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Answering this question is necessary to help situate the second, theoretical, gap this volume hopes to address: the lack of fit between the experience of war in the Middle East and the research base that shapes theory building in the study of war, the state, and society.
In my view, the absence of research on war and the state in the Middle East has relatively little to do with an inherent lack of interest on the part of Middle East specialists but quite a bit to do with the peculiar genealogy of the research program on war and the state that emerged (or perhaps reemerged) in the United States in the 1970s as a result of the important work of Charles Tilly and the other contributors to his edited book The Formation of National States in Western Europe.
Without in any sense disparaging the contributions of the existing literature on war in the Middle East, it remains true that such research has been deficient in its attention to war as a social and political process.
But in this instance, the consequences of this relative neglect are twofold, and they make quite clear its empirical and analytic costs.They also frame the material, in most instances, as a critical response to existing theories of how war making, state making, and social processes like the construction of citizenship interact.In many cases they highlight significant points of divergence between available theories and the realities of the Middle East and thus underscore the value of this region to the larger theoretical enterprise of understanding how war shapes patterns of social, institutional, and state formation and transformation.In the absence of efforts to explore rigorously where Middle East cases align with or challenge current theories of the relationship between war and state formation, it will not be possible to construct alternative, more satisfactory, theoretical accounts.
Without such accounts, our understanding of dynamics that have been central in shaping the contemporary Middle East will be at best incomplete and at worst distorted.War has been a growth industry for analysts and researchers of conflict resolution, peace keeping, arms control, and negotiation, as well as specialists on foreign policy and strategic studies.Particular disputes are the subject of voluminous literatures: first and foremost the Arab-Israeli conflict, with the Iran-Iraq and Gulf Wars not far behind.Considering the scope and scale of war making and war preparation in the Middle East—the sheer intensity of militarization as a persistent and pervasive attribute of everyday life across the region—the paucity of research on war as a social and political process is puzzling, not least because academics typically are far too entrepreneurial to leave a significant phenomenon unstudied.