Communist and Middle-Eastern Dictatorships in a Democratic Age
by Paul Brooker
New York: New York, University Press, 1997. 223 pp. $37.50.
Reviewed by Mark N. Katz
George Mason University
Middle East Quarterly
How and why have eight regimes (those of China, Vietnam, North Korea, Cuba, Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Iran) managed to resist the democratic wave that swept through much of the communist and Third World during the late 1980s and early 1990s? Brooker provides highly detailed and useful accounts of political, ideological, and economic developments in these eight countries from 1980 to 1994. He examines three different explanations for their ability to resist the recent wave of democratization—external relations, structure and ideology, and economic policies—and dispatches all but the first by demonstrating that these regimes have little uniformity in the latter two areas. All eight share defiance of the West as a common feature of their foreign policies, as he points out, but Brooker fails convincingly to show that this is the most important factor for their survival. More important, perhaps, may be their willingness and ability to suppress all opposition ruthlessly. Saudi Arabia and most of the other GCC states have managed to do that, resist meaningful democratization, and yet still cooperate with the West. While Brooker raises some very interesting questions as to why some dictatorships survive, he ultimately does not provide a very satisfactory answer as to why they do in general, or why so many have been able to do so in the Middle East in particular.
Related Topics: Middle East politics | Mark N. Katz | June 1998 MEQ
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