Historically, identification with the territorial state has been weak, with popular identify tending to focus on the sub-state unit – the city, the tribe, the religious sect – or on the larger Islamic umma (Weulersse 1946: 79–83). This is because states, the product of outside conquerors, imported slave-soldiers without local roots, or religio-tribal movements, typically disintegrated after a few generations and when a new wave of state-building came along the states’ boundaries were often radically different. Moreover, in an arid environment of trading cities and nomadic
tended to dominate the region on behalf of a relatively united ‘core’. The first of these hegemons, Great Britain, came near to imposing an imperial order in the Middle East (Brown 1984: 112–39). After the interval of bi-polarity, in which the Arab world attained considerable autonomy, the sole American hegemon has returned to its attempt to establish a Pax Americana in the region. The result, according to Barry Buzan (1991), is that the Islamic Middle East is the only classical civilisation that has not managed to re-establish itself as a significant world actor
internal as external threat; if little welfare or political rights are delivered, precarious legitimacy is exceptionally dependent on the nationalist or Islamic credibility of foreign policy (Dawisha 1990).
Aspects of state formation
This study will argue that several aspects of state formation are pivotal in determining the international behaviour of states and specifically to explaining variations in their foreign policies.
(1) The circumstances of a state’s initial composition tend to set it on a
Origins of the state
Saudi Arabia was founded by the al-Saud clan’s dual mobilisation of tribal military power and the Wahhabi Islamic movement. Unlike most Middle Eastern countries, the state was, thus, founded by indigenous forces, never experienced an imperialist occupation or protectorate and was therefore spared the accompanying collaboration with imperialism that often discredited traditional elites. This does not mean that Saudi state-building was a wholly indigenous product, for the impoverished Arabian peninsula lacked the economic
. In this way, the individual states were ‘de-constructing’ the Arab system (Barnett 1998: 206–7; Seale 1988: 185–213; Sela 1998: 189–213).
The consequent popular disillusionment precipitated a decline in mass Arabism in the 1980s, but identifications did not necessarily attach to the states. Rather, the negative side effects of state-building – notably the explosion of corruption and inequality accompanying the oil bonanza – left states with legitimacy deficits and with no convincing substitute for Arabism or Islam as legitimating ideologies
supra-state identity became as important in shaping Arab state behaviour as the distribution of material power stressed by realism. The contradiction between the global norm of sovereignty, in which state interests are legitimately the object of foreign policy, and the regional norms of Pan-Arabism (or, to a lesser extent Pan-Islam) which expect these interests to be compatible with the values of the indigenous suprastate identity community, have caught Arab foreign policy making elites, in Korany’s (1988: 165) words, between the logics of raison d’état and of ‘raison
suprastate Arab and/or Islamic identities are strong, regime legitimacy may be contingent on adherence to Arab-Islamic norms in foreign policy. This may mean contesting the penetration of the region by the core powers and it may de-legitimise relations with certain states: thus, while some Arab states have been pushed by economic dependency or security considerations to establish relations with Israel, these remain largely illegitimate at the societal level.
The impact of identity is not, of course, uniform. Where there are high levels of public
September 11 2001 attack by Islamic terrorists on the very heart of America led the US into its second Middle East war in a decade. At the end of 2001, the region, far from entering the ‘zone of peace’, was at risk of becoming the arena for a ‘clash of civilisations’. What went wrong? Such an outcome might have been anticipated given the way globalisation was ushered into the Middle East – namely by a profoundly unequal war whose outcome gave the Western victors excessive power over the region and insufficient incentive to satisfy the interests and values of the region
common rumours: Alliance pour la Paix et la
Concorde, Association de Dèfense de Droits l’Homme Bunyaki, Voix Sans Voix and
Femmes Père Saint Simon. It was also raised by Imam of the Islamic Community in Bunyakiri (Kabambi 2010).
18 Half of MONUC/MONUSCO officers interviewed directly made reference to this issue.
19 E.g. Bemba’s 2006 campaign ‘100 per cent Congolais’ reflected the rumour that Kabila
was Rwandese. Also in the latest reports on the 2011 elections both the Carter Centre
Electoral observation missions point out that politicians tended to spread hatred