Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)

State Strength, Permeability, and Foreign Policy Behavior: Jordan in Theoretical Perspective

Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)

State Strength, Permeability, and Foreign Policy Behavior: Jordan in Theoretical Perspective

Article excerpt

A growing body of literature is advocating the utility of bringing the study of Middle East politics into theoretical debates informing contemporary political science.(1) In an early formulation of this appeal, Lisa Anderson contended that if Middle East studies abandons its "traditional parochialism, . . . political science will find a challenging and illuminating area in which to develop and test new understandings of how politics work."(2) Rashid Khalidi, in his 1994 presidential address to the Middle East Studies Association, argued that the only way to contest claims that "there is a dearth of theoretically interesting work in the Middle East field" is to demonstrate that "work of interest to the central concerns of [the social sciences]" is being done in this field.(3) In the specialized disciplines of Middle East and comparative politics, both Anderson's and Khalidi's objectives may be realized by demonstrating the potential contributions of the study of Middle East politics to theory-building in the larger discipline of comparative politics. One way to achieve this is by revisiting specific cases whose theoretical value has hitherto been ignored by both regional specialists and comparative scholars. This essay attempts to demonstrate the efficacy of this approach by revisiting Jordan's recent political history, specifically, the era extending from the mid-1950s until roughly the early 1970s.

Although a crucial period in the kingdom's political history, students of Jordan have approached this era in a largely descriptive way.(4) Hussein's biographers have also romanticized this era by overemphasizing his personal qualities and prowess as salient factors enabling him to survive the myriad challenges upon his person and regime during those turbulent years.(5) However such explanations of the Hashemite regime's survival hinder attempts to demonstrate the potential contributions of Middle East comparative politics and foreign policy analysis to theory-building in similar sub-fields across other developing regions. Hence the need to revisit this definitive period of Jordan's history and subject it to a scrutiny that, simultaneously, provides a better explanation of the regime's survival and highlights its comparative theoretical implications.

A small state actor located in a permeable regional system and endeavoring to survive regional and domestic threats, Jordan lends itself to an exploration that underscores the domestic determinants of foreign policy behavior, and the relation between foreign policy behavior and regime consolidation, legitimization, and hence survival. Toward this end, this article reconstructs the Hashemite regime's multi-level, interactive survival strategy (henceforth Husseinism) during the aforementioned period and places it within the preceding theoretical framework. In part, this study attempts to complement, but move away from, the two dominant intellectual traditions in the analysis of foreign policy behavior in the Middle East: the realist and the psychological/perceptual approaches.(6) Instead of looking at states or the decision-making elite, this article looks into states, particularly at the domestic factors and political dynamics that constrain and determine foreign policy behavior, and consequently, at the instrumental use of foreign policy for purposes of regime legitimacy and consolidation.

The purpose of this article is to explain the success of Husseinism. "Success" (the dependent variable) refers to the ability of the regime to retain power and control over the political process, and to neutralize the disruptive effects of trans-national ideologies on the domestic political arena. This article contends that the survival of the Hashemite regime in power, and the decline of an active Palestinian or Arab nationalist challenge, may be explained by four explanatory variables: a successful insulatory regional policy, the historical process of state formation, the availability of economic resources under state control, and the ability of the state to use its coercive resources without hindrance. …

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