Article Abstracts

Is natural resource wealth a blessing or a curse? Stephen Haber and Victor Menaldo argue that the resource curse may actually be better termed the resource blessing in a February 2011 article in the American Political Science Review entitled “Do Natural Resources Fuel Authoritarianism? A Reappraisal of the Resource Curse.”

Haber and Menaldo challenge much of the existing literature on regime type and resource reliance. Much of the literature argues that governmental reliance on natural resources is detrimental. It fosters and sustains authoritarianism by providing resources for a government without taxation of, and thus accountability to, its citizens. Reliance on natural resources is also correlated with lower economic growth and civil wars.

Haber and Menaldo argue that the literature uses methods that cannot prove that natural resources cause authoritarianism. They argue that time-series data and counterfactual methods are necessary to demonstrate this relationship, if it exists. Haber and Menaldo argue that many studies heretofore compare resource-rich and resource-poor countries and that these studies are fraught with the risk of omitted variable bias. Instead, variation within countries must be studied over time. Haber and Menaldo thus construct an original dataset of 168 countries beginning in 1800, before countries were reliant on natural resources.

Haber and Menaldo find no evidence of a resource curse. Instead, they find some evidence of a resource blessing. In one test, Haber and Menaldo examined 53 resource-reliant countries and found that high levels of resource-reliance were correlated with higher levels of democracy. For example, Haber and Menaldo argue that Algeria and Iran became more democratic when those countries were more reliant on natural resources. The Shah came to power when Iran had few natural resources, and Iranians mobilized to overthrow the Shah in the 1970s when reliance on oil was at a peak.

Furthermore, Haber and Menaldo argue that many countries within the Middle East are neither blessed nor cursed by resources. They argue that authoritarianism in the Middle East pre-dated the discovery of resources, and continued to exist when resource wealth decreased. Moreover, authoritarianism is present in countries in the region that are not resource-rich. They thus argue that natural resource wealth likely does not explain the presence of authoritarianism in the Middle East.

This article is an important read for those striving to understand the relationship of natural resource wealth and regime type, in the Middle East and beyond.

Download “Do Natural Resources Fuel Authoritarianism? A Reappraisal of the Resource Curse,” from the American Political Science Review if your university has access here or email info@pomeps.org for assistance.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Is gender equality possible in an Islamic political system? Homa Hoodfar and Shadi Sadr argue that, at least in the case of Iran, the answer is yes. In “Islamic Politics and Women’s Quest for Gender Equality in Iran,” a September 2010 article in Third World Quarterly, the authors argue that the deficit of gender equality in Iran has more to do with the regime’s lack of democracy than with Islamic religious principles.

Hoodfar and Sadr trace variations in the political treatment of women over time in Iran. For instance, a more progressive Family Protection Law was passed during Pahlavi Iran and reversed after the Iranian Revolution. Elements of the law were reinstated over time, before more regressive family laws were passed in 2009.

Hoodfar and Sadr argue that conservative elements of the Iranian government use the pretense of Islamic law to serve their political goals. Ayatollah Khomeini was strongly critical of Iranian women gaining the right to vote in 1963; however he encouraged women to take part in the protests of the Iranian Revolution. The authors argue that the Iranian regime has enforced stricter rules for women, such as a quota for women’s attendance at institutions of higher education, despite the lack of shari‘a guidance on these issues.

The authors argue that conservative government policies with regards to women, especially since President Ahmadinejad’s first election in 2005, have facilitated the mobilization of a pragmatic women’s movement. Islamist, reformist, and secular women have joined forces in this movement. Islamist women have also reacted to arguments by secularists that Islam is not compatible with gender quality and presented interpretations of Islamic texts that favor gender equality. The Zeinab Society, a women’s organization whose founders include those educated in Qom, argues that gender equality is compatible with Islam and successfully got inheritance laws changed in 2008 to give husbands and wives equal inheritance rights.

Hoodfar and Sadr argue that women have forced gender onto the political agenda in Iran, asking presidential candidates questions about their positions on gender-related issues and sparking popular discussions as well. And yet religious conservatives have also tried to mobilize conservative women to support them. The authors conclude by arguing that more democracy in Iran, whether through a religious or secular regime, is necessary for gender equality in that country.

