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  1. Reflections on the Arab Uprisings, POMEPS Studies 10 [Download]

    Title: Reflections on the Arab Uprisings, POMEPS Studies 10
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: ‘Tis the season to reflect upon the course of the Arab uprisings. Over the last few weeks I have participated in three major workshops including nearly 50 scholars – and had to miss yet another in favor of a quick trip to Tunisia. It is not difficult to understand this intense urge to take stock, given the sorry state of the region and catastrophic results of virtually every one of the 2011 uprisings. The overblown criticisms of the field of Middle East political science over its failure to predict the uprisings have been thoroughly aired by this point. But what about the field’s performance during the Arab uprisings? Academics have written an unprecedented amount of real-time analysis and commentary over the last few years. What did we miss, misinterpret, exaggerate or rush to premature judgments about along the way? The first of the workshops focused explicitly on this question. I asked a group of the authors from my edited volume The Arab Uprisings Explained: New Contentious Politics in the Middle East to write short memos assessing their contributions critically after having another year to reflect. Those memos have been published as POMEPS Studies 10 Reflections on the Arab Uprisings. Their auto-critique is full of worthy observations: We paid too much attention to the activists and not enough to the authoritarians; we understated the importance of identity politics; we assumed too quickly that successful popular uprisings would lead to a democratic transition; we under-estimated the key role of international and regional factors in domestic outcomes; we took for granted a second wave of uprisings, which thus far has yet to materialize; we under-stated the risk of state failure and over-stated the possibility of democratic consensus. Read more on The Monkey Cage.
    Keywords: Middle East, North Africa, Arab Uprisings, Political Science, International Relations, POMEPS Studies
    Date Uploaded: 07/27/2017
  2. From Mobilization to Counter-Revolution: The Arab Spring in Comparative Perspective, POMEPS Studies 20 [Download]

    Title: From Mobilization to Counter-Revolution: The Arab Spring in Comparative Perspective, POMEPS Studies 20
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: On May 3-4, 2016, POMEPS held a workshop, “From Mobilization to Counter-Revolution: The Arab Spring in Comparative Perspective,” in conjunction with Oxford University’s Middle East Centre at St. Anthony’s College and Department of Sociology. In recent years a great deal of attention has focused on the process of revolutionary mobilization. By comparison, the conditions under which revolutions fail remains less well understood – this in spite of the tendency for many of the initial gains of contemporary revolutions to prove ephemeral. The disappointing trajectory of the 2011 Arab Spring only underlines the need to better understand this important topic. During the Arab Spring, factional splits between Islamists and secular activists quickly turned into internecine strife, undermining revolutionary coalitions. These splits were, in turn, exacerbated by interventions from regional and international powers. Later, violent Islamist groups exploited revolutionary openings to advance their own agendas. In countries that did not experience revolutionary breakthroughs, authoritarian regimes adapted their repressive strategies in the face of border-crossing protests. This workshop brought together more than a dozen diverse scholars working on issues related to the Middle East in transition to explain and conceptualize these dynamics by bringing them into comparative perspective. Drawing from a wide range of methodological and theoretical perspectives, participants contributed short memos that examined topics like revolutionary failure, de-democratization, counter-revolution and authoritarian retrenchment.
    Keywords: Middle East, North Africa, Political Science, International Relations, Mobilization, Counter-Revolution, POMEPS Studies, Arab Spring
    Date Uploaded: 07/25/2017
  3. Women and Gender in Middle East Politics, POMEPS Studies 19 [Download]

    Title: Women and Gender in Middle East Politics, POMEPS Studies 19
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: The barriers to women’s political participation in the Middle East have long preoccupied scholars and analysts. The Arab uprisings of early 2011 disrupted virtually every dimension of Arab politics and societies, forcing a systematic re-evaluation of many long-held political science theories and assumptions. The place of women in politics and the public sphere was no exception. The divergent experiences of the Arab uprisings and their aftermath have allowed political scientists to take a fresh look at many of these important questions. New data sources and a diversity of cases have energized the community of scholars focused on women’s public political participation. A Project on Middle East Political Science workshop in March brought together an interdisciplinary group of more than a dozen such scholars to critically examine these questions. The complete collection is now available for free download here. A wide-ranging political science literature on the challenges facing women’s political participation has highlighted variables such as Islamist movements, discourses of nationalism and citizenship, patterns of state development and cultural norms of patriarchy. But these broad claims often fail to account for disparities in women’s experiences not only among different states but also sub-nationally. The scholars in the POMEPS workshop have taken advantage of new data sources, new organizations and campaigns and variation to highlight the diversity of the experience of women across the region.
    Keywords: Middle East, North Africa, Political Science, International Relations, Women , Gender, POMEPS Studies
    Date Uploaded: 07/25/2017
  4. Evolving Methodologies in the Study of Islamism, POMEPS Studies 17 [Download]

    Title: Evolving Methodologies in the Study of Islamism, POMEPS Studies 17
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: In recent years there have been dramatic changes in the Islamist landscape as Islamist political parties have drastically transformed, violent new groups have burst on the scene, and the proliferation of new media has changed access to information. But have political scientists and other scholars taken the time to step back and examine how these seismic shifts have affected our research methods, priorities, and arguments? On January 29, 2016, scholars gathered for the Project on Middle East Political Science’s 3rd Annual workshop on Islamist politics as part of our Islam in a Changing Middle East initiative. This year’s workshop focused on the methodological and conceptual issues in the study of Islamism. What assumptions underlying our research need to be problematized? How should we deal with the vast outpouring of information and evidence about these movements now available on social media? What do we mean by the term “Islamist?” Offering an incredibly rich set of reflections, the papers in this series challenge the utility of core concepts such as “moderation” and “radical Islam.” They investigate the operation of specific causal mechanisms such as repression, identity, and organizational structure. They consider how newly available sources of survey and social media data can change our research approaches and remind us of all we have learned. The excellent essays in POMEPS Studies 17 Evolving Methodologies in the Study of Islamism take up these questions. While no one claims to have come up with a single answer, this collection is an important first step in grappling with the complex puzzle of “Islamism” today. This critical and reflective scholarship will be useful for the novice student and experienced analyst alike. Read all the essays for free here.
