The debate about political change and democratic transformation in the Middle East has, in recent years, received more conceptual analysis and theoretical treatment than ever before. This is due to the little systematic work done on the subject in the past and an abundance of ideas about the constraints of Western theoretical approaches to the application of democracy in the Middle East. Some analysts have examined the pace of democratization (fast-track vs. slow-track) in the area, concluding that "economic reforms first, political opening and democracy later'' may be a viable solution for an orderly transition toward democracy in the Middle East.
Others, after examining historical conditions and political experiences, have claimed that the area's political culture appears less than supportive of democratic political structures. Still others, sometimes known as neo-orientalists, have argued that strong Islamic societies have traditionally obstructed the states' effectiveness, state-society relations and normal evolution. Thus, runs the argument, such an obstruction has fundamentally hindered the true development of "civil society" and "democracy."
Deegan challenges these views, contending that the issue of democracy in the Middle East deserves much closer scrutiny. She recognizes the significance of a variety of variables by considering the external context, population mobility and citizenship, the institution of political parties, the reintroduction of elections, consociationalism and the role of Islam. Through case-study analysis in select Middle Eastern countries (Jordan, Kuwait, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Israel and Lebanon), Deegan examines constraints and opportunities within the context of each case. Although she stresses, albeit variably, the external context, the domestic political environment occupies a significant place in her analysis.
In the Jordanian case, the author argues that the crucial determining factor in the political system was the role of the Palestinians' population movement: ''This is a case of a majority of people who lived in one country and dreamed, desired, fought and eventually achieved legitimate leadership for their life in another" (p. 34). While casting doubt on the "rentier state" model's efficacy in determining the political dynamics of the Kuwaiti system, Deegan writes that the demographic factor is the key to any sustainable drive towards democratization there, where "70 percent of the population are semi-citizens or noncitizens" (pp. 39-41). In both Jordan and Kuwait, Deegan adds, the major obstacle to democratization is that indigenous populations find themselves in a minority situation, with the majority lacking a sense of "citizenship" (p. 43).
Iran as a theocratic state, which clearly lacks the features of a common language, race and culture, nevertheless shows a drive toward democratization in the post-Cold-War era akin to what is transpiring in some Arab nations (p. 44). She depicts the post-Khomeini era as one of pragmatism and economic liberalization-two conditions believed necessary for political pluralism. While acknowledging that the Iranian political system is far from pluralistic, Deegan notes that participation in elections and upholding the rights of a national assembly are laudable. Nevertheless, she stresses, as long as the forces of legal opposition cannot freely express their political views, a democratic deficit prevails. Interestingly, the nativistic desire for and expression of the need for further democratization in Iran keenly resembles the indigenous mood and climate of the Arab states in the post-Cold-War years (p. 59).
In Syria, which is characterized as a dominant (Baath) party state, attention must center on the possibilities of democratic reform stemming from the Baath party itself, that is, reforms from within (p. 69). Yet democratization will be possible only at the Baath party's expense. Deegan, who believes this possibility does exist (as in the case of Lebanon), refuses to specify whether such an eventuality could unfold in Asad's remaining years.
Iraq, plagued by ethnic and religious divisions but also characterized as a dominant (Baath) party state, represents a vastly different version of Baath party operation (pp. 69-70). The most difficult question facing democracy in Iraq concerns citizen loyalty. Deegan's argument is compelling: ultimately, if political advancements are to occur in Iraq, changes within the Baath party must precede and follow such reforms. She is less optimistic with this scenario than with the Syrian situation but leaves the impression that such a possibility is a realistic one (pp. 81-3). However, Deegan fails to address whether democratization would defuse ethno-political conflicts in Iraq. Given the fact that Iraq lacks the resources and institutional means required for pursuing accommodationist policies, one wonders whether democratization is the desired course of action under such circumstances. Ted R. Gurr's Minorities at Risk, 1993, provides valuable insights on such issues.
