Marc Lynch in the Washington Post has recently written an article about the Arab uprisings and international relations. I find this passage especially interesting:
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. Put simply, there is not a single case in the Arab uprisings — with perhaps, as Monica Marks argues, the very partial exception of Tunisia — in which international factors were not decisive to the outcome. 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.
The reason why I find Lynch’s words interesting is that I wrote a book chapter exactly arguing that foreign actors (international factors) played a very important role during the 2011-12 Arab Awakening. Here is an excerpt:
The stated goal underlying this edited volume is to study the complex role of popular agency and internal variables in the uprisings that broke out across the Arab world in 2011. This essay takes a complete opposite perspective and, without neglecting the importance of domestic actors, it seeks to highlight the significant role foreign actors played in the protests. In order to do that, it is first necessary to distinguish between the two main phases of each uprising: its outbreak and its outcome. With regard to the outbreak-phase, internal actors and dynamics were typically central. In fact, popular movements arose in a number of Arab countries which shared common calls for socio-economic and political change eventually aimed at achieving better living standards and a greater participation by the people in their nations’ political systems. There has been general agreement among researchers that these protest movements were the result of the spontaneous mobilization of independent internal actors predominantly interested in addressing domestic grievances. As for the outcome-phase, instead, this essay will show that external actors and dynamics were often decisive. Indeed, once the protests began, the response of foreign actors had a crucial influence on the development and outcome of the uprisings. In some cases foreign action supported popular movements and facilitated change whereas, in others, foreign action backed existing regimes and helped to maintain the status quo.
My chapter “Foreign actors: a double-edged sword” is part of an edited volume published by Palgrave Macmillan this September 2015 and edited by Professor Fawaz Gerges. If you want to know more about the chapter and the book follow this link here. 🙂