    Keywords: Middle East, North Africa, Political Science, International Relations, Islamism , POMEPS Studies
    Date Uploaded: 07/25/2017
  5. International Relations Theory in a New Middle East, POMEPS Studies 16 [Download]

    Title: International Relations Theory in a New Middle East, POMEPS Studies 16
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: The story of the Arab uprisings of 2010-11 has typically been told as a series of loosely related national stories, happening simultaneously but whose successes and failures were essentially determined by internal factors. Over the last few years, political scientists have made great progress evaluating the success or failure of each country’s uprising in terms of country-specific qualities such as types of domestic institutions, the nature of opposition movements, the wise or poor decisions made by leaders and access to oil revenues. The comparative politics literature on the uprisings has demonstrated real theoretical progress, sophisticated empirical analysis and useful—if too often ignored—policy advice. This comparative politics approach to the uprisings has always been problematic, though. The Arab uprisings began in transnational diffusion and ended in transnational repression and regional proxy wars. It is remarkably difficult to accurately explain the course of events in Egypt, Yemen or Libya without reference to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar or Iran. However, with but a few notable exceptions, the academic literature on the uprisings has been dominated by comparative analysis and country case studies, with international factors included as one among several variables, if at all. This seems odd. Why has there not been an efflorescence of international relations scholarship comparable to the impressive outpouring of comparative politics scholarship on the Arab uprisings? And if there were, what would it look like? To begin rectifying this gap, the Project on Middle East Political Science teamed up with Danish scholar Morten Valbjørn of Aarhus University to bring together nearly two-dozen American, European and Arab international relations scholars in May. The result of the workshop was an astonishingly rich set of essays from a wide range of theoretical perspectives, which are now available for free download here as a special issue in the POMEPS Studies series.
    Keywords: Middle East, North Africa, Political Science, International Relations, Theory, POMEPS Studies
    Date Uploaded: 07/25/2017
  6. Islam and International Order, POMEPS Studies 15 [Download]

    Title: Islam and International Order, POMEPS Studies 15
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: Islam has rarely been far from the center of the world’s political and security agenda in the decade and a half since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack against the United States. The range of issues to which Islam has been deemed central is staggering, from transnational terrorism and counterinsurgency in Iraq to the possibility of democracy in the Middle East. These long-running debates have been galvanized over the last few years by the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, shocking acts of terrorism from Paris to Tunisia, and the failure of the democratic experiment with Muslim Brotherhood rule in Egypt. In April 2015 the Project on Middle East Political Science and the Transatlantic Academy hosted a workshop for a sustained discussion of emerging questions on Islam and international order. The two-day workshop brought together a broad, interdisciplinary group of scholars, including area specialists and generalists, from the fields of political science, religious studies and history. The workshop, part of the POMEPS Islam in a Changing Middle East initiative, built on the Transatlantic Academy’s 2015 theme of religion and foreign policy. Peter Katzenstein of Cornell University, in his keynote address, put the question of Islam squarely within the racial and civilizational politics of a declining American imperium. This historical and global perspective provoked a wide-ranging discussion. Islam has played many roles in many different regional and global political orders, as Cemil Aydin, Bruce Lawrence and Jonathan Brown evocatively explained. And, as Amitav Acharya forcefully argued, Islam has routinely frustrated the expectations of popular grand theories of world order. The workshop ranged widely over the question of how to think about Islam within global, regional and domestic political arenas, from a diverse range of empirical cases and theoretical literatures. Can Islam really be understood as an actor, with interests and a coherent identity? Is there something unique about Islam that prevents it from being treated theoretically like other cultural traditions such as nationalism, ethnicity or ideology? Should Islam be seen as a causal variable or as a context through which actors pursue their interests and fight their political battles? What are we doing, conceptually and politically, when we describe political thought as “Islamic political thought,” movements as “Islamic movements,” or democracy as “Islamic democracy”? The essays prepared for this workshop are available here as POMEPS Studies 15. Several key themes ran through the discussions. First, several of the memos specifically focus on the emergence of the Islamic State. Marc Lynch surveys the central analytical arguments that have been deployed to explain the Islamic State Caliphate’s development, noting the very different policy responses each might elicit. Barak Mendelsohn and Reyko Huang evaluate the Islamic State in the history of jihadist groups and insurgencies, and Lawrence Rubin argues that ideational balancing will prevent the Islamic State from becoming a normal state. Second, many of the authors explicitly consider how political science has – or has not – been able to explain the relationship between religion and politics. Contributions from Lynch, Nora Fisher Onar, Elizabeth Shakman Hurd and Jillian Schwedler highlight the importance of the context – or frames in Fisher Onar’s words – of how scholars discuss religion and governance. Third, several of the authors look at the dynamic at play between Islam and the state. Nathan Brown urges scholars to rethink the state’s relationship to religion. Jocelyne Cesari lays out a sophisticated typology of the incorporation of Islam into state institutions, and Mohammad Ayatollahi Tabaar teases out the role of state Islamic rhetoric. John Owen compares the debate over the prospects for Islamic democracy to similar debates in European history, while Daniel Philpott makes a comparative analysis to demystify the notion that Muslim countries are unreceptive to religious freedom. Fourth, several authors focus on the experience of Islamist political movements in the region. Muqtedar Khan prescribes five reforms that Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood should undertake, and Rory McCarthy looks to Tunisia to answer, what happens when Islamists lose an election? Together, the essays collected in “Islam and International Oder” offer a diverse, informed study that should help scholars, journalists, policymakers and the public evaluate the immense changes in the Islamist political scene.
