Introduction Since the end of the Cold War regions have been seen to assume more significance in international politics with regional powers and regional institutions regarded as playing important roles in regional and global order (Fawcett and Hurrell 1995; Mansfield and Milner 1999; Acharya and Johnston 2007). The decentralization of the international system has exposed new security patterns and interdependencies and increased the autonomy of regional actors. This, together with the overload on existing multilateral institutions, notably the United Nations, has led to an increased demand for, and supply of, regional action. However, these processes have been patchy in their global impact and the question of why some regions have outperformed others is particularly pertinent and interesting (Farrell et al. 2005). Scholars and commentators variously attribute the success and failure of regions and regionalisms (in terms of their ability to harmonize policy to overcome conflict and to cooperate for mutual gain) to external or structural factors, material interests, questions of identity or to domestic level considerations. A related consideration is how any given regional balance of power affects cooperation, in particular whether or not there is a regional leader or group of states willing to hold the balance and steer cooperation (Wight 1966: 149-75). Regional leaders or powerful regional states have long been identified as important providers of different regional public goods, both security and economic, and as standard bearers for regional order. As such, they may also provide important linkages between regional and global order (Hurrell 2007: 262-83). While the rise of powerful regional states and the joint and related phenomena of regionalization and regionalism are both widely acknowledged post-Cold War phenomena, the relationship between these processes has been underresearched (Nabers 2010). There are evidently different criteria for measuring and assessing both regional powers and regionalisms, whether in terms of the material capacity of the former or the integrative capacity of the latter (Lemke 2010; De Lombaerde 2006). While theories of integration emphasize economic and political processes and institution building, theories of hegemonic stability can be invoked to demonstrate how at the regional and global level, strong
‘leader’ states play important roles not only in institutional start up but in maintaining and bearing the costs of integration (Kindleberger 1973; Mattli 1999). Still, the possible linkage between regional leadership, regional order and regional institutions remains under-theorized, and the question of whether leadership is indeed a condition for order remains largely unanswered. This is one of the questions which this chapter will address. Linked to formal attempts at measuring integration, the wider literature on regionalism celebrates regions that have ‘done well’ globally in normative terms. Such regions are typically those whose visions of order and supporting institutions fit best into the wider architecture of multilateralism, in matters of security or trade (for example, Pugh and Sidhu 2003; Telo 2007). Here, multilateralism is understood as a demanding institutional form comprising not only quantitative but ‘qualitative’ features (Ruggie 1998: 105). In practice, this means that regional powers will commit themselves to institutions with cognate (multilateral) goals and provided a degree of leadership and support to achieve them. This can occur in three situations: first, where regional goals are broadly consonant with external goals, and high levels of symmetrical interdependence exist to drive a regional project forward (as in Europe); second where levels of asymmetry within a region are high and regional goals do not contradict external goals, and where a regional leader may promote such a project (as in Africa); third, where levels of asymmetry vary, yet the relationship between regionalism and multilateralism (barring a few outriders) has been mostly positive such that either a single state or group of states may provide leadership (as in Southeast Asia or Latin America). In such cases we might expect high to medium levels of institutional development and achievement. Where regional goals are mixed or contradictory to external ones, where levels of interdependence are neither symmetrical nor highly asymmetrical, with no obvious leader or core group, and levels of external interest high, we would correspondingly expect there to be lower levels of institutional development. Such is the case in the Middle East. The above position has both structural and West-centric implications. First, it implies that the dominant global powers are to some extent veto players as regards the formation and agenda of regional institutions; second, it implies that such powers provide the normative menu. The former is rather uncontroversial: the literature on weak-strong states attests to the continuing salience of the global power balance in determining the regional balance and influencing institutional outcomes (Krasner 1985). This is still true even in a global arena where regional powers are becoming more important. The latter is more complex: there is a growing Third World literature that rejects the view that normative frameworks and institutional models derived from the base of Western experience necessarily provide the best fit elsewhere and should enjoy universal acceptance (Ayoob 2002; Tickner and Waever 2009). After all, Asian and African leaders and institutions (like their European counterparts) have imparted a sometimes quite distinct local or cultural flavour to their respective institutions with some interesting international consequences (Acharya 2004). However, the fact remains that, outside Europe, it is those Latin
American and Asian states and institutions most consonant with Western institutions and practices to which most attention is paid and relevant theory applied. African institutions, despite some considerable advances since the 1990s, are still on the periphery of these discussions with African states seen as weak and ‘unripe’ for regionalism. In the Middle East the situation is even more starkly portrayed. There is an evident disconnect between regional and multilateral expectations of order. Despite regional power asymmetries, there is an absence of regional leadership; institutions are relatively weak, their level of integration and security provision low and the relationship with multilateral frameworks underdeveloped. This essay seeks to link the problem and interpretation of order to that of leadership and institutions in the context of the modern Middle East since independence. The Middle East, perhaps more than any other, is a region that does not fit readily into prevailing notions of desired international order where regional governance is spread thinly and where core states are seen to lack the necessary leadership qualities (Fawcett 2010; Lustick 1997). At the domestic, regional and international levels, the kinds of transformation identified elsewhere – democratization, regionalism and globalization – have not occurred, or if so only partially. If regional leadership is seen as a desirable ordering mechanism and source of change, and regional leaders as both engines of transformation and providers of public goods, it may be argued that the absence of such leadership has had a detrimental effect on regional stability in general and institution building in particular. In this chapter I propose to examine and shed light on the leadership and transformation puzzle in three distinct, yet related ways. First, by considering the question of order from a Middle East perspective and suggesting that it is in our very definition and understanding of order and how these are received at the local level that problems arise; second by considering the issues of regional powers and leadership and their actual and potential roles; and third regional institutions and their achievements. I link the problem of order to the shortfalls in governance and suggest that while external powers continue to privilege certain visions of order, leadership and institutions and while these fail to resonate and connect at the regional level, the potential for effective regional governance will remain constrained. This conclusion provides a basis for comparison with other regions.