The Decline and Fall of the Arab State


A mere five years ago, the suggestion that Egypt would have experienced two changes of regime or that Tunisia would be in the midst of a democratic transition would also have seemed preposterous, note two leading analysts. The purposeful designs of any single actor in the Middle East, whether state or non-state, regional or great power, will not be enough to reshape the map of sovereignty and statehood. This many-sided, multilayered battle for sovereignty will yield political structures of unforeseen form and stature, Ariel I. Ahram and Ellen Lust write for Survival: Global Politics and Strategy :

The Arab struggle has taken place in a wider global context in which notions of statehood and sovereignty have changed dramatically since the end of the Cold War. Domestic battles may have triggered the sudden collapse of Arab states, but changes at the regional and international levels created permissive conditions for political-opposition movements to destabilise existing states, manoeuvre toward statehood and potentially challenge the state system. Structural change at the global level made dramatic realignment at the state and regional levels possible. Instability and uncertainty in the institutional rules of sovereignty affected the ways in which Arab states could respond to internal challengers, simultaneously hamstringing existing Arab states and emboldening their opposition.

RTWT HT: Project on Middle East Democracy, a partner of the National Endowment for Democracy.

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