    Keywords: Middle East, North Africa, Political Science, International Relations, POMEPS Studies, Islam
    Date Uploaded: 07/25/2017
  7. Islamism in the IS Age, POMEPS Studies 12 [Download]

    Title: Islamism in the IS Age, POMEPS Studies 12
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: The “IS-ification of Islamist politics,” in Khalil al-Anani’s felicitous phrase, has reshaped the ideological and strategic incentives for Islamist groups and their adversaries. It has also posed a new challenge to the categories, concepts and expectations of the academics who study them. In January, the Project on Middle East Political Science brought together more than a dozen leading scholars of Islamist movements to discuss the Islamic State and its effects on the broader terrain of Islamist politics. Some of the papers prepared for that workshop have been published on The Monkey Cage already and all are now collected into a new edition in the POMEPS Studies series “Islamism in the IS Age,” available for free download here. The challenge posed by the Islamic State can be broken down into a number of discrete areas. First, there is the effort to understand the nature of the group itself: its ideology, its organization and its likely future prospects. Second, there are questions about its relationship and impacts upon other groups, from the very similar (al-Qaeda) to the essentially different (the Muslim Brotherhood). Third, there are important analytical questions about the relative significance of ideology, institutions and strategic competition. It is useful to be precise about which of the arguments that consume the public sphere, such as how “Islamic” the organization is, really matter. The same is true of whether the analytical categories such as the “moderate/radical” divide or the distinction between Salafi-jihadists and mainstream Islamists still offer useful leverage. While its novelty and long-term significance may well be overstated, the Islamic State has indisputably reshaped the region’s strategic and intellectual agenda. Its rapid capture of territory through large swathes of Iraq and Syria and declaration of a new caliphate provoked a military response from the United States and have become the principle focus of a broad international coalition. It poses an intriguing ideational challenge to the norms of state sovereignty that underlie international society. Its penchant for broadcasting barbaric spectacles such as decapitations and burning alive of its hostages galvanized the attention of a horrified world. The Islamic State has built a seemingly robust proto-state in the territories it controls, and has seemingly established affiliates, with varying degrees of success, in areas such as Egypt’s Sinai and Libya. Its ability to attract foreign fighters and seeming appeal to certain radical trends has provoked a new round of alarm over domestic radicalization and terrorist threats. All of those effects are exacerbated by the frenzied media coverage of these developments in both the West and the Arab world. How novel is the Islamic State, really, and how significant will its emergence ultimately seem? A great deal of the popular analysis of the group has focused on its distinctive ideology, along with lurid accounts of its indoctrination methods, internal organization and claims to Islamic authenticity. Much of this analysis seems to proceed in an analytical vacuum, with little attempt to compare the details of the Islamic State to the experience of other insurgencies. It has become common to present the Islamic State as something unique in world history, an exceptionally ideological actor with unprecedented state-building capabilities and an uncanny ability to inspire new followers and recruits from around the world. Yet, the Islamic State is hardly the first insurgency to seize territory and seek to govern it through the exploitation of local resources and the attraction of external support. In his contribution to the symposium, Quinn Mecham makes a compelling case that, ideology aside, the Islamic State has established a relatively high degree of stateness already. It is less obvious what to make of this, however. Controlling territory and behaving like a proto-state are, after all, entirely conventional insurgency behaviors. As Megan Stewart has found, since 1945 roughly one-third of all insurgencies have provided health care and education, and “once an insurgency acquired territory, nearly 49 percent would ensure that the civilian population received education or medical care.” Instead, we need to focus on what kind of insurgent governance this is, and how robust it is likely to prove. Zachariah Mampilly observes that ideology tends to matter less in determining the extent and nature of rebel governance than the conditions on the ground and especially the relationship between the rebels and the society over which it holds sway. On those grounds, things look less promising for the Islamic State. Ideology creates a “distinctive governance problem” for jihadist groups, argue Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Amichai Magen, that they “will struggle mightily to address in the longer term.” Reports of the growing use of intimidation to control restive local populations should be taken with several grains of salt, as strategic communications campaigns ramp up. Still, such reports seem like a leading indicator of declining legitimacy and consent, raising the costs of internal control and the likelihood of internal challenges. Nor are the other key features of the Islamic State especially distinctive. Many non-state violent actors have deployed extreme, public violence for strategic purposes, whether to intimidate local populations and foreign enemies or to maintain the morale of its members. The indoctrination of members into an esoteric code of beliefs is a mainstay of insurgencies, from the Marxist-Leninist movements of the Cold War to Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers to the personalistic cults in many African rebellions. Perhaps the most novel element of the Islamic State is its ability to attract foreign fighters to its cause. However, as David Malet has shown in exquisite detail, even this has precedent in past insurgencies and could prove to be as great a weakness as an advantage as travel to its territories becomes more difficult and local populations grow resentful of foreigners. This does not mean that the Islamic State is not formidable. Many of those earlier, similar insurgencies lasted for decades. But it is useful to recognize the Islamic State as far less unique than usually portrayed, with many of the same strengths and weaknesses of comparable territorially-rooted insurgencies. From this perspective, the Islamic State may be likely to crumble far more quickly than conventional wisdom suggests. As life in its territory grows harsher and lines of division emerge between foreign fighters and local populations, the Islamic State will likely have to expand the share of resources devoted to forcefully maintaining local control. The initial appeal of the Islamic State rested to a considerable degree on its momentum and carefully cultivated aura of invincibility, which seemed to confirm its divine provenance in the eyes of potential fighters. Now that it is mired in a hurting stalemate, losing ground in Iraq while grimly holding on in Syria, such appeals to invincibility are less persuasive. Its extreme savagery has increasingly alienated mass publics, whom do not seem to share the conviction of Western analysts