In This Review

Dialogues in Arab Politics: Negotiations in Regional Order
Dialogues in Arab Politics: Negotiations in Regional Order
By Michael N. Barnett
Columbia University Press, 1998, 376 pp

Barnett maintains that inter-Arab politics are not so much a state-centered affair conducted along realist considerations of power as an ongoing dialogue over the desired regional order. In this war of words among Arab political leaders, the ability to dictate the discourse (as Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser once did, for example) can determine the behavior of political rivals as much as military threats or inducements can. Barnett proposes five periods of this distinctive Arab dialogue: from 1920 to the 1945 establishment of the Arab League; 1945 through the 1955 debate over the Baghdad Pact; the Suez War to the Six-Day War (1956-1967); 1967 to the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait; and the post-Gulf War period. He depicts a trend toward greater state autonomy and an easing of pan-Arabist ideology. Even scholars who might deem Barnett's emphasis on "dialogue" interesting but overdrawn should be attracted to this coherent narrative of inter-Arab diplomacy since the 1920s.