The Rise and Fall of Arab Presidents for Life

The Rise and Fall of Arab Presidents for LifeThe Monarchical Presidential Regimes That Prevailed In The Arab World For So Long Looked As Though They Would Last Indefinitely Until Events In Tunisia And Egypt Made Clear Their Time Was Up The Rise And Fall Of Arab Presidents For Life Exposes For The First Time The Origins And Dynamics Of A Governmental System That Largely Defined The Arab Middle East In The Twentieth CenturyPresidents Who Rule For Life Have Been A Feature Of The Arab World Since Independence In The S Their Regimes Increasingly Resembled Monarchies As Presidents Took Up Residence In Palaces And Made Every Effort To Ensure Their Sons Would Succeed Them Roger Owen Explores The Main Features Of The Prototypical Arab Monarchical Regime Its Household Its Inner Circle Of Corrupt Cronies And Its Attempts To Create A Popular Legitimacy Based On Economic Success, A Manipulated Constitution, Managed Elections, And Information SuppressionWhy Has The Arab World Suffered Such A Concentration Of Permanent Presidential Government Though Post Soviet Central Asia Has Also Known Monarchical Presidencies, Owen Argues That A Significant Reason Is The Arab Demonstration Effect, Whereby Close Ties Across The Arab World Have Enabled Ruling Families To Share Management Strategies And Assistance But This Effect Also Explains Why These Presidencies All Came Under The Same Pressure To Reform Or Go Owen Discusses The Huge Popular Opposition The Presidential Systems Engendered During The Arab Spring, And The Political Change That Ensued, While Also Delineating The Challenges The Arab Revolutions Face Across The Middle East And North Africa . Re StatedThis unassuming little book contains possibly the most cogent and succinct political analysis of middle eastern oligarchies that I ve ever come across The first half covers commonalities in governance and gets into specific differences later on The regimes progress from an initial concentration of power within a military junta followed by a personification of power in a central leader who positions himself at a nexus of relationships between tribes, foreign corporations and leaders, Re StatedThis unassuming little book contains possibly the most cogent and succinct political analysis of middle eastern oligarchies that I ve ever come across The first half covers commonalities in governance and gets into specific differences later on The regimes progress from an initial concentration of power within a military junta followed by a personification of power in a central leader who positions himself at a nexus of relationships between tribes, foreign corporations and leaders, the military and local power hungry elites, doling out subsidies and economic favours to keep these interests in line The leader s clan relations are especially useful towards that end By rewarding cronyism and micromanaging decision making in the presidency, Arab dictators ensure that independent organizations and the public at large are kept weak and unable to have an effect on policy In short order the President for Life asserts that he alone can guarantee the stability of the regime with its never achieved goal of transitioning the country to socialism and or democracy What starts in genuine protestations of self sacrifice ends in megalomania.Arab monarchies run in similar fashion, the major difference being the problem of succession This is treated as a bit of an embarrassment for these self proclaimed republics as often it is the leader s son Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Yemen who is being groomed for the post In the case of Algeria s Bouteflika, still in control and with no male heirs, the question at hand is whether a Cuban solution of passing on the role to one of the President s brothers for the post will take place.Coverage includes Nasser and Sadat s Egypt, the Syria of both Asads, Qaddafi s Libyra, Yemen, Qasim and Sadat s Iraq, Sudan, the PLO under Arafat and Sadat, with comparisons to monarchies in Jordan, Morocco, Bahrain, and Oman Lebanon stands out as an anomaly pp113 118 The 1943 National Pact was a unique confessional power sharing arrangement wherein the President and the head of the Military would be a Maronite, the Prime Minister Sunni and the speaker of the chamber a Shi ite, with a set ration of administrative posts 6 5 in favour of Christians The result was a weak state with a small army but a healthy economic sector With no dominant group the country has endured a prolonged ethnic tension between Shia, Sunni and Christian militias with strong intervention from Syria during its long civil war which reached into the highest echelons of government There s also a regrettable omission of Qatar, its Thani family and their connection to their radicalizing political creation Al Jazeera, with only 2 brief mentions of Al Jazeera as a destabilizing force in the region.Owen concludes with by observing that this style of government is not limited to the middle east, but is also symptomatic of similar junta dictatorships in Africa, Asia and South America Characteristic in each case is that both the military and state security apparatus consume a large proportion of the state budget, and a career in either not only manages dangerous youth unemployment but also patronage For those regimes lacking oil revenues, nationalization of foreign and domestic assets is later followed by apportioning control, ownership and revenue streams as means of promoting loyalty to the regime I have seen this book accidentally in the library of the Institute Du Monde Arabe in Paris and couldn t resist As someone who has lived a large part of my life in Syria, one of the Arab states that had a president for life and the only one where he managed a successful transfer of power to his son and a start of a family dynasty, this was something to read.Roger Owen is without doubt very knowledgeable and perceptive, he knows the Middle East well and, while not including a great amount of deta I have seen this book accidentally in the library of the Institute Du Monde Arabe in Paris and couldn t resist As someone who has lived a large part of my life in Syria, one of the Arab states that had a president for life and the only one where he managed a successful transfer of power to his son and a start of a family dynasty, this was something to read.Roger Owen is without doubt very knowledgeable and perceptive, he knows the Middle East well and, while not including a great amount of details on each of the countries, manages to find the similarities and differences among the dear leaders, brothers, comrades, and presidents who managed to impose their shadow on the Arab peoples for a very long period.He starts by talking about the influence of the post colonial period on the establishment of the first wave of presidents who came to think of themselves as omniscient and all powerful and decided to become the leaders and symbols of their countries Naser and Bourgeba are the two examples.Then, he moves describing the basic components of such regimes and why did they come to exist in