a country or development strategies pursued by governments, generally reflect a given country's political system and the perceptions and aspirations of its elites about their country's rightful place in the world. …

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