that it represents anything to do with genuine Islam. This brutality does have the benefit of simultaneously mobilizing the most radical potential recruits into action, however, as can be seen in the rising numbers of reported foreign fighters flowing to Syria and Iraq. Whether the pool of admirers shrinks faster than extremists are mobilized or replenished will be a crucial measure of the success of the Islamic State’s strategy. The collapse of the Islamic State would be something to welcome, of course. But this should not be equated with either the disintegration of the underlying organization or with the disappearance of broader jihadist ideas and ideologies. The organization may persist longer than its state, going underground following the defeat of the state as its predecessor al-Qaeda in Iraq did following setbacks in the late 2000s. Its members, and the foreign fighters which fuel it, might simply transfer their allegiance to one of the many available jihadist groups fighting in Syria’s grinding, fragmented and multipolar civil war, leading to little real change in that conflict. The same is true for shattered states like Libya’s or Yemen’s. Failed states, intense sectarian conflicts and repressive regimes are fertile ground for the growth of jihadist movements, and all those ingredients seem likely to be bountiful in the coming years. Variants of jihadist insurgency will almost certainly continue to fight in these arenas regardless of the fate of the Islamic State. It is in the realm of confronting jihadist ideology that trends are the least promising. The currently favored strategy, which combines autocratic repression with the official promotion of “moderate” Islam and the conflation of very different movements under the banner of “terrorism,” is likely to make problems worse. Radicalization is driven less by Islamist ideas than by failures of both governance and popular uprisings and the elimination of nonviolent alternatives. The Islamic State gained traction, recall, in a distinctive regional political environment shaped especially by extensive public regional mobilization in support of a sectarian Syrian jihad and the July 3, 2013 military coup in Egypt that brought down the elected government of President Mohamed Morsi. The coup and subsequent regional wave of intense repression of the Muslim Brotherhood ended an extended period of the open political participation by mainstream Islamist movements, discrediting the idea of such democratic inclusion for the foreseeable future and marginalizing the advocates of mainstream political strategies. The regional environment after the failure and perversion of the Arab uprisings is deeply hostile to any public role for non-violent Islamists and highly conducive to radical movements of all flavors. It is a potentially fatal flaw in the emerging strategy that the Arab world’s autocratic resurgence and proxy wars are constantly replenishing exactly the pool of potential extremists which the counter-IS strategy hopes to drain. The Islamic State’s appeal beyond Syria and Iraq should be understood within the political context of the advantage of the chaos and poor decisions that followed the Arab uprisings. The failures of attempted transitions toward democratic governance, along with the region-wide repression of mainstream Islamists and secular activists, have been a strategic gift to al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and other extremist trends. The failure of almost all of the Arab uprisings, with the sole and partial exception of Tunisia, has badly undermined the idea of the possibility of peaceful political change. The horrors of collapsed states and civil war in Libya, Yemen and Syria hang over all political life. None of the underlying drivers of those protests have been resolved and many – from personal insecurity to economic misery – have deteriorated. Focusing on Islam to the exclusion of these vital issues of governance, democracy and economic opportunity will guarantee failure. Encouraging or tolerating repression in the name of counter-terrorism will only fuel the grim cycle of repression, protest and radicalization. Put bluntly, the anti-Islamist campaign being waged by Egypt and the Gulf states that combines fierce repression with the promotion of “moderate” Islam is likely to badly fail: The Islamic messages will have no resonance with intended audiences, while abusive autocracy will continue to drive alienation and rejection of an illegitimate order. The indiscriminate crackdown on Islamists of all stripes, as many of the essays in this collection point out, is likely to change enduring features of their organizations, ideologies and strategies. The crushing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and its repression across the region has radically debilitated its organizational structure and discredited its ideology. That some of its members are now turning to, welcoming or inciting violence is hardly surprising given the political context; hopefully, some enterprising PhD student is currently doing a rigorous study of violence following military coups that might help determine whether Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has been involved in more, less or about the same as is typical. What is clear, though, is that whatever firewall the Brotherhood once offered against violent extremism has now mostly crumbled, with the ideological underpinnings discredited and the organizational structure disintegrated. Khalil al-Anani notes that the rise of the Islamic State “coupled with the crackdown against the Brotherhood has created divisions and rifts within the Brotherhood, triggering intensive debates between the leadership and youth.” Mokhtar Awad and Nathan Brown point out the mutually reinforcing nature of state repression and this disaggregated extremist turn in Egypt. This plays out differently in diverse national contexts of course. In the Gulf, as Kristin Smith Diwan demonstrates, the regional crackdown is closing down long-standing channels for public engagement and political influence for mainstream Brotherhood movements, which already face challenges from Salafi movements in attracting youth. In Syria, as Raphaël Lefèvre observes, the Brotherhood has floundered as other more radical insurgency factions have taken the lead. Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood has divided acrimoniously, while Yemen’s Islah movement has struggled to maintain what Stacey Philbrick Yadav calls its version of “Islamist Republicanism.” Few Islamist movements are likely to remain unchanged by the events of the last few years. Current trends in public rhetoric do the anti-IS struggle no favors. The public conflation of groups such as al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and the Muslim Brotherhood in today’s political rhetoric contributes to the blurring of once clear lines and likely facilitates recruitment into new violent extremist movements. In some cases, such as the anti-Islamist campaigns in the Gulf and post-coup Egypt, the conflation of distinct groups serves the strategic interests of regimes. In others, it represents genuine analytical confusion. As Anani points out, the equation of the Islamic State with other Islamist trends serves the interests of both hostile regimes and of the Islamic State. In either case, the potential risks are enormous – from the radicalization of previously mainstream groups to the triggering of unnecessary clashes of civilizations. The push to name the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization