MEC Reader 3
Welcome to this week’s edition of the Middle East Channel Editor’s Reader, in which I share books and articles which I’ve been reading recently. This week, I highlight three books, a great special issue of an academic journal, and a new policy brief by two political scientists. The MEC Bookshelf The Journey to Tahrir: Revolution, ...
Welcome to this week's edition of the Middle East Channel Editor's Reader, in which I share books and articles which I've been reading recently. This week, I highlight three books, a great special issue of an academic journal, and a new policy brief by two political scientists.
Welcome to this week’s edition of the Middle East Channel Editor’s Reader, in which I share books and articles which I’ve been reading recently. This week, I highlight three books, a great special issue of an academic journal, and a new policy brief by two political scientists.
The MEC Bookshelf
The POMEPS Reader
The featured articles in today’s POMEPS Reader all come from Perspectives on Politics, the APSA journal designed to further a “political science public sphere” which editor Jeffrey Isaac has helped to transform into one of the very best political science journals. I’ve rarely found a political science journal so relevant, timely, and useful. Thanks to Isaac, APSA and to Cambridge University Press for temporarily ungating these important articles — a precedent which I hope editors and publishers will follow.
“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.
“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.
“Intervention in Syria: Reconciling Moral Premises and Realistic Outcomes,” by Eva Bellin and Peter Krause (Crown Center, Brandeis University). This is a useful addition to the growing body of analysis and argument on the question of international intervention in the Syria crisis. Bellin and Krause examine Syria through a comparative lens, and like most analysts who take such an approach they conclude that direct intervention is likely to produce a worse stalemate rather than a rapid resolution of the crisis. They instead urge a focus on reducing the capabilities and changing the incentives of the regime, adding to the array of possibly useful policy options.
Marc Lynch is associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, where he is the director of the Institute for Middle East Studies and of the Project on Middle East Political Science. He is also a non-resident senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. He is the author of The Arab Uprising (March 2012, PublicAffairs).
He publishes frequently on the politics of the Middle East, with a particular focus on the Arab media and information technology, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, and Islamist movements. Twitter: @abuaardvark
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