Sovereign Creations: Pan-Arabism and Political Order in Syria and Iraq

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Sovereign Creations: Pan-Arabism and Political Order in Syria and Iraq

By Malik Mufti
Cornell University Press, 1996
286 pp. $35.00
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This well-conceived book brings a fresh interpretation to the rather tired story of Iraqi and Syrian political maneuvering in the heyday of Arab nationalism. Making careful use of sources rarely consulted by Western scholars, Mufti sensibly distinguishes the major projects of Arab union, showing that Hashemite dynastic unionism had little in common with what he calls the "defensive unionism" of the 1950s and 1960s. During this latter period a number of efforts to bring about unity between two or more Arab states were made, and the United Arab Republic was intially seen as a success but ended as a disastrous failure. Malik is clear in his judgment that the motives for rushing toward union had little to do with Arab nationalism, but that the driving force was "domestic power struggles between contending elites." As the state systems became more robust in the 1960s and 1970s, the search for unity declined, leaving the region with two regimes wedded to an ideology of Arab unity that barely masked the personalistic side of their dictatorships. But the author suggests hopefully that as the current "Bonapartist" moment draws to a close, the next phase will involve the middle classes in the still-shaky state institutions, put in place earlier in this century, that gave birth to them.