The theory of balance of power in Middle East (by Ugur Yasin Asal)

8 Jan

The theory of balance of power in Middle East

Occurring in the discipline of International Relations, a number of social and political phenomena can be expressed in terms of a variety of levels of analysis. It contains explanation of empirical and descriptive approach to International Relations which is the scientific research, methods and applications, explanation of the processes that make up theories of international relations, theory (s) test and the contribution of re-stages of practical applications to this theory.

Approaching this point of view, the discipline of international relations has three different levels of analysis.  And these levels of analysis can be listed as the sizes of system analysis, state analysis and individual analysis. On the other hand, the Aristotelian deductive and Bacon’s induction processes of the basic methodological principle in scientific research are at an important problematic position on which approach should be preferred in describing levels of analysis. Competency levels of analysis in international relations depend on, firstly, the theoretical principles to put forward a strong structure in the face of verification and falsification theory,  in addition to this, if it is able to build synthesis of deductive and inductive processes in research methods and applications.  Hence, when international relations are approached by the method of deductive reasoning, levels of analysis seems to contain systemic structures, inter-state relations and the individual stages. The implementation of the deductive methodology in question takes place within the framework of analysis of the global political level, regional and interstate analysis and ultimately policy levels within the borders of sovereign states.

“Fragmentation and integration processes” oriented to the size of the system-level analysis of international relations are guided by the dominant actors in the system. The changing structure of the international system reveals the changing size of the classical realist theory and means the transition from the traditional realist theory suggesting the thesis  international system is anarchic to the New Realist theory considering taking place of new systemic structural transformations as the main arguments. The level of system-level analysis in question representing the system-level changes focuses on national power parameters and the impact of this on the international system. In addition, it is a direct determinant of political history located directly in the area of systematic review of international relations and the periodic political developments power systematic.

Hence, Morgenthau’s concept of hegemony was expressed at various levels until to XIX. Century political history that would make references to social sciences and its systematics of the international relations. Towards the last quarter of the XIXth century, power parameters of Britain, which was the dominant actor in international relations for nearly 300 years, began to weaken, particularly the balance of power in Europe, the process of the use of regional power by ranging actors. 1871-1914 circuit is a phase in which the French Revolution left behind and diplomatic relations in Europe and conflicts intensified in that diplomatic relations in question. Feature of this period is the establishment of the Italian and German national associations, standing out of German Empire as a force especially in the first plan played a major role. After the establishment of the German Empire, especially the diplomacy followed by Bismarck earned a certain diplomatic supremacy to Germany until 1890 and as a result of this, Triple Alliance, in other words Triple Entente, emerged as a block of forces.  At the beginning of the XXth century, world politics seems began to take shape in the axis of the balance of power. In the same period, it seems focusing on specializing in one type of product in the economic dimension and creating national competitiveness factor of this. Global actors, which used the global competition for accessing to sources of raw materials and upgrading the national power that was the basic pillars of the classical realist theory, gave rise to the association of Russia, Britain, France, and on the other side Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire with the existing colonial race.

The relevance of the process with the Middle East is the formulation of a regional power and the risk of conflict is to be expressed with sources of raw materials in the region. Germany seemed doing initiatives for accessing to raw material sources of the empire Middle East and providing logistical infrastructure of this by incorporating Ottoman Empire into its own. The effectiveness of the political balance of Germany in Europe lay in the master policy the Prime Minister Bismarck followed in the period started with the Triple Alliance in 1870 in the world. As the German Association, which would affect the balance of power in Europe and the global policy, was established by Bismarck, European balance haa another shape. After the First World War, changing the format of this balance was observed. Accordingly, it was needed to ensure a balance of the world but not just a balance of Europe. And immediately after the First World War, the European continent had a quite different political aspect. This development, referring to the change in the size of the system of international relations, moved the position of the active actors in global politics from European axis to Atlantic axis. While Europe’s political activity decreasing, the United States of America rose to the main actor position in international relations.

This initiative, carried out in European diplomacy by Bismarck, had a decisive role on the effect of integration of the balance power theory and the construction of the balance. Bismarck’s the construction of regional power in question and the processes of Germany’s participation into the global politics are described as the introduction to the power balance theory. On the other hand, the power balance theory can be argued as old as international relations. According to Kautilya’s theory in this direction, Thucydides defended it as a policy and stated that as the level of inter-state relations gets higher, the culture of co-operation of the states adopting an attitude in the face of this rising level of the relationship result in the balance of power. Power Balance Theory, with Hume and Rousseau’s contributions to the field in this direction, took its place among the classical theories of international relations. On the other hand, Burns’ analysis of the international system focuses on the classical power balance theory and refers to XIXth century political balance. Accordingly, the formation of the power balance is created at the point relations between the two states begin to affect a third state.  It can be expressed that Power Balance Theory increased its scope of application by the XXth century. Various systemic breakpoints existence is in question with international relations going to processes of fragmentation-disintegration. Accordingly, with the rise of Bismarck’s Germany, power balance theory consisted during the process leading to World War I appeared in the face of Hitler’s Germany with World War II, and in the continuation of this process, power balance theory turned into the balance of nuclear terror with the Cold War. In this process, the establishment of Israel in 1948 is described as an important breakpoint in the name of changing the regional power balance in the Middle East.

military balance in the region

military balance in the region

It is possible to explain the power balance theory as the expression of sovereign rights of states and the use of this against tertiary actors and/or to cooperate. According to this approach, a sovereign state can use the balance element of the international system in the name of maximizing its national interests.  Power Balance Theory is mostly in the heralded position of  going to an interstate war. According to power balance theory referring to the power maximization doctrine of classical realism, peace is the approach the power balances holds in secondary plan. The process in question refers to horizontal and vertical transitions of national power and its links with the international system.