Download “Islamic Politics and Women’s Quest for Gender Equality in Iran” from Third World Quarterly if your university has access here or email info@pomeps.org for assistance.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

“Did the administration of President George W. Bush influence the Middle East in the manner the president hoped?” This is the question asked in Jeremy Pressman’s article “Power without influence” in International Security. Pressman explains that the Bush administration had three main policy objectives in the region: defeating terrorism, advancing U.S. national security interests and halting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). However, according to Pressman, writing in 2009, Al-Qaida has not been eliminated, democracy promotion in the region has not progressed significantly, and nuclear proliferation has increased rather than decreased, with Iran remaining undeterred from pursuing a nuclear program.

Why did the Bush administration thus fail to achieve its goals in the region? Pressman argues that the failures of Bush’s policies stem from four factors. First, the Bush administration’s strategy relied too heavily on military force and second, under-utilized diplomacy, especially when Iran “sought a diplomatic rapprochement with the United States in 2003.” Third, due to ideological certainty and electoral concerns, Pressman argues, the Bush administration did not learn from flaws in its Iraq policy, thus missing several opportunities to correct errors. Finally, the Bush administration’s policies toward the region “suffered from at least two contradictions, including the long-standing tension between democracy promotion and national security.” Based on these failures, Pressman argues that Bush’s tenure in office and policy record in the region demonstrate that “capabilities do not easily translate into influence,” especially when flawed policies are added into the equation.

Download “Power without Influence” from International Security if your university has access here or email info@pomeps.org for assistance.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Is the Soviet war in Afghanistan the source of the mobilization of the Muslim foreign fighter? Thomas Hegghammer is one of the first to investigate this question from a comparative political science perspective, process-tracing the roots of transnational war volunteering in the Muslim world. The received explanation, that the Soviet-Afghan War was the birthplace of international jihadism, is for Hegghammer incomplete. Instead, “the increase in transnational war volunteering is better explained as the product of a pan-Islamic identity movement that grew strong in the 1970s Arab world from elite competition among exiled Islamists in international Islamic organizations and Muslim regimes.” This is the claim made in “The Rise of Muslim Foreign Fighters: Islam and the Globalization of Jihad” in the Winter 2010/2011 issue of International Security. The article effectively argues that the Muslim foreign fighter should be treated as a distinct and discrete actor category in political science, not merely a fringe phenomenon in terrorism studies. Since the 1980s, between 10,000-30,000 unpaid Muslim fighters fought in conflicts from Bosnia to the Philippines. They continue to play a game-changing role in Iraq and Afghanistan, emboldening al-Qaeda in the process. Understanding their origins is a project of utmost importance, one that Hegghammer undertakes with analytical rigor.

The author’s process-tracing substantively begins in the 1970s, with the growth of nonviolent international Islamic organizations in the Hijazi region of Saudi Arabia. These networks grew out of two exogenous developments in the 1960s: the exile of numerous Muslim Brotherhood activists from Egypt, Syria and Iraq and the establishment of new Islamic universities and other Islamic institutions in Saudi Arabia. Western Saudi Arabia thus became a supportive center for transnational Islamic activists. As exiles, these players recognized the obstacles for domestic change in their own countries and so looked internationally, propagating a populist pan-Islamism that served as the motivational force for future networks of foreign fighters. A number of variables facilitated their growing influence in the 1970s: a flood of oil money, new technologies, and a lack of government oversight combined to allow these nonviolent pan-Islamist networks inordinate ideological influence. The “foreign fighter phenomenon represents a violent offshoot” says Hegghammer, of a “populist pan-Islamism–which emerged in the 1970s as a result of strategic action by marginalized elites employed in nonviolent international Islamic organizations.”

The article also presents an impressive and comprehensive dataset that records the rise of the Muslim foreign fighter. Hegghammer compiles cross-country and chronological variation of the phenomenon, explaining why some areas received more volunteer fighters at different times. The findings generate two testable hypotheses: first, that most organized mobilization of volunteer fighters should be observed after 1980; and second, that the foreign fighter ideology, rooted in the nonviolent pan-Islamist networks of the 1970s, differed significantly from previous Islamist ideologies (notably Qutbism and Wahhabism). The article gives careful attention to the latter hypothesis, evaluating the content of foreign fighter ideology through primary sources and interviews conducted by the author with foreign fighters. Hegghammer revises the causal story about the rise of international jihadism, presenting an authoritative account of a remarkably understudied phenomenon.

