State, Power & Politics in the Making of the Modern Middle East
By Roger Owen
Routledge, 1992, 302 pp.
One commonly held image of the Middle East is that it is a region in turmoil where only fools would dare to predict the future. Roger Owen is no fool, and he does not predict the future, but he does take issue with the notion that the Middle East moves in response to unknown and irrational forces. In his carefully constructed picture of the post-World War I order that has emerged, the state system, despite its seeming artificiality, has taken root; regimes have mastered the art of staying in power, and civilian control of the military has become the norm. In short, state interests have won out over broader ideological temptations such as pan-Arabism. Owen's method is to look at developments in historical perspective and across a wide array of cases. This does not always make for smooth narrative, but it does result in comprehensiveness and a challenge to facile generalizations. In sum, this is a solid introduction that carefully weighs evidence and reaches sensible conclusions.