When it comes to the formulation of power balance theory in the Middle East, it can be possible to express that national, regional, and global variables are intertwined. It is stated that the power balance theory in the Middle East can be explained with foreign policy analysis of the global players making policies on the region. The Cold War period reflection of the process in question can be observed with the policies of the U.S. and the USSR.  Power balance of the US and USSR on the Middle East can be explained as regime effect on the countries in the region and testing it with different variations. Pro-US regimes seem creating influence means over dictators who defend autocratic policies. On the other hand, the Soviet Union seems formed political influence means via the Baathist regime. As in the USA’s Latin America policy, regime effect took place via the dictators governing the countries in the Middle East.

The process in question made a direct impact on the arms race of the countries in the region, USSR-US power balance that is the competitive element on the system level has been moved to the dimension of the Middle East. As pro-USSR countries seem going national power maximization with this state’s weapons and equipment systems, including Saudi Arabia, countries like Yemen, Qatar, Jordan seem supporting pro-US policies. Of course, after 1948, Israel has been the most important ally of the USA. Israel’s policy of territorial expansion with its establishment has undergone a variety of breakpoints.

The beginning of the Arab-Israeli wars included Palestinian issue among the chronic problems of international relations during the process of the present. And when it came to the year of 1956, it can be expressed that power balance had another breakpoint in the Middle East. Accordingly, as a result of the pro-Soviet stance of Egypt, its attempt to nationalize the Suez canal resulted with Israel’s attack on this country. On the other hand, initiatives of France during the construction of the canal raised concerns of preventing the construction of national power by Egypt later. Great powers focused the specific power balance in the Middle East on the region based on the Canal crisis.  Especially England, The U.S. and Israel are the direct parties to the question. The Islamic revolution carried out in Iran in 1979 is another significant development of the power balance in the Middle East. The USA’s Carter-Green Belt doctrine called with the name of president Carter aims to change the policy of the USSR in Afghanistan. According to this policy, supporting Afghan resistance by radical Islamic groups gave rise to the Taliban training camps in Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Of course, the Soviet Union powerful helicopters were neutralized by the United States Stinger missiles.

Shifting the radical Islamic movement that emerged in Afghanistan to Iran axis with the USA’s Green Belt theory led to the realization of the Islamic revolution in this country against the regime of the Shah. In the period at the end of the Cold War, it could be expressed that the USA gained the superiority of initiative in the axis of the power balance in the Middle East. With the end of the Cold War, the USA, which accessed to significant oil resources in the Middle East with the Gulf Operation I, adopted a policy of fitting access to these energy sources to a sustainable basis and safeguarding the region with military elements with the Gulf Operation II. I. and II. operations in Iraq, which is also the beginning of the USA’s Greater Middle East Project, can be stated as ensuring the security of the Persian Gulf and controlling the world trade.

Finally, public movements held via Arab Spring are the initiatives the USA supported in the strategic axis of the Middle East. Syrian crisis, in which the last of these actions held, refers to the current test of the balance power theory. The future of Syria, which is expressed as a breakpoint of power balance in the Middle East by Russia and Iran, is a direct determinant of in what way regional balances will have shape.


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3) What is meant here is Aristotelian deductive and Bacon’s inductive method with the philosophy infrastructure of scientific research. In scientific research and analysis carried out in this direction, with the articulation of the processes of logic and method of research, it is expressed that research methods and practices will gain a holistic and analytic structure.

4)Jeffrey Mankoff, “The Big Caucasus between Fragmentation and Integration”, CSIS, March 2012.

5)Fahir Armaoglu, “20th Century Political History”, p. 19, 2005.

6)İlhan F. Akin, “Political History”, 1870-1914, İstanbul: Fakülteler Printing, 1983, p. 253.

7)Brian Healy ve Arthur Stein, “The Balance of Power in International History”, The Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 17, No. 1 (Marc, 1973), p. 33.

8)Emerson M.S Niou ve Peter C. Ordeshook, “A Theory of the Balance of Power in International Systems”, The Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 30, No 4 (Dec., 1986), p. 685.

9)William Brian Moul, “Balances of Power and Escalation to War of Serious Disputes among the European Great Powers, 1815-1939: Some Evidence”, American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 32, No. 2, (May, 1988), p.242.

10) Fawaz A. Gerges, “The Study of Middle East International Relations: A Critique”, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 18, No. 2, (1991), p. 211.

11) Jean Lacouture, “The Changing Balance of Forces in the Middle East”, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 2, No. 4, (Summer, 1973), p. 26.

 The original article was published in Strategic Outlook by Ugur Yasin Asal 

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