In This Review

From Abdullah to Hussein: Jordan in Transition
From Abdullah to Hussein: Jordan in Transition
By Robert B. Satloff
Oxford University Press, 1994, 251 pp

Early in 1957, John Foster Dulles expressed the view that "Jordan had no justification as a state." Thirty-seven years later, Jordan stands out as a surprisingly viable, politically sophisticated country that is looked upon with envy by many others in the region. This excellent study of the transition from Jordan's first to third king helps explain why this small country with few resources has done so well. A good part of the story involves the "king's men," the politicians who surrounded King Abdullah, then oversaw the potentially awkward transition after his assassination and the brief period of Talal's kingship. As these able men maneuvered for position and power, they never lost sight of their dependence on the king, and thus they bent their efforts to making the system work. The king reciprocated by cycling them in and out of key positions. There were few permanent winners or losers, and from early on this gave Jordanian political life more of a sense of openness and accountability than is commonly found in the region. Shortly after Dulles was writing off Jordan's prospects, the young, often indecisive King Hussein was on the verge of establishing his authority. In doing so, he turned to the men who had served his grandfather well. And he continues to this day to ensure that their offspring are given pride of place in Jordan's rich political life. Satloff has written a fine account of these years, relying heavily on British and American diplomatic correspondence. Jordanian sources are less easily available, but he makes good use of interviews and written sources. Inevitably this creates a picture of Jordan as seen primarily through Anglo-Saxon eyes, but the picture nonetheless rings true.