The Middle East as a Regional Subsystem

Hajjar argues that different theories try to explain how the Middle East is a regional sub-system in the international relations (34). However, Binder argues that the Middle East is a subsystem in the international relations because of it autonomy after the Gulf Wars (47). However, the definition of the Middle East as a subsystem has been criticized because there are regional differences in what constitutes a subsystem (64). The differences arise because there is no common view on what constitutes a totality of a sub-system.

Tibi Bassam studied the Middle East to establish whether it constitutes a subsystem by looking at how the conflicts in the region have defined its terminologies in the international relations. However, differences still exist on what constitutes a regional sub-system and whether the Middle East qualifies to be one. Moreover, there is no common view among political scientists on which countries should be included in the Middle East subsystem. According to the concept of Binder (established by Bassam Tibi), regional subsystems keep their dynamics and are integrated in the international system (76). Moreover, these subsystems are classified under the global systems.

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The Middle East subsystem was defined by the conflicts during the Gulf Wars and the Israel-Palestinian Wars (Price 42). After the wars, new terms such as “The Greater Middle East” and “The Islamic Greater Middle East” were used to refer to the Middle East. These conflicts played a significant role in defining the terminologies of the Middle East and the role of Palestine in the international politics. For instance, the outbreak of Israel-Palestine war changed the international awareness of the role of Palestinians in the Middle East. These wars compelled international decision makers to accept Palestine as a player in the Middle East.

The Middle East subsystem can be traced back from the rigid schemes of the superpowers. The Gulf Wars and the Israel-Palestinian Wars were schemes of the superpowers as they try to exert their influence in the Middle East. These conflicts have proved that the Middle East is an extension of the global conflicts. The United States has played a critical role in defining the Middle East as a subsystem in the international relations from the outbreak of the Israel-Palestinian war, to the second Gulf war.

The role of the US in the Middle East was elevated after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The dissolution of the Soviet Union during the Gulf war allowed US and Israel to enjoy influence over Syria. Before the Gulf War, the deterrent capability of the Soviet Union prevented conflicts between Syria and Israel. However, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Israel entered into conflict with Syria that lasted during the Gulf wars.

The international perception of the Middle East in the bipolar politics was pivotal for the US and the Western countries due to its enormous resources. The US wanted to control the Gulf States by introducing ground forces during the Gulf war. The presence of Special Forces on the ground was a major escalation that allowed the US to define the boundaries in the Middle East. However, the position of the United States was later changed after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

The definitions and limitations of the Middle East were significantly altered by factors that affected the geographical areas in the Middle East. Specifically, the definition of the Middle East was changed because of the independence of new states after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Panayiotides argues that new terms were used to refer to the Middle East such as Islamic-oriental-region (17).

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Middle East expanded to include some parts of the Caucasus and Central Asia (Halliday 23). However, the Middle East regions can be separated into different subsystems including Central Asia, Mashreq, Maghreb and the Gulf region (64). The boundaries of the Middle East are determined by superpowers and the Islamic culture that extends from the Atlantic coast of Africa, to the Caucasus. Some political scientists question whether Turkey should be included in this subsystem after the new changes in the international systems. However, while this issue is a matter of public debate, the Middle East is a regional subsystem because it has independent sovereign states.

Vaisse notes that after the formation of new states in the Caucasus, the Middle East gained structural recognition (37). Thus, the borders in the region are recognized because of their Islamic character. Despite the political and economic differences, the region is structured on Islamic culture from the Caucasus to West Sahara. Today, although the Middle East plays a vital role in global politics, it has the highest number of countries full of conflict, which has compelled the United States and Europe to try to transform the political system in the region. The aim of the United States and Europe is to restructure the democratic structures in order to avoid situations that can lead to another Gulf war.

