Contributions were received from Elena Cesca, Filippo Cristini, Giulia Fagotto, Irene Spaziani and Lorenzo Vermigli.
- Mediterranean and Middle East
Winds of democratic change in the Mediterranean? : processes, actors and possible outcomes / [edited by] Stefania Panebianco and Rosa Rossi. - Soveria Mannelli : Rubbettino, 2012. - 381 p. - (Università). - ISBN 978-88-498-3183-2
This volume provides an extensive, thought-provoking analysis of popular activism that has characterised the MENA region during the last decade. Combining historical, philosophical and political analysis, the authors capture the origins of events that began to unfold in Middle East and North African countries and have led to the revolutionary changes brought about by the Arab uprisings. As the title reflects, this collection of papers is organised in three sections which critically examine the process of democratisation, the actors involved and possible future scenarios for the region.
While the academic community has long focused on the slow process of democratic change in MENA countries, in 2010, when the research for this book began, none of the authors could foresee the beginning of the Arab revolts. The dimension and the intensity of the uprisings shocked the entire academic world, refuelling the controversial debate on 'democratic transition' in the Mediterranean region. Inspired by the enthusiasm of these new changes, many exponents of the democratisation theory welcomed the so-called fourth wave of democratisation taking place in the Middle East, stressing its a-religious and inclusive nature. Thanks to the contribution of many scholars with different backgrounds, this book explores these issues with a more objective approach.
A multidisciplinary study, the first part of the volume combines theoretical and empirical issues to shed light on the very essence of these unexpected political changes. Using perspectives ranging from historical to sociological and political, six scholars underline the contradictions and obstacles that Arab countries face on their path toward democratisation. In particular, the successful Turkish example that combines state secularism and Islamic culture is explored in order to debunk the thesis of incompatibility between Islam and democracy. Political science and theoretical paradigms are used as a starting point for further examination of the revolutionary processes: Bobbio's and Arendt's thoughts about revolutions are combined with Lijphart's model of consociational democracy and used to substantiate the authors' interpretations of the uprisings. By and large, the authors converge on adopting the actor-centred approach, which sees democratisation processes as a complex phenomenon, possibly triggered by spontaneous popular mobilisation that eventually needs to be consolidated into institutional and legal frameworks.
The analysis then moves to the chief actors of the MENA unrest. After having offered a detailed evaluation of the EU and its democracy-promotion policies towards the region, the authors focus on non-state actors, which are identified as the main drivers of change. Even though civil society has never been pivotal in the region's political balance, it emerges here as the key factor for the spread of political and democratic awareness. The impact of social movements and NGOs is broadly examined by taking into account the international dimension as well: particular attention is given to the interaction between national and international players, which has had great influence on political dynamics within these societies. International relations theories are used as a framework for the subsequent chapters, which are centred on the US and EU Mediterranean policies for democracy and human rights promotion. The all-encompassing portrait of the Arab uprising depicted by the authors does not neglect the growing part played by the new mass media. In particular, chapter ten highlights how the internet and the media have become the new political arena for debate and confrontation, partially replacing political parties and traditional organisations such as trade unions - which have traditionally been co-opted by the regimes in power and have never represented a genuine force for change. The last chapter of the second part tackles the thorny issue of the influence of religious movements on the MENA uprisings. In a study of Egypt's political history, the authors scrutinize the controversial role of the Muslim Brotherhood during the Egyptian revolution.
Finally, the third part of the volume is dedicated to the authors' views on the future of MENA countries. Since democratisation as a global phenomenon has not yet reached the MENA countries, the popular mobilisations have created volatile, collective identities that have no concrete ability to provide a valid ruling alternative. Many variables are at play in the aftermath of the Arab Spring and the outcomes of these winds of change are far from certain; democratic regimes are just one of the many possible scenarios.
