National Movements in the Middle East: A Conversation with Peter Krause (S. 5, Ep. 35)

On this week’s POMEPS podcast, Marc Lynch talks with Peter Krause, an assistant professor at Boston College. Krause’s new book, Rebel Power: Why National Movements Compete, Fight, and Win, focuses on the internal balance of power among nationalist groups, who cooperate with each other to establish a new state while simultaneously competing to lead it.

“The book itself answers several questions to people who study national movements, nationalism, or political violence. The first question is why some nations get states and others don’t,” said Krause.

“These groups simultaneously have, what I call, organizational goals— which is, they want to have power. They want to have power and notoriety. They want to survive. They want to increase their membership. At the same time they have these strategic goals of statehood or independence. From the work I’ve done, it’s clear to me that groups and individuals in them care about both of these objectives,” said Krause. “My argument is simply that: most of the time you never go broke betting on the fact that groups care more about their organizational goals. They always want to make sure that they’re maximizing their power. The argument is simply: when maximizing their power means that they should pursue and achieve strategic goals, that’s when it happens. That’s the idea that if you’re the hegemon, the best way to become stronger is actually to win to achieve victory to achieve a new state. Because now you get the office, the wealth, and the status that comes along with it. However, if you are a weaker organization and you’re not in line to inherit the throne, then you actually have an incentive to ‘spoil a deal.’ Not necessarily trying to prevent independence forever, but hold it off for now.”

“If you look at studies of national movements and insurgencies, it’s pretty close to consensus that foreign support matters,” said Krause. “What I argue, however, is what nature of that support takes and how effective it is depends a great deal on the internal balance of power inside the movement.”

“In the book, I do these longitudinal studies to follow—not just the movements’ over all succeeding or failing— but by year. Within each movement— even the Zionists and Algerians— have multiple years of failures. Even the Palestinians have years of greater success. And almost every single group goes through periods of using violence or not of negotiating. And so that— in many ways— is the most fascinating thing, because normally when we talk about these moments, we talk about them as unitary successes or failures. We talk about this group or that group is being moderate or extreme. What I find is those things change all the time, depending on the balance of power in groups’ positions within it.”

Music for this season’s podcast was created by Feras Arrabi. You can find more of his work on his Facebook and Instagram page.

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