is an analytical step backward, one which the British government at least has reportedly declined to take. The Muslim Brotherhood, for all the many issues to be raised with its ideology and discourse, typically served as a competitor with and a firewall against recruitment into violent jihadist groups. Its tight organizational structure maintained discipline and ideological focus among its members. The Brotherhood, like most successful organizations, jealously guarded its place within Islamist politics against potential competitors such as al-Qaeda. Today, following Egypt’s military coup, that organization lies in tatters, with much of its leadership in prison and its strategy of democratic political participation discredited. As a result, as Awad and Brown observe, “a substantial reorientation of the Brotherhood may be underway, which could lead back to ideas its leaders had attempted to root out for decades.” This does not weaken jihadist movements such as the Islamic State, but rather strengthens them by removing a traditional mainstream alternative to jihadism. The analysis here focuses heavily on institutions and political strategy. What about Islam itself? Ideology, identity, discourse and rhetoric do matter enormously in politics. High profile recent arguments over the authenticity of the Islamic claims of the Islamic State have not been especially edifying, however. Of course the Islamic State presents itself as Islamic and draws on an elaborate edifice of Islamic references to buttress its case, attract supporters and wage political war on its rivals. Some Muslims agree with all or part of its self-presentation, as Joas Wagemakers notes. But the more important reality is that the overwhelming majority of Muslims find the idea that the Islamic State or al-Qaeda represent their faith to be offensive and absurd. There is little evidence that Muslims view the Islamic State’s claim to represent a new caliphate as anything other than a bad joke. The response of Muslims themselves to claims about their religion should matter far more than textual exegesis. Ultimately, as Peter Mandaville might suggest, Islam is what Muslims make of it. Muslims might someday be driven into a world in which the Islamic State represents their faith, but that is not today’s world. That has also been a core strategic problem for groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, which generally understand that most Muslims don’t agree with its ideas, strategy, tactics or vision. Its acts of savagery sought in part to overcome the reality of their own marginality by inviting retaliation and polarization that remove the option of co-existence and moderation. Terrorism has aimed to drive a self-fulfilling prophecy of existential conflict from which Muslims, as much as non-Muslims, can not escape. As I noted in a recent appearance before the House Armed Services Committee, preventing a spiral toward a clash of civilizations should be a basic lodestar for an effective response to the Islamic State – and that means seeking to quarantine its ideology and expose its marginality, not artificially inflating its claims, while working to address the underlying political and institutional problems really driving people towards extremism. The essays collected in “Islamism in the IS Age” cover a wide range of arguments and perspectives. They do not all agree with my own analysis presented here. Taken together, they offer a rich and incisive collection of analytical perspectives on the current state of Islamist politics and movements. Read all the essays here.
    Keywords: Middle East, North Africa, Islamism, Islam, Political Science, International Relations, POMEPS Studies
    Date Uploaded: 07/24/2017
  8. The Arab Thermidor: The Resurgence of the Security State, POMEPS Studies 11 [Download]

    Title: The Arab Thermidor: The Resurgence of the Security State, POMEPS Studies 11
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: It is sometimes hard to remember that the Arab uprisings of 2010-11 promised the possibility of meaningful political change. The unprecedented outburst of popular mobilization overthrew some regimes and unsettled most of the others. Those hopes have long since come crashing down. Egypt’s transition ended in a military coup, bloody repression, and a neo-authoritarianism legitimated through xenophobic populism. Tunisia’s survived, barely. Libya, Yemen and Syria have suffered near-complete political collapse, polarization, and civil war. Almost every regime has become more intolerant and more repressive. Violent, extremist Islamist movements such as the Islamic State group have surged in this chaotic atmosphere. How should we understand the authoritarian resurgence in the aftermath of the Arab uprisings? In October 2014, Toby Dodge and I jointly convened a Project on Middle East Political Science (POMEPS)-London School of Economics workshop to dig more deeply into the causes, mechanisms, and drivers of what he called “The Arab Thermidor.” More than a dozen scholars looked deeply at specific sectors such as the military, police and intelligence services, different countries, and the broader regional environment. Some of the papers produced for that workshop have been published on the Monkey Cage, and all of them have today been released as “POMEPS Studies 11 The Arab Thermidor: The Resurgence of the Security State,” available as a free downloadable PDF. The papers in this collection offer a sharp, comprehensive and acute look at the resurgence and persistence of the Arab authoritarian state. From a historical perspective, the authoritarian resurgence should not be a great surprise. My 2012 book “The Arab Uprising” dedicated an entire chapter to demonstrating how each previous revolutionary wave in the Arab world had ended with a fiercer, deeper and darker form of authoritarian control. In his essay for the collection, Raymond Hinnebusch grounds this pattern in the historical sociology of the region and the “iron law of oligarchy” by which “revolutionary mass activism, at best, infuses elites with new blood from below” and triggers ever more intense political struggle. The catastrophe of the Arab uprisings, then, is not simply a story of failed activists or fallen regimes or Islamist ambitions. It is a story of states: strong, weak, and fierce, in Nazih Ayubi’s classical terminology. Since the Arab uprisings, Arab states seek to project that they have become stronger, but in fact they have only become fiercer — and that does not bode well for their long-term stability. The authoritarian resurgence by regimes that survived the initial wave of the Arab uprising is not so difficult to understand, of course. While some states – notably in Libya and Yemen – cracked under pressure and left an institutional void at the center, in most other countries the core institutions of the state remained largely untouched regardless of the fate of individual leaders. In Egypt and Tunisia, where long-ruling leaders were driven from power, virtually no progress was made in reforming state institutions. From the military, police and security services to the judiciary and the official media, key personnel remained in place along with their entrenched worldviews, interests and identities. Almost all of the contributors to the collection note the importance of these continuities in state institutions, described evocatively by Salwa Ismail as “an entrenched apparatus of rule with high-stakes in existing power structures and arrangements.” Ismail focuses on the role played by the police in Egypt