such concentration in the Arab world From there, he creates three plus one categories of the countries The first is the model of centralized state systems such as those of Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, and Algeria the President Managers such as those in Libya, Sudan, and Yemen and the constrained presidents of Lebanon and Iraq post Saddam An additional category, which is not strictly within scope, is one of the monarchical security states of Morocco and Jordan.Owen s later description of succession politics is fascinating and so is his analysis of the beginning of the uprisings that toppled some of those presidents and continue to rage in the region While the book is fascinating, easy to read, and accurate it is hard to cover this topic in 210 pages As I fold the last page, I have a feeling of wanting to have learnedfrom the man and I feel a little let down just imagining how muchhe could have said and refrained to keep the book manageable.One note of praise is related to Owen t full acknowledgement of what he doesn t know about the details that are very difficult to come by in a secretive police state He is clear of what he knows well, what he doesn t know well, and when he is speculating This is a rarity that I suppose comes from him being an academic rather than a politician and is reassuring Owen s accessible work focuses on the republic regimes of the Middle East, examining their paradoxical durability as well as particular vulnerability after the Arab Spring The book asks the broad question How did these presidents stay in power for so long despite the stagnant economy and an unhappy populace Why did some of the others that had experienced conflicts in the past manage to stay intact Algeria, Lebanon, Iraq etc To a lesser extent, Owen explores the reasons for the collapse f Owen s accessible work focuses on the republic regimes of the Middle East, examining their paradoxical durability as well as particular vulnerability after the Arab Spring The book asks the broad question How did these presidents stay in power for so long despite the stagnant economy and an unhappy populace Why did some of the others that had experienced conflicts in the past manage to stay intact Algeria, Lebanon, Iraq etc To a lesser extent, Owen explores the reasons for the collapse for some of them after 2011 To answer the question on the regime s durability, Owen takes a structural analysis on the different types of republics and leadership that each country had, as well as demographics, natural resources, the military and security apparatus, the existence of lack of particular social clsses, and other features to propose an explanation for each type of republic and their survival up until Arab Spring.Since much of the book was completed before Arab Spring happened,of the material is focused on explaining the strengths of of these gumlukiyyas monarchal republics However, the book gives the impression that the Arab autocrats come from a similar strongmen mold, whereas there are considerable regional differences and power structures that had considerable influence on events ie not all autocrats are created equal For instance, I m skeptical of the inclusion of Bouteflika among the same group of strongmen presidents as Mubarak or Qaddafi, as Algeria is an oligarchy of military and security elites, as opposed to a strong head of state Even among those autocrats who held much of executive authority, there are difference in style of leadership and their relationships with other powerful institutions such as the army that had deterministic effects on the revolution s outcomes To get a fuller sense of the complexity involved, one should also consult literature on political and societal structures, each country s history and demographics dynamics, rentier systems, the role and interests of the military, etc after finishing this book On the very eve of the Arab Spring, Roger Owens offers this overview of the so called monarchical republican presidents once prevalent in Arab countries and hopes to answer the simple query of how this sorry state of affairs came about.A primer in modern Arab history, from independance to the conflagration of 2011, this book succeeds at explaining the various political mechanisms and personal dynamics at work from Morroco to Oman with Saudi Arabia, Kuweit and Qatar somehow left out but with t On the very eve of the Arab Spring, Roger Owens offers this overview of the so called monarchical republican presidents once prevalent in Arab countries and hopes to answer the simple query of how this sorry state of affairs came about.A primer in modern Arab history, from independance to the conflagration of 2011, this book succeeds at explaining the various political mechanisms and personal dynamics at work from Morroco to Oman with Saudi Arabia, Kuweit and Qatar somehow left out but with the PLO included.The consequences of the Arab Spring are still very much uncertain, as any look at the news will quickly reveal with the Syrian civil war now in its fourth year, with Yemen s recent presidential ousting and with the rise of Al Dawlat al Islamiyah in the sunni hinterland of al Shams which Owen hardly mentions Owen predicts that, in the short term, only Tunisia stands a chance of emerging from revolutionary turmoil with a renewed social contract The author deconstructs in this book the reasons why the arab republican monarchical systems were able to last this long creating a series of arab presidents for life in the region post colonialism, centralized policies, a dependent bureaucracy, crony capitalists and ofocurse a strong security system were all factors that explain this arab presedent for life exceptionalism and very possibly, as we learn later in the book, these factors that help explain the prolonged presidencies for 2 3 deca The author deconstructs in this book the reasons why the arab republican monarchical systems were able to last this long creating a series of arab presidents for life in the region post colonialism, centralized policies, a dependent bureaucracy, crony capitalists and ofocurse a strong security system were all factors that explain this arab presedent for life exceptionalism and very possibly, as we learn later in the book, these factors that help explain the prolonged presidencies for 2 3 decades were the same reasons that ultimately threatened their hold of power.entertaining and a good read The best single study on all the Arab Republics rather than the monarchies which takes you right up to when the book was published in 2012 An impressively readable and coherent work of comparative history that brings together the similarities of these regimes without giving the short shrift to their many differences. The book contains a large volume of information, but is quite easy to follow Recommended for beginners who want to learnabout the history of the dynamics of power in the region. nothing new

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  • Hardcover
  • 248 pages
  • The Rise and Fall of Arab Presidents for Life
  • Roger Owen
  • English
  • 20 February 2019
  • 0674065832