Download “The Rise of Muslim Foreign Fighters: Islam and the Globalization of Jihad” from International Security if your university has access here or email info@pomeps.org for assistance.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

In the winter 2010/2011 issue of International Security, Mia Bloom responds to Bradley Thayer and Valerie Hudson’s article “Sex and the Shaheed: Insights from the Life Sciences on Islamic Suicide,” covered here on the POMEPS blog. Bloom argues in “Correspondence: Life Sciences and Islamic Suicide Terrorism” that Thayer and Hudson overlook important aspects of Islamic suicide terrorism.

Bloom highlights that Thayer and Hudson make important contributions in their article. They use an interdisciplinary approach and incorporate scientific studies of human behavior. Both components strengthen studies of terrorism.

However, Bloom challenges aspects of Thayer and Hudson’s argument as well. Thayer and Hudson argue that resource scarcity and decreased reproductive prospects lead men to take up terrorist activity that can increase the well-being of those they leave behind. Bloom argues that this argument about male behavior does not explain the growing numbers of Islamic female suicide bombers. Additionally, Thayer and Hudson’s focus on the desire of men to take up terrorism ignores the role that terrorist groups play in selecting their operatives. Operatives generally are chosen carefully by groups and suicide terrorists are sometimes coerced into terrorism, growing up in climates where terrorism is normalized or glorified. Some groups rape women in order to make them feel they have no option other than terrorism. Bloom argues that violating women and using female terrorists would be odd given the biological constraints described by Thayer and Hudson. Bloom also argues that Thayer and Hudson’s argument does not acknowledge the complexity of terrorism, including variations in the motivations of terrorists in diverse contexts.

Thayer and Hudson respond to Bloom, agreeing with some of her arguments and disagreeing with others. While arguing that most Islamic suicide terrorist acts are committed by males, they agree with Bloom’s argument that female suicide terrorists may have different motivations than their male counterparts and that coercion plays an important role in terrorism. Thayer and Hudson argue that Bloom’s critique actually supports their argument that women and men who have decreased reproductive prospects might turn to terrorism. They also argue that using female terrorists might tactically make sense at times, even given the overall shortage of women in Islamic societies. More broadly, Thayer and Hudson disagree with Bloom’s critique that they have ignored the complexity in motivations of terrorist behavior. They argue that they embraced this complexity in their article, and that their approach is based on considering wisdom from the life sciences in addition to the many factors explored by social science.

Download “Correspondence: Life Sciences and Islamic Suicide Terrorism” from International Security if your university has access here or email info@pomeps.org for assistance.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Do average citizens from Muslim countries support suicide bombings, or does support for such attacks vary according to education and income? Shafiq and Sinno address these questions in their article “Education, Income, and Support for Suicide Bombings: Evidence from Six Muslim Countries” in the Journal of Conflict Resolution. According to the authors, by 2005, more than 350 suicide bombings were perpetrated in countries not including Iraq. Citing literature that argues that suicide bombing campaigns require substantial public support because of the destruction they cause and the high costs of participation, the authors are interested in policies that attempt to reduce this public support.

While many believe that increasing education and income levels will blunt support for suicide terrorism, the authors note that there is little empirical evidence of this claim. Using public opinion data from six predominantly Muslim countries that have experienced suicide bombings – Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, and Turkey – the authors investigate whether there is evidence that these two factors reduce support for such violence. The authors construct a conceptual model for why education and income would affect support for suicide bombing: the increased education should “instill men and women with values and skills that reduce support for suicide bombing” while higher income “should also discourage support for suicide bombing because people may be more satisfied with life.” However, the authors also argue that political dissatisfaction can also result from higher education and may vary according to particular policy issues. In order to address this potential effect, the authors examine attitudes toward suicide bombing of civilians in contrast to suicide bombings of Westerners in Iraq (as American military activity in Iraq is a specific foreign policy issue).

The authors find that educational attainment discourages support for suicide bombings against civilians in Indonesia and Pakistan but encourages support for such bombings in Jordan. They also find that educational attainment encourages support for suicide attacks against Westerners in Iraq but discourages such attacks against civilians. At the same time, the authors also find that higher income in Morocco is linked to greater support for suicide bombings against civilians, while higher income in Jordan, Pakistan, and Turkey discourages support for suicide attacks against Westerners in Iraq. In light of these varied findings, the authors conclude that it is very difficult to make generalizations about citizens of different Muslim countries because the impact of education and income on attitudes depends on the country and the target of the attacks, as well as the content of the education.