The US use radical groups to implement democratic changes in the Middle East. However, European countries advocates for gradual change after what they had experienced during the Gulf wars. Due to the differences between Europeans and Americans views of changing the region, some of the policies implemented have destabilized the Middle East leading to conflicts. For instance, the Iraq war is a good example of American foreign policy where radical groups were used to implemented democracy in the Middle East. Therefore, to achieve peaceful co-existence between those countries, they must be a transatlantic cooperation, which must involve all countries in the region.

After the terrorist attack in September 2001, the international perception of the Middle East changed dramatically (Fawcett 112). New terms come up like the Greater Middle East and Islamic Greater Middle East in the international relations literature. However, superpowers largely determined the terminology of the Middle East during the 1990s and 20th century. Today, the boundaries in the Middle East countries are determined by the United States that plays a vital role in solving problems in the region such as terrorism.

Thus, the Americans have the power to come up with terminologies that define the Middle East. For instance, an American political scientist wrote about the Greater Middle East, which has been widely studied in international relations. Other American plays such as Pollack who was active during the administration of Bill Clinton developed the idea of transforming the Greater Middle East. In fact, Pollack and Assumes published their transatlantic project in 2002, which has been widely accepted in international politics.

They argued that the United States should take more action to ensure political transformation in the Middle East. After what was experienced during the Gulf War, President Bush supported the use of radical groups to destabilize the Middle East. Bush believed that only radical groups could apply democracy in the Middle East which compelled him to develop the “Greater Middle East Initiative.” This initiative was introduced to support democratic changes in the whole of Middle East.

The initiative was launched at the G-8 meeting, which was held in Sea Island, Georgia in a geography that was described as the great Middle East. This project included countries such as Arab League, Iran, Turkey, Pakistan and Israel. However, countries in Central Asia were not included because they had already joined the US in the fight against terrorism after September 11. Many European countries rejected the initiative arguing that it would cause insecurity in the Middle East and some parts of Europe.

In response to the action advocated by Bush, Europe responded by developing a similar project which was titled “The Strategic Partnership of Mediterranean and Middle East.” After intense discussion the in the G-8 meeting, the greater Middle East initiative which was advocated by Bush administration was passed in a summit which was held in Sea Island in June 2004. The terminology used to refer to the broader Middle East, and Greater Middle East was intended to include some countries in North Africa and the Gulf states. Thus, the US uses such initiative to ensure political stability and long-term sustainability of the Islamic countries.

In summary, the development of the Middle East as a subsystem has been facilitated by the conflicts in the Middle East. Specifically, it was defined by the Gulf war and the Israel-Palestinian war. However, the US has played a vital role in defining the fate of the middle east due to its strategic location and resources.

According to Bassam Tibi, the Middle East is a regional subsystem because it is dynamic and structurally integrated with the international systems. Moreover, these subsystems are classified under the global system in international relation. Finally, the development of the terminology used to refer to the Middle East as a subsystem was determined by the collapse of the Soviet Union. Therefore, the Middle East has been recognized as a subsystem because it is dynamic and autonomous.

Works Cited

Binder, Leonard. Ethnic conflict and international politics in the Middle East. Gainesville, Fla: University Press of Florida, 1999. Print.

Fawcett, Louise L. International relations of the Middle East. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Print.

Hajjar, Sami G. “The New Bush Administration And Middle East Realities.” Contemporary Review 278.1620 (2001): 23-35. Print.

Halliday, Fred. The Middle East in international relations : power, politics and ideology. Cambridge, UK New York: Cambridge, 2005. Print.

Panayiotides, Nicos. “The Islamic State and the Redistribution of Power in the Middle East.” International Journal on World Peace 32.3 (2015): 11-24.

Price, Randall. Fast facts on the Middle East conflict. Eugene, Or: Harvest House Pub, 2003. Print.

Tibi, Bassam. Conflict and war in the Middle East : from interstate war to new security. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998. Print.

Vaisse, Justin. Neoconservatism: the biography of a movement. Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2010. Print.

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