Similarly, Israel, regarded by many as a liberal democracy, faces problems of population mobility and subjugation (p. 85). Israel's policy of occupation and control, especially since the 1967 Six-Day War, has severely undermined the country's democratic base. The shifting and subjugated population of Palestinians in the occupied territories, and the resultant human-rights abuses, have rendered Israel susceptible to internal and external instability similar to the ones that Arab countries have suffered (pp. 101-2).
Lebanon, vulnerable to external pressures, typifies yet another example of political disintegration and decay caused largely by outside and regional forces (e.g., Syrian, Palestinian and Israeli involvements-not to mention those of the United States). Deegan suggests that "if Syria were to consider reform, a consociational model of political interaction might be an appropriate starting point" (p. 117). Deegan ends her discussion on an upbeat note. As the area's political configuration and landscape evolves, regional influences could be conducive to political reform in Lebanon in the post-Cold-War era (p. 118).
Finally, in a refreshingly candid discussion of the prospects for democracy (chapter seven), Deegan argues that "there seem to exist contradictions within Islam which must be addressed within the context of whether or not there is an Islamic agenda for democracy,'' while at the same time she maintains that "certain political features identified as 'demo cratic' have been and indeed, still are, employed in Islamic states" (p. 127). She cites, for example, the use of elections and referendums in Iran during the post-shah era.
Deegan, who at times challenges the feasibility of Western-style democracy within the Middle Eastern countries' structural context, correctly points to contradictory approaches that these nations have adopted in the past. Convinced by Lucien Pye's argument posited some three decades ago, Deegan regards the suitability and desirability of "liberal democracy" for developing countries as problematic. Linking democracy's fate in the Middle East to the Third World's, Deegan reiterates her initial claim that theories and models suitable to the American system of government have had "little relevance to many of the new countries" (p. 5). Hence the need for a different orientation capable of examining a host of elements at play in the Third World. However, she concludes by asserting that many of Middle Eastern countries' petrodollars have been recycled into investments in international financial markets and real estate in the West. Thus, she argues, these countries face a contradiction: fully participating in Western capitalist economies while refuting their underlying political structures (p. 135).
To the extent that the author discerns such contradictions, the book fails to grapple with the issue of the ''relevance'' of alien democratic approaches. Without fully assessing the dilemma of economic and political liberalization and its resultant trade-offs, a discussion so vital to the broader understanding of the process of democratization in the Middle East, Deegan engages, rather prematurely, in the discussion of the contradictory approaches of Middle Eastern countries. An excellent supplementary reading to Deegan's book is James Bill/Robert Springborg Politics in the Middle East, 1994, in which trade-offs and paradoxes such as economic growth vs. political decay and political growth vs. economic decay are carefully elaborated.
Towards the end, the author attempts to reconcile Islam with democracy-a point not well developed throughout the case-studies section. Here she supports premises which would fulfill the "procedural-minimum" requirements of democracy: namely, free, fair and competitive elections. She contends that Muslim political traditions and institutions can evolve, noting that the reintroduction of elections and participatory governments are on the upsurge in the area. This fact suggests that the Middle East may enjoy new possibilities of political autonomy and accountability in the not-too-distant future (p. 135). Deegan's conclusion is not a standard forecast in light of the area's widespread structural constraints, which she painstakingly expounds throughout the text. The central question, how democratization will thrive in view of such constraints, fails to be properly addressed. Further, the existence of a supportive indigenous political environment may be a necessary but clearly not a sufficient condition for the viability of a democratic political system.
Some handicaps notwithstanding, this book's strength lies in demonstrating that despite the vast differences among the countries studied, they have shared important external (European and American influences) and indigenous (citizenship and ethnonational politics) factors in their initial attempts at democratization. The book helps to unravel the complexities of democratic transformation in the Middle East and as such makes a significant contribution through cross-country surveys of democratization and the lack thereof in the Middle East. It is timely, intellectually rich and a welcome addition to the growing scholarly endeavors exploring the prospects for democratization in the Middle East and deserves a wide audience among both theoreticians and practitioners.