The International Politics of the Middle East

By Raymond Hinnebusch | Go to book overview

6
Comparative foreign policies: explaining foreign policy variation

What explains the similarities and differences in the foreign policy behaviour of Middle East states? The relative explanatory weight carried by domestic politics versus that of the systemic arenas in which states operate is a matter of some dispute between pluralists on the one hand, and realists and structuralists on the other. On the face of it, if the domestic level is determinant, as pluralists tend to argue, different kinds of states should follow different foreign policies and similar ones similar policies. If the systemic level is determinant, as realism and structuralism hold, a state's domestic features should make little difference, at least over the long run; similar systemic situations — power position, economic dependency — of initially domestically dissimilar regimes should drive a convergence in their foreign policies while differing systemic situations should pull initially similar regimes in divergent directions. Moreover, as, over time, the system has moved toward the Westphalian model, its power to drive a convergence of its 'parts' toward 'realist' behaviour should increase.

Neither view is wholly supported by the empirical evidence from the Middle East. Rather, as this chapter will show, neither state features or systemic forces alone but the interrelation between a state's specific position in systemic structures and its particular internal features determines its foreign policy behaviour. Thus, as has been seen (chapter 4, pp. 74—5), a state's initial formation tends to put it on a particular (status quo or revisionist) foreign policy tangent. Systemic forces — the balance of power, economic dependency, trans-state ideological tides — may subsequently deflect it from this course. However, its level of consolidation determines whether a state remains a victim of its systemic environment or becomes an effective

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