in counter-revolutionary mobilization, while Curtis Ryan examines the performance of the state security sector in Jordan and Toby Matthiesen does the same in Bahrain. Robert Springborg looks at the role of the militaries, which he sees as the greatest winner of that authoritarian resurgence, while Yezid Sayigh sees a deeper level of crisis lurking within the military’s seeming triumph. Peter Moore digs in to the public finances of Arab states. Nathan Brown has outlined the implications of continuity within the Egyptian judiciary. Ellis Goldberg brings in the old elite itself, those who most benefited from the old status quo and whose social and economic power could not be ignored amidst transitions that fell short of full social revolutions. In a forthcoming article (not included in this collection), I dissect the role played by unreformed state media sectors in Egypt and Tunisia in undermining opposition, driving fear and polarization, and mobilizing support for anti-Islamist, populist nationalism. The regional environment also contributed to this autocratic revival. Gulf states actively intervened to maintain or restore the status quo, helping to prop up like-minded leaders in Morocco and Jordan and channeling support to their chosen proxies in transitional countries such as Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. Catastrophes in Libya and Syria, covered lavishly in the Arab media, helped to dim popular enthusiasm for political change. The rise of the Islamic State offered unprecedented political cover for heavy-handed security crackdowns on all forms of dissent in the name of combating extremism and terrorism. In short, having faced down an existential threat to their own survival in power, leaders from the Gulf to North Africa set out to ensure that it wouldn’t happen again by doubling down or intensifying some of their worst practices. They seem to have mostly concluded that the iron fist, rather than reforms and political concessions, would best serve their survival needs. As Steven Heydemann argues, they learned the best practices of repression from one another, upgrading their control to meet the new challenges. They did not simply fall back on the practices of the past: Their “adaptations seem to signal more fundamental changes in elite perceptions about the nature of the threats they face and the changes that would be required to ensure regime survival.” Their fears and their very real new challenges led them to “narrowly-nationalist and exclusionary-repressive modes of authoritarian governance.” It seems unlikely that these resurgent autocrats will succeed in stabilizing their control over the medium term. They have shown little ability to solve any of the underlying problems that drove the Arab uprisings in the first place. The collapse of oil prices could eventually erode the capacity of these Arab states to sustain these new patterns of authoritarian governance, whether at home or in the region. The young, wired generation of citizens who drove the Arab uprisings have higher expectations of their states, less tolerance for abuse and failure, and a demonstrated ability to take to the streets when the conditions demand it. The Arab Thermidor may have put states back in control for now, as the essays in this collection demonstrate, but this is likely to only be a passing stage in the long-term political reordering of the Middle East.
    Keywords: POMEPS Studies, Middle East, North Africa, Political Science, International Relations, Security State, Authoriatianism
    Date Uploaded: 07/24/2017
  9. Islamist Social Services, POMEPS Studies 9 [Download]

    Title: Islamist Social Services, POMEPS Studies 9
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: What do we really know about the provision of social services by Islamist movements? It’s hard to find a popular article about groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood or Hezbollah that doesn’t reference their ability to win popular support by providing social services through their extensive network of charities, clinics and community centers. Most observers have long believed that these charitable activities played a key role in Islamist outreach and organization, built their reputations for honesty and efficacy, conferred a significant political advantage, and helped to promote the Islamization of society. A recent wave of scholarship has challenged many of the prevailing assumptions about the nature and significance of these social services, however. Evidence for the scope, superiority or political utility of these charitable activities has proved elusive. Volunteers in the Islamic charitable sector profess a far wider set of motivations for their participation than just political rewards. The rise of non-governmental charities – and not only Islamic ones – seems to be driven at least in part by neoliberal reforms and the broader structural changes in the region’s political economy. What’s more, whatever explained the patterns and effects of social service provision in the past may no longer apply. Major changes on the ground such as the crushing of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and the dramatic move into service provision by jihadist groups raise serious questions about how these dynamics might play out in the future. Last month, therefore, a workshop by the Project on Middle East Political Science brought together a small group of scholars who have been doing innovative research on the Islamic social services sector. Their memos, along with several other recent Monkey Cage essays, have now been released as a free PDF download in the POMEPS Studies series. Those papers, and the discussions in the workshop, offer a rich window into the changing nature of Islamic social services and their relationship with political movements and parties. The specific mechanisms by which social service provision translates into votes or public support are not obvious. It is not as straightforward as just buying votes – especially as other political forces, especially local notables who are not unfamiliar with patronage, can easily do the same. As Tarek Masoud argues, “Inasmuch as social-service provision is something that any party could decide to do, why is it that only (or mainly) Islamists do it? Is there anything to prevent nonreligious parties from distributing the bottles of oil and bags of sugar that many of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s detractors credit with that movement’s rise to power in 2011?” Some efforts, such as food and medical caravans sent to swing districts, do seem blatantly electoral. But, as Melani Cammett and Steven Brooke argue, the long-term provision of social services from bricks-and-mortar agencies is very different from the cash payments or one-shot food distribution efforts that predominate at election time. Those long-term investments in communities are often thought to contribute to spreading Islamist identities and values. This has been difficult to document empirically, however. A decade ago, Janine Clark demonstrated that Islamic charities catered more to the middle class than to the truly poor, and were having such effects. Brooke’s forthcoming study of the geographical distribution of Islamist clinics, like a recent study by Mona Atia of George Washington University about Egyptian Islamic charities, should offer fascinating perspective. The dramatic turn of the Egyptian public against the Muslim Brotherhood last year suggests that this long-term cultivation of Islamist identity had not become as deeply