Download “Education, Income, and Support for Suicide Bombings: Evidence from Six Muslim Countries” from the Journal of Conflict Resolution if your university has access here or email info@pomeps.org for assistance.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Can insights from the life sciences contribute to a better understanding of why suicide terrorism is carried out by Islamic fundamentalists? Bradley A. Thayer and Valerie M. Hudson argue yes in “Sex and the Shaheed: Insights from the Life Sciences on Islamic Suicide Terrorism.” In this 2010 article in International Security, Thayer and Hudson argue that combining wisdom from the evolutionary sciences with that of the social sciences can lead to a more complete explanation of suicide terrorism than that provided by conventional approaches alone.

The desire to improve one’s chances of reproductive success can lead to suicide terrorism in resource-scarce societies, Thayer and Hudson argue. In such societies, males who are not the alpha-male, or group leader, can use violence to try to re-organize the social hierarchy and improve their chances to find a mate. At the same time, an alpha-male has the most incentive to encourage violence to be directed at those outside the group to preserve his own dominance. In this context, encouraging suicide terrorism can be a prudent strategy.

This is compounded, Thayer and Hudson argue, with high levels of gender differentiation within Muslim societies. In societies with high levels of gender differentiation, men are more likely to be worried about emasculation and may turn to suicide terrorism to demonstrate their strength. Thayer and Hudson argue that men in these societies are also subject to humiliation at the hands of Western powers which may encourage them to use terrorism as well. Moreover, the authors argue that polygyny in Muslim societies leads to a scarcity of women, and that marriage is expensive in the Middle East. Thus, men may feel that their best ability to bring honor for, and financial success to, their family is through suicide terrorism.

Thayer and Hudson suggest policy prescriptions based on their argument. In addition to more conventional policy prescriptions for reducing terrorism, such as promoting democracy in the Middle East, the authors argue that women’s rights should be promoted and that Middle Eastern governments should take steps to make marriage more affordable. Additionally, they argue that propaganda should be used that challenges the message conveyed by terrorist groups that an individual can provide for his family through terrorism.

Thayer and Hudson also argue that this approach of combining the life sciences with the social sciences calls for different types of data collection, such as on dowry costs, which otherwise might not be of interest to social scientists.

Download “Sex and the Shaheed: Insights from the Life Sciences on Islamic Suicide Terrorism” from International Security if your university has access here or email info@pomeps.org for assistance. A response by Mia Bloom to this article, and a further response by Thayer and Hudson, is covered here on POMEPS.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Why have feminist movements been unsuccessful in achieving gender equality and women’s rights in Israel? One important but overlooked variable is the ongoing national struggle. Feminist demands for equality, especially in personal status issues like marriage and divorce, have remained secondary to the continued conflict between Israel and its neighbors. This is the argument made by Ruth Halperin-Kaddari and Yaacov Yadgar in “Between Universal Feminism and Particular Nationalism: politics, religion and gender (in)equality in Israel”, published in the September 2010 issue of Third World Quarterly. The authors find five ways in which the nationalist struggle has stunted the growth of Israel’s feminist movement. First, the conflict has shaped feminine identity, making women the ‘bearers of the collective’. Second, peace activism has overshadowed much of the feminist agenda. Most female activism has centered on left-leaning peace groups throughout the last three decades, delegitimizing the feminist movement in the eyes of the wider Jewish community. Third, the conflict has led to the cultural and material militarization of Israeli society, siphoning resources away from pressing social issues and into security. Fourth, the national struggle has precluded cooperation between Palestinian Israeli and Jewish Israeli feminist organizers, limiting the overall effectiveness of the movement. Finally, emphasis on the conflict at the societal level has encouraged the preservation of the 1953 Rabbinical Courts Jurisdiction on marriage and divorce law, which ensures that “the marriage and divorce of Jews shall only be conducted according to Jewish law [and] precludes any possibility of intermarriage in Israel.”

The authors examine these effects through the lens of the Jewish Orthodox feminist movement and the Muslim feminist movement. The troubling outcome is the stultification of the feminist movement, exacerbating gender equality and women’s rights issues.

