Comparative Politics

Online Reader on Middle East Politics

Henry Farrell Jun 8 '12

Marc Lynch has compiled a “reader”: of articles on violence in the Middle East, all taken from _Perspectives on Politics_ (I’m an associate editor of PoP, but had nothing to do with this). In his description.

bq. Too Much Information: International Affairs, Political Science, and the Public Sphere,” by Lisa Anderson (Perspectives on Politics, excerpted in the SSRC Public Sphere Forum). Lisa Anderson, President of the American University of Cairo and a member of the steering committee of the Project on Middle East Political Science, presents a sharply observed essay on the changing role of academics within a transforming public sphere. The rise of the internet, with its readily available facts at the touch of an iPhone and legions of smart, informed, and opinionated analysts, cuts to the heart of the self-image and expected role of many academics. Anderson makes a passionate and informed case for academics to embrace engagement as the core of their mission: “it is the social physics of the twenty-first century-there is no avoiding it and not much point in worrying over it.” One of my favorite essays of the last year.

bq. “New Approaches to the Study of Violence,” by Jeff Isaac. The editor of Perspectives introduces here an outstanding collection of essays on violence, none specific to the Middle East but all of great relevance for understanding the unfolding Syria crisis. In “States, Insurgents, and Wartime Political Orders,” Paul Staniland examines the tacit bargains, deals, and competitive state building which characterizes protracted insurgencies — very useful perspective when trying to understand exactly who is running the parts of Syria which seem to have slipped from regime control, and how. In “A Plague of Initials: Fragmentation, Cohesion, and Infighting in Civil Wars,” Kristin Bakker, Kathleen Cunningham, and Lee Seymore focus on the impact of fragmentation and internal competition among insurgent factions, an urgent concern for anyone surveying the organizational struggles of the Syrian oppositions. And in “Retreating from the Brink,” Scott Straus examines how some countries in the throes of internal violence manage to pull back before a complete collapse into genocidal killing.