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IR-Theory and Transformation in the Greater Middle East: the Role of the United States

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For more content, please see Journal of Developing Societies.

This article analyzes why post-Cold War American foreign policy regarding the Greater Middle East (GME) changed course and why the United States having a virtual military monopoly fails to achieve its war aim in Iraq. To that end, the authors consult realist and liberal theory in international relations. Realists have a security-driven policy agenda. They fail to create a micro-level foundation in political man for the posited collective interest at the level of the state. Realists therefore produce indeterminate results. Liberal theory in international relations does have a micro-foundation in explanations of foreign policy choices in the form of the economic man. Liberal scholars therefore inquire into domestic sources of foreign policy decisions. However, the liberal national interest is not just a summation of private actor interests. These dominant approaches therefore fail to explain US foreign policy choices and policy outcomes in the region under study.

The three quotations below create the problematic of this study:

Today we are presented with a unique strategic opportunity. For more than 50 years we were constrained by a bipolar rivalry with a superpower adversary. Today and tomorrow, we have an opportunity to pursue a strategy of engagement and to design a military force to help the strategy succeed. I fully agree with the defense strategy of helping to shape the environment to promote US interests abroad.

John Shalikashvili, Clinton's Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1997)

[Y]ou live now in the Mohammedan nation which, if the traveler's accounts are to be believed, is intelligent and even refined. What is this irredeemable decadence dragging it down through the centuries? Is it possible that we have risen while they remain static? I do not think so. I rather think that the dual movement has occurred in opposite directions […] European races are often the greatest rogues, but at least they are rogues to whom God gave the will and the power and whom he seems to have destined for some time to be at the head of mankind […] the European is to other races of mankind what man himself is to the lower animals: he makes them subservient to his use, and when he cannot subdue he destroys them.

Alexis de Tocqueville (1962: 75-76)

Why is it that we did not complete our cultural journey, and how is it that we have ended up today in the very worst of times? What is it that made our predecessor pore over their desks, writing down and recording the marvels of mathematics and sciences and searching out the skies with the stars and constellations in order to discover their secrets, and driven by the love of knowledge, to study medicine and to devise medicaments even from the stomachs of bees […] Andalus became a lost place, then Palestine became Andalus.

Mahmud Darwish (2004)

Affiliations: 1: International Institute for Asian Studies and Adjunct Professor of International Relations, Webster University; 2: Associate Professor of International Relations, University of Amsterdam


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