Overall, the book does more than retrace the political history of the uprisings. It offers both scholars and the non-specialised public an extraordinary opportunity to delve into the often confusing details of some of the issues that are still dominating the front pages of newspapers worldwide. (Giulia Fagotto)
Arab society in revolt : the West's Mediterranean challenge / Cesare Merlini, Olivier Roy, editors. - Washington : Brookings Institution Press, c2012. - xii, 268 p. - ISBN 978-0-8157-2396-7
Bringing together contributions from various academics, this book, as the title suggests, aims to provide an exhaustive and detailed analysis of the so-called 'Arab Spring', focusing on the main factors and tendencies characterising contemporary Arab society.
According to the editors, Merlini and Roy, the volume can easily be divided into two distinct parts. The first is devoted to the study of the past and ongoing transformations that are shaping civil society in the MENA region. In particular, it stresses their relation with the outbreak and evolution of the protest movements. The second part, on the other hand, examines the strategic posture adopted by the West, taking into consideration the intellectual assumptions and the political forces that have informed the strategies of both the United States and the European Union vis-à-vis the revolutionary wave.
It can be argued that the book's mission is twofold. First, it seeks to provide a complete overview of the dynamic social context in which the Arab Spring took place. Second, it gives an overall assessment of the West's approach to the region, highlighting its weaknesses and suggesting alternatives and more effective policy options. In short, while the US strategy lacks continuity, as witnessed by the shift between the Bush and the Obama administrations, the major flaw in European policy is Brussels' misperception of the role played by Islam in Arab countries. In the first part of the book, while dealing with different specific issues, all contributions intend to explore the interdependence between the social transformations and the political upheaval in the region. In the second part, analysis of the West's posture regarding the Arab awakening goes beyond description and also contains some prescriptions.
Throughout their analyses, Merlini and Roy contend that the Arab Spring should be regarded as a unique and irreversible phenomenon, since it involves such crucial social factors as religion, political culture and demographic trends. Moreover, they emphasize the importance of the context in which it took place, stressing the fact that the current international system is undergoing dramatic and impressive transformations that risk compromising the West's longstanding leadership. In that it deals with a wide range of topics, from social transformations to Western political strategies, the volume is both ambitious and innovative. It does not simply provide a complete and clear analysis of the Arab awakening and its echoes in the Western community, it also fuels some classic - and still ongoing - academic debates, such as the one on Huntington's 'clash of civilisations' thesis or the one on the role of religion, particularly Islam, in politics.
To conclude, the book succeeds in providing a thorough and thoughtful guide for anyone wishing to understand the rationale, as well as the possible consequences at the regional and international levels unleashed by the Arab Spring. By looking at recent developments in both US and EU policies, it is highly recommended for young scholars doing in-depth research on these specific topics. (Filippo Cristini)
The Middle East process and the EU : foreign policy and security strategy in international politics / Taylan Özgür Kaya. - London ; New York : I.B. Tauris, 2013. - xiii, 266 p. - ISBN 978-1-84885-982-1
In his book, Taylan Özgür Kaya, assistant professor of international relations at the Necmettin Erbakan University in Turkey, sets out to determine the extent of the congruity between "what the EU is" and "what the EU does". In particular, the author examines the EU's self-conceptualisation - what he calls role conception - and the EU's actions in the international arena - which he refers to as role performance. Finally, Kaya observes the impact of (in)congruity between role conception and role performance on the EU's profile as a major foreign and security policy actor.
The book addresses three main research questions: a) what roles does the EU define for itself as a foreign and security policy actor in the post-9/11 era?; b) is there congruity or incongruity between the EU's self-defined role conceptions and its actual role performance in the specific case of the Middle East peace process (MEPP) in the post-9/11 era?; c) what are the outcomes/consequences of incongruity between the EU's role conceptions and role performance on the EU's profile as a foreign and security policy actor?
The author focuses on the peace process in the Middle East, a strategically important region for the EU and its member states. This relevance rests upon three main factors: the proximity of the Middle East region and the possibility that social and political instability might spill over into the European neighbourhood; energy security and European dependence on Middle Eastern resources; and the special relationship that some EU member states, former colonial powers, have with the region. After explaining the theoretical framework at the heart of his analysis, Kaya analyses EU official documents on foreign and security policy to identify the EU's role conceptions, as well as speeches delivered by the three principal EU foreign policy officials of the time, namely Javier Solana (High Representative of CFSP and Secretary General of the Council), Chris Patten (EU Commissioner for External Relations and ENP) and Benita Ferrero-Waldner (Patten's successor).