Download “Between Universal Feminism and Particular Nationalism: politics, religion and gender (in)equality in Israel” from Third World Quarterly if your university has access here or email info@pomeps.org for assistance.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Are Muslims prone to large-scale political violence? Many prominent political scientists have argued that there is a connection between Islam and violence, yet this relationship remains hotly contested. Fish et al contribute to the debate in their recent article in Comparative Political Studies by asking if Muslims are more prone to large-scale political violence than non-Muslims. The authors focus on large-scale intra-state war, rather than terrorism or interstate war, to test this relationship. While the authors find no evidence that countries with large proportions of Muslims are more prone to large-scale political violence, they do find “an appreciable, but not necessarily disproportionate” relationship between Islamism (the ideology) and large-scale political violence.

The authors explain that many people believe that Islam is associated with political violence because of the concept of jihad, or holy struggle; “If some modern Muslims take to heart what they perceive as permission — even a prescription — to commit violence, one might expect large-scale political violence to be especially high among Muslims.” However, the evidence that they find, after compiling a database of events of large-scale political violence, and controlling for a range of other factors that could affect political violence (level of ethnic fragmentation, level of democracy, late independence) the authors find that only levels of development and democracy are significantly correlated with the number of deaths due to political violence. In fact, they find that Muslims are “less inclined to large-scale political violence than non-Muslims, but the difference is small and not statistically distinguishable from zero.” Instead, they find that 16% of the deaths and 11% of episodes of large-scale intrastate political violence were instigated by radical Islamists (those acting on the basis of a radical ideology). Thus, while “Islamists do bear some responsibility for major episodes of political violence in the postwar world…other actors have been responsible for as much large-scale political violence as Islamists have.” Thus the authors support the fact that Islam as a religion is no more correlated with large-scale political violence than any other faith.

Download “Islam and Large-Scale Political Violence: Is There a Connection?” from Comparative Political Studies if your university has access here or email info@pomeps.org for assistance.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Were Iraq and the United States acting rationally in the lead up to war in 2003? David A. Lake answers this question with a qualified ‘yes’ in “Two Cheers for Bargaining Theory: Assessing Rationalist Explanations of the Iraq War,” published in the Winter 2010/2011 International Security. Lake analyzes the outbreak of war between the United States and Iraq through Fearon’s bargaining model. Of rationalist explanations for war, bargaining theory is undoubtedly the most fashionable. Honing in on the inherently strategic nature of war, it forces analysts to probe why states would choose the inefficient mechanism of war to solve their disputes. The lead up to and outbreak of war between the United States and Iraq, however, poses a significant challenge to the theory. Lake highlights fourmajor shortcomings of the theory: first, the model assumes states are unitary actors. This was clearly not the case, as oil companies and the military industrial complex changed the rational calculations of the Bush administration, “increase[ing] the belligerency of the US” and making a peaceful resolution with Iraq more difficult to achieve. Second, bargaining theory works as a two-player game, but multiple actors factored into the US decision to invade in 2003. This complication, Lake argues, magnified the problems of asymmetric information and costly signaling so central to bargaining theory. Third, bargaining theory tends to focus on the bargaining process leading up to war, but concludes its analysis once an agreement ending hostilities is achieved. Yet hostilities continued long after the flying of the “mission accomplished” banner. Lake argues that bargaining models should be nuanced enough to include rational calculations of the costs of post-war peace, especially in light of the massive costs to the US government in post-war reconstruction.

Finally, and this is perhaps Lake’s most fundamental contribution, bargaining theory assumes that states act rationally. The author suggests that both Iraq and the US acted only minimally rationally in the lead up to war; there were key information failures that were “rooted in cognitive biases in decision making, not intentional misrepresentations by the opponent.” If the US and Iraq were caught up in self-delusions, biased decision-making, and failures to update prior beliefs, then their actions are inconsistent with the assumption that actors will seek out and make use of all available information. This crucial shortcoming in bargaining theory is the basis for Lake’s proposal to infuse bargaining models with behavioral approaches. Theories of misperception that focus on how individuals (and states) actually think are complementary to bargaining theory. The two in tandem can help analysts better grasp the outbreak of war in 2003.

Download “Two Cheers for Bargaining Theory: Assessing Rationalist Explanations of the Iraq War” from International Security if your university has access here or email info@pomeps.org for assistance.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

© 2011. Project on Middle East Political Science. All rights reserved.