rooted as expected. Masoud inclines toward Cammett and Pauline Jones Luong’s argument that Islamists translated social services into political advantage by building a reputation for good governance and “for being uniquely competent, trustworthy and pure” in relationship to their principal rivals. This may offer an answer to the puzzle of the Brotherhood’s rapid reversal. A reputation for good governance, as opposed to an alignment with common identity or values, could prove especially vulnerable to political failure, particularly in the context of the bare-knuckled existential battles in transitional countries such as Egypt. Mohamed Morsi’s poor performance as president would then outweigh the provision of social services because of the reputational costs cutting to the heart of the original appeal. I can’t do justice to the breadth and depth of the discussion in these papers. Instead, I wanted to highlight a few points that piqued my interest: 1. There’s a lot that we just don’t know. Steven Brooke, a graduate student at the University of Texas who has spent years studying Islamic clinics in Cairo, warns of systematic gaps in our knowledge. As Cammett and Luong pointed out in an influential survey article this year, “little if any research examines systematically the extent and quality of Islamist welfare programs and activities in the Muslim world. Most claims about Islamists’ social welfare initiatives are based on minimal, if any, hard data.” That came through powerfully in the workshop’s discussions. The literature on Islamist social services has been heavily weighted toward Egypt, and specifically the greater Cairo area. A lot more attention gets paid to the Muslim Brotherhood’s activities than to what George Washington University’s Atia describes as a “plethora of organizations providing social services in the name of Islam; there are numerous social service providers not affiliated with political parties.” Even Egyptian Salafi Islamist charities are neglected, Moustafa Khalil notes. Those profound empirical gaps in our knowledge are beginning to be filled, and used to examine the specific mechanisms by which Islamist movements translated – or failed to translate – their social services into political support. But there’s a long, long way to go. 2. Charities have had good reason to keep it that way. The authoritarian context in the region has driven many of these charities to hide their affiliations out of fear of state repression. The Islamic social sector came under understandably tight scrutiny from security services intent on monitoring and suppressing Islamist political activity. In several cases, such as Jordan in the mid-2000s and Egypt today, governments seized control of Islamic services. This makes them very different from, say, the social services provided by Hezbollah and other political movements in Lebanon, where competing political movements proudly claimed such activities. The ambiguity, if not outright secrecy, has obvious implications for researchers who may struggle to correctly code the identity and affiliations of these organizations. It also raises questions about their political utility: If a clinic actively conceals its relationship with Islamist movements or parties, and refrains from proselytizing, then what lessons could its patients be drawing from their efforts? Survey work by Masoud suggests that few Egyptians were even aware of having taken advantage of Islamic clinics. 3. Neoliberalism may matter more than political strategy. The focus on how social services strengthen movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood may be distracting attention from much deeper changes in regional political economy. Neoliberal economic reforms, argues Gizem Zencirci, have driven a rise in private social charities and a rethinking of their meaning for Islamic identity. As the state retreats, by this argument, the private sector – Islamist or otherwise – must step forward to fill the spaces vacated by the state. In this regard, Atia points out that “Islamic associations have a great deal in common with secular development non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and Christian faith-based ones alike.” To the extent that they buffer the state from the dislocations that might otherwise have followed from their cuts in benefits and services, such social services, Islamist or otherwise, help rather than undermine the regimes carrying out the reforms. As Kevan Harris puts it, states didn’t need to crush these parallel sectors, then – they ate them. And, as Tom Pepinsky demonstrates, in countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia where the economic conditions don’t create a demand for such a sector, Islamist social services are far less politically effective. 4. It’s not just political. Researchers tend to be primarily interested in the political motivations for charitable work, but that doesn’t mean that politics are actually motivating the social service providers. Abdullah Al-Arian warns that the obsession with vote buying “limits our understanding of these institutions solely to their relevance in the political sphere, rather than the broader social function that they provide.” For some, charity is an Islamic virtue in its own right, a means of self-actualization or a way to display piety and faith. Atia’s concept of “pious neoliberalism” suggests that charitable giving offers a vehicle for a pious emerging middle class to reconcile their faith with their newfound wealth and opportunity. In a recent American Ethnologist article, Amira Mittermaier describes the concerns of the volunteers in Egyptian Islamic clinics as “living piously” and doing something to manifest their convictions. As Cammett puts it, “A variety of non-political motivations coexist with more overtly political goals in shaping Islamist welfare activities.” 5. Would closing down these social services destroy the Muslim Brotherhood? Egypt’s military coup in July 2013 included a large-scale crackdown on the parallel Islamic sector. Jordan has been pressuring the Brotherhood’s charities for years. Regionally, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have criminalized the Muslim Brotherhood and are working to curtail its funding and ideological appeal. If charitable work was really central to the Brotherhood’s appeal, will this crackdown fatally undermine its political prospects? Maybe not. The electoral success of Tunisia’s Ennahda despite the absence of the enormous social service sector administered by electorally successful Islamists in Egypt, Jordan or Palestine suggests that such a parallel sector is not necessary for Islamist political success. 6. What will jihadists get out of it? Over the past several years, jihadist movements that long shunned social service provision have adopted it in a big way. It isn’t only the Islamic State. As Aaron Zelin has pointed out, jihadist groups in North Africa and Yemen also have taken up the types of social welfare activities that had in the past been dominated by Muslim Brotherhood affiliates or nonpolitical Salafis. There’s nothing new about insurgencies offering such services, as Megan Stewart demonstrates, but jihadist groups may face distinctive challenges to effective governance based on their ideology. Will such efforts founder in the face of ideological constraints and international hostility or build up popular legitimacy for jihadist governance? These are only a few of the issues raised by the memos collected in POMEPS Studies #9 Islamist Social Services. Download it and read it today.
