Problems of Regionalizing Universal International Relations Theories: A Study on Rivalry Approach to War and Peace in African and Arab Civil Wars

By Ahmed Salem.

Published by The Global Studies Journal

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

In this study, I attempt to demonstrate that “universal” international relations theories based on the experiences of globally major powers may well fail to explain the international politics of globally minor powers in non-Western regions. I do so by examining one such theoretical framework, that is, the rivalry approach to war and peace, as applied in inter-African and inter-Arab politics. Specifically, after a general discussion of the treatment of globally minor powers in non-Western regions by universal theories of international relations and political science in general, I introduce the rivalry approach to war and peace and develop its expectations on state behavior in a rival’s civil war. Then, building on an earlier work (Furtado et al, 2003) and using Diehl and Goertz’s (2000) interstate rivalry database, I empirically test the validity of these expectations by conducting an in-depth analysis of two cases, namely, Kenya’s behavior in Uganda’s civil war (1981-5), and Israel’s and Syria’s behaviors in Jordan’s “civil war” (1970). Though admittedly insufficient to falsify a theory, the small-N analysis which is applied in this study is justified by methodologists, such as Sartori, on many bases, including the very aim of this study, namely, to highlight and consequently avoid the problem of “conceptual stretching” in the research program suggested by the rivalry approach to war and peace (Collier, 1993). Conclusions and implications of the empirical analysis are discussed in the last section.

Keywords: International Relations Theory, Rivalry Approach to War and Peace, Inter-Arab Politics, Inter-African Politics, Civil War

Global Studies Journal, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp.127-140. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.204MB).

Dr. Ahmed Salem

Assistant Professor, College of Arts and Sciences, Zayed University, Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dr. Ahmed Salem has earned his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois, USA, in 2006; M.A in African Studies from the same University in 2002; M.A. in Islamic Studies from the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences, VA, USA, in 1999, and B.Sc. in political science from Cairo University, Egypt, in 1996. He received two fellowships from the University of Illinois and a full scholarship from the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences. Before Joining Zayed University, he worked as assistant director of the African Regional Integration Support Project at Cairo University. As a graduate student at the University of Illinois, he worked as an independent instructor, teaching assistant and research assistant in several academic units including the department of political science, the department of linguistics, the program of the study of religions, the center of African studies, and the Arabic section of the library. His research interests include Islamic Reform Thought and Movements; International relations of the Arab World; Theoretical Debates in International Relations; and Arab-African Relations. Before joining Zayed University, he taught university courses on History, Politics and Culture of the Muslim World; Comparative Politics; Comparative Politics in Developing Countries; and International Relations.


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