From the Journals: Lebanon; Syria; Arab Spring

Anti-American Behavior in the Middle East: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Lebanon. by Daniel Corstange, a regular participant in POMEPS conferences.
The Journal of Politics 2016; 78(1), 311-325.
Based on public opinion data, anti-Americanism of one form or another is endemic in the Middle East. This paper examines the extent to which hostility generalizes beyond opposition to American foreign policy but is unique to the United States. It conducts a field experiment in Lebanon that manipulates the putative sponsor of a survey and draws on a simple behavioral outcome: do people refuse to be interviewed based on who they think is asking the questions? Results show that academic sponsors do not affect participation rates but that refusals spike under government sponsorship of multiple nationalities—behavioral patterns which replicate in communities that vary widely in their a priori levels of hostility to the United States. Ironically, systematic opt-outs by political opponents make people in the government conditions appear more rather than less supportive of US-favored policies compared to their peers in the other treatment groups.


The Decline and Fall of the Arab State by Ellen Lust and Ariel Ahram. Lust is a POMEPS Board Member, and Ahram is a regular POMEPS participant.
Survival 2016; 58(2), 7-34


The malaise of Arab states was triggered by domestic battles, but made possible by global changes in the nature of sovereignty. For Arab nationalists, pan-Islamist activists and Washington DC insiders alike, reimagining the regional map is something of a pastime. They have long assumed that the Arab state system was tenuous. They recount how imperial conspiracies, invasions and occupations erected borders and imposed systems of rule badly out of touch with the identities and aspirations of the region’s people. While Arab states enjoyed the privileges of recognition abroad, they faced a perilous dearth of legitimacy at home. In the end, popular resentments would surely sweep aside such political artifice. Yet, even if we accept the premise that sovereignty was a sham, that Arab states were doomed from birth, and that the current crisis was therefore inevitable, there are still important questions left unanswered. The first set of questions pertains to timing: why were the long-standing vulnerabilities of the Arab states exposed now, and how had these defective states been able to survive for so long? The second set concerns the aspiring successor states. Why have the challengers to sovereignty taken the particular form that they have? Do any of them offer a chance for a more stable and peaceful political order?

Proto-State Realignment and the Arab Spring by Ora Szekely. Szekely’s manuscript was discussed at a POMEPS Junior Scholar’s Book Workshop.
Middle East Policy 2016; 23(1), 75-91


There is a long-running debate among scholars of international relations as to whether state behavior is more heavily influenced by systemic or domestic pressures. There is far less discussion, however, of the impact of these factors on the behavior of nonstate actors. This stems perhaps from an assumption that nonstate actors, by their very nature, have different priorities than states, and that system-level factors should therefore not matter very much. Their expressed goals are often the over- throw of a particular regime, the control of specific territory or (in practice if not in theory) victory over rival militias. None of these issues suggests that we should expect changes in regional realignment — rather than in the domestic political context — to shape their behavior. If militant organizations are concerned primarily with a local conflict, their alliance behavior, even at the regional and international levels, should be driven by an assessment of which alliances will help them further their goals. Yet, the responses by Hamas and Hezbollah to the sudden regional realignment produced by the Arab Spring suggest that this is not always the case.

The political economy and complex interdepency of the war system in Syria by Nazih Richani.
Civil Wars 18(1), 2016


Duration of civil wars has been an elusive area of study particularly because of the tedious task of disentangling the interplay of actors’ agencies, incentives’ structures and constraints. This article tackles Syria’s civil war that has completed its fifth year with little hope for an end any time soon. I examine a plausible cause leading to its protraction. Namely the formation of a war system, which made the costs of war less than the expected risks of peace giving the local, regional and international actors that are shouldering the costs. The war system approach combines class analysis with system-structural analysis capturing nuances and dynamics of conflict. This article is based in part based on primary sources collected by author in the Summers of 2014 and 2015 in Lebanon.

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