As a result of this content analysis, the author identifies seven role conceptions for the EU: force for good; force for international peace, security and stability; promoter of its values and norms; provider of development aid; promoter of effective multilateralism; partner for the UN; and builder of effective partnerships with key actors. After retracing the development of the Arab-Israeli conflict since 1948, and presenting the related positions of, first, the EC and, then, the EU, Kaya analyzes the seven role conceptions and compares them to actual performance one by one.
The EU, as the largest donor of financial aid to the Palestinian Authority, has remained committed to a negotiated settlement and the creation of a democratic Palestinian state, living side-by-side and in peace with Israel. Nevertheless, the author also recognizes that the EU, despite its good political and trade relations with Israel, has never been as close to it as the United States. Even though "the EU intended to play not only the role of the payer but also that of the player", it remained a junior partner to the US in the peace process (110).
Based on his analysis and evidence, Kaya concludes that the EU's involvement in the MEPP in the post-9/11 era reveals no significant "conception-performance gap" in the EU's foreign policy. (Irene Spaziani)
- Arms control
Arms control and missile proliferation in the Middle East / edited by Bernd W. Kubbig and Sven-Eric Fikenscher. - London and New York : Routledge, 2012. - xxi, 335 p. : ill. - (Routledge global security studies ; 29). - ISBN 978-0-415-60111-5 ; 978-0-203-13816-8 (ebk)
In a period of revival of nuclear weapons projects and regional turmoil of the kind being witnessed in the Middle East, pursuing a strictly national approach to security is no longer possible. This multi-authored book aims at investigating how the level of security in the Middle East and Gulf region can be increased by a step-by-step confidence-building strategy and the creation of a Missile Free Zone (MFZ). The book consists of several articles written by professors and experts in the fields of international security, arms control and Middle East issues. It addresses regional decision-makers and offers a Track II answer to the Gulf's deficits regarding the missile problématique in the security dilemma context. Thus, the outcome is sector-based and technicality-dependent.
The book is structured in three parts. The first describes the security dilemma itself in relation to the destabilizing role of the missiles. A detailed historical excursus, which recalls both the achievements of and the structural barriers to arms control, is provided to make it possible to learn from the past and move forward. The second part is more analytical with the contextualization becoming the underlying theme of the study. The authors criticise the prevailing mind-set in the region and recommend a conciliatory approach and a balancing of interests and priorities in order to overcome the gridlocks. Thus, assessing threats "contextually" should be the cornerstone in the Gulf nuclear question. Due to the highly complex internal and external disputes (over territory, religion, natural resources and military asymmetries), only "interactive dynamics" can cope with a multi-faceted threat of this kind. The authors clarify their research question: "Under what circumstances are gradual steps towards a Missile Free Zone (technically) feasible and political acceptable?" (2, 16).
Starting from the premise that the key actors in the region will only participate in a project on arms reduction if they perceive it as a mean for improving their own security, the authors draft the MFZ plan with references to military, national and extranational factors affecting the question. In this regard, the building blocks represented by the zonal countries, the roles of external actors (such as the US and Russia) and subnational organisations (Hamas and Hezbollah) are reviewed so as to start disentangling the knot. Once the main conditions under which missile control and the relevant external actors' policies could undermine regional disarmament are highlighted, the third part examines potential attempts at and points out possible scenarios for coping with not only particular threats (Iranian escalation, Israel's status) but also regional ones (al-Qaeda's influence). It puts forth instrumental measures for confidence building and technology proposals for a preliminary comprehensive MFZ project that should also cover effective monitoring and verification measures.
