The modern Middle East is an inter-state arena with a long history of conflict and war.From the 1948 Arab-Israeli War to the current war in Iraq, the modern Middle East appears to be a region which best epitomizes neorealism’s claim that the anarchy and insecurity of astate system is the principal determinant of conflict. However, constructivists claim thatrealism’s neglect of the incongruence between identity and sovereignty, as well as betweennation and state within the Middle East, proves realism inept to explain the entirety of causesof conflict in the region.
In this study, I argue that while both constructivism and neorealismdo contribute much to the debate of what explains conflict in the Middle East, a neoclassicalrealist approach does so more thoroughly and accurately due to its inclusion of first, second,and third image variables.
Understanding Neoclassical Realism
Since Neoclassical Realism’s acceptance as a distinct school of international relationsthought by Gideon Rose in 1998, it has been described by numerous scholars as bridging thegaps between classical realism, neo-realism, constructivism, liberalism, and foreign policyanalysis.
Rose offers the subsequent description of the school:
Constructivist IR theory is most closely associated with the work of Alexander Wendt. See Alexander Wendt,
Social Theory of International Politics, (
Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999). Neorealist IR theory is mostclosely associated with the work of Kenneth Waltz. See Kenneth N. Waltz,
Theory of International Politics
,(New York: McGraw-Hill, 1979).
Brian Rathbun, "A Rose by Any Other Name: Neoclassical Realism as the Logical and NecessaryExtension of Structural Realism,"
17 (2008): 294-321; Gideon Rose. "Neoclassical Realismand Theories of Foreign Policy."
51 (1998): 144-172; Jennifer Sterling-Folker, "RealistEnvironment, Liberal Process, and Domestic-Level Variables,"
International Studies Quarterly
41 (1997): 1-25;Randall Schweller, “The Progressiveness of Neoclassical Realism,” in
Progress in International RelationsTheory: Appraising the Field
, eds. Colin Elman and Miriam Fendius Elman, (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003);Jeffrey W. Taliaferro, "State Building for Future Wars: Neoclassical Realism and the Resource-Extractive State,"
15 (2006): 464-495.