    Keywords: Middle East, North Africa, Political Science, International Relations, POMEPS Studies, Social Services
    Date Uploaded: 07/24/2017
  10. Visions of Gulf Security, POMEPS Studies 7 [Download]

    Title: Visions of Gulf Security, POMEPS Studies 7
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: The turbulence in Gulf security politics today is difficult to miss: unusually sharp public splits in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), rising sectarian tensions, tough moves against the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist movements, and markedly harsh crackdowns on even minor forms of public dissent. Gulf elites are openly airing profound doubts about the future of the U.S. regional role, worries about blowback from Syria, and fears about the implications of a Western rapprochement with Iran. Regime efforts to insulate themselves from popular dissent have included potentially unsustainable economic commitments and self-defeating internal repression. Meanwhile, deep political divisions are disrupting the long-standing security partnership between Washington and the GCC states. How has the turbulence of the last three years affected security in the Gulf? Do new domestic, regional, or international trends fundamentally alter how the regimes, political movements, and people of the region grapple with challenges to their security? How new are these challenges, and how extraordinary the responses? What is gained, and what potentially distorted, by viewing these events through a security lens? Which assumptions in the academic literature about Gulf security have proven resilient, and which require rethinking? On March 9, 2014, POMEPS and Matteo Legrenzi at Ca’ Foscari University brought together more than a dozen scholars based in the Middle East, Europe, and the United States to Venice, Italy to look closely at the new – or not so new – questions about Gulf security. This should be the finest hour for the “regime security” perspective, which has been the dominant theoretical framework for understanding the region’s security politics in recent years. The regime security framework emerged to challenge the conventional Realist view of states primarily responding to external power and threat in their alliance and foreign policy choices. As Gregory Gause and many other scholars have effectively demonstrated, regimes faced threats to their own power and survival from within as well, and often prioritized those in their policy choices. Iran’s “threat” to Riyadh, for instance, had as much to do with its potential appeal to Saudi Shiites as it did with its pursuit of a nuclear arsenal. This perspective seems to offer considerable traction on the domestic and regional maneuverings of Gulf regimes in the last few years. While no GCC regimes fell in the face of popular protest, the Arab uprisings clearly intensified and sharpened those internal regime security concerns. And, as several of the memos in this collection observe, the responses by Gulf states to these concerns included both domestic security crackdowns and regional foreign policy initiatives. The coordinated campaigns against the Muslim Brotherhood across the Middle East by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as Stéphane Lacroix, David Roberts, and Guido Steinberg suggest, reflected this logic of shoring up domestic power through foreign policy activism. So did the financial and political support by wealthy Gulf monarchies for less well-endowed fellow monarchs across the region. The utility of the regime security lens should not distract analysts from its potentially dangerously distorting effects. As Toby Jones has argued, the regimes of the Gulf have often embraced crisis as a useful device for extracting international support and suppressing domestic dissent. After all, casting the political aspirations of the Shiites of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, large numbers of Bahraini citizens, or youth activists demanding political reforms as a “security” challenge serves to delegitimize their political concerns and to justify a repressive response. Fred Wehrey, in this collection, notes how Saudi or Bahraini elites have for decades framed demands for political rights by oppressed Shiite communities as “security” threats linked to Iranian ambition. The labeling of the Muslim Brotherhood as a “terrorist” group has much less to do with security than with politics. As useful as the regime security framework appears for understanding the behavior of Gulf regimes over the last few years, then, there is also good reason to critically assess the constitutive effects of internalizing and naturalizing such a security discourse. Gulf confusion and concern about changes at the global level also run through the memos in this collection. Gulf elites worry about the implications of the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, refusal to intervene directly in Syria, and enthusiasm to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear program. Despite the continued deployment of U.S. troops across the region, as Gary Sick observes, many of these elites are troubled by the thought of a reduced U.S. security presence and willingness to deploy military force. At the same time, they profoundly disagree with Washington’s willingness to accept democratic change and a Muslim Brotherhood political role in Egypt and the rest of the region over the last several years. For several years, leading Gulf states have not just disagreed with the United States but have been actively working to undermine U.S. policy goals. At what point do such divergent worldviews and policy preferences challenge the concept of an “alliance?” What does this portend for the future of the alliance at the heart of the region’s security architecture? The memos in POMEPS Studies #25: Visions of Gulf Security offer no new unified theory of Gulf security politics, but they point to some of the pressing new theoretical and practical challenges confronting the region. What happened to the human security agenda (Kristian Coates Ulrichsen)? Where do the region’s youth fit in the new security politics (Kristin Smith Diwan)? Is it possible to incorporate Iran into a regional security architecture (Rouzbeh Parsi, Gary Sick, and Gregory Gause)? How will the campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood rebound on regional and domestic politics (Stéphane Lacroix, Guido Steinberg, and David Roberts)? How does Iraq’s shaky future affect regional security challenges (Toby Dodge)? What drives the dangerous new sectarian strife in the region and can it be reversed (Fred Lawson, Richard Norton, and Fred Wehrey)? And, finally, do our currently dominant theories offer an effective guide to the region’s security politics (Mehran Kamrava) – and how should those theories be adapted in response to new developments?
    Keywords: POMEPS Studies, Middle East, North Africa, Political Science, International Relations, Islam, Gulf
    Date Uploaded: 07/24/2017