It could be argued that, besides the technical monitoring devices, there is no mention of follow-up mechanisms to verify the implementation of the agreed provisions in arms control, nor of authoritative international bodies (the IAEA is given just one line) or accountability systems serving as a deterrent to non-fulfilment. Despite the reasonable recommendations, the discourse appears too theoretical and it is unclear if and how an outsider might act as a non-partisan supervisor. No detailed agenda is provided for officials to concretely settle political and diplomatic stalemates in the region. The authors draw their inspiration from the "conceptual" merits of the Latin American, South Pacific and European experiences in cooperation and intend to pave the way for building a framework of talks that would follow the three abovementioned phases. However, if the turning point is reciprocal trust, it must be remembered that history cannot be a guide here and that the reality in the Middle East is quite different from that in the West. The time does not seem ripe for building up the kind of momentum that could have a positive impact on increasing the chances for eventual disarmament and for setting off a virtuous circle in which confidence generates confidence. (Elena Cesca)
The opportunity : next steps in reducing nuclear arms / Steven Pifer, Michael E. O'Hanlon. - Washington : Brookings Institution Press, c2012. - xi, 242 p. - ISBN 978-0-8157-2429-2
The Opportunity is an impressive handbook for any decision-maker in the field of nuclear arms reduction. In writing this Brookings 'focus book', Steven Pifer (director of the Brookings Arms Control Initiative) and Michael O'Hanlon (director of research for Foreign Policy at Brookings) have brilliantly addressed the issue of nuclear weapons from an opportunity perspective. The clear structure of the book and its progressively unfolding core make it easy to read and extremely fascinating.
In the beginning, the authors briefly describe the nuclear-related highlights of the past 70 years. The following chapters deal with the premises, the substance and the consequences of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), signed by US President Obama and Russian President Medvedev in 2010. After pointing out the strong points of the treaty, which is perceived as a stimulus for going forward with nuclear arms reduction in the future, the book addresses the sensitive issue of US and Russian missile defence, and the crucial role that NATO plays. In dealing with this critical situation, the authors suggest more cooperation and transparency between Washington and Moscow. The Russians want legal guarantees that missile defence is not targeted against Russian strategic forces. However, President Obama has only been able to provide political commitments since the Senate has blocked any kind of binding guarantee. At the end, the book discusses the subject of "aspiring to zero", namely whether a nuclear-free world is achievable and how it can be accomplished.
There are three main reasons for going down the road of arms control and together they represent The Opportunity. The first is opportunistic and concerns tactical and non-strategic nuclear weapons. Since they are not limited by the new START (Russia has a significant advantage in these weapons), the opportunity would be to take further steps to reduce them in the next round of negotiations. The second reason is economic: if the US and Russia were to sign a new treaty further limiting arms, the US could save tens of billions of dollars. The third and final reason regards credibility: the United States and Russia control about 95 percent of nuclear weapons in the world. How can they invite third countries to reduce their stockpiles if they are unwilling to do so? The authors believe that regimes like North Korea and Iran are probably not going to reduce their arsenals anyway, but a further reduction on the US and Russian side would eliminate one of the excuses that these regimes often use for not reducing them. Moreover, with the US and Russia diminishing their stockpiles, other countries would be encouraged to get involved in the arms reduction process as well.
One of the most interesting and controversial points of the entire book is the part related to the "aspiring to zero" issue. Following Obama's speech in Prague in 2009, the authors believe that a nuclear-free world is unlikely in the short term, but possible in the long term. To this end, however, the following conditions must be established: ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT); multilateralization of nuclear arms control; preservation of some level of advantage for Moscow and Washington in any nuclear drawdowns; stabilization of great power relations over existing issues (such as Taiwan, the Middle East and Kashmir); and reconstitution, that is the capability to rebuild an arsenal for temporary purposes, which the authors affirm to be of crucial importance to thwart potential threats. Yet, even if verification methods were painstakingly implemented, the difficulty in successfully monitoring the actual presence of fissile material makes the authors' argument subject to debate.
Pifer and O'Hanlon are authoritative experts in this field and any reader interested in gaining knowledge of issues related to nuclear reduction should take this must-read as a research milestone. (Lorenzo Vermigli)