The League of Arab States:
Conflicting or Common Identity?
Professor Malak Rouchdy
This paper attempts to explain the shortcomings of the League of Arab States as a result of conflicting identities for state roles within the institution. It begins with analysis of the regional organization system and applies those findings to the League in particular. The focus of the paper is on the conflicting roles promoted by the League of Arab States, the ideals of Pan-Arabism and state sovereignty. The contradictory nature of those goals created disorder in the region and contributed to the ineffectiveness of the League. This is a surprising result because the focus by the League on shared national heritage is one of the underlying tenets promoting regional organizations as essential for maintaining regional and global stability.
'The League is indispensable to us. It is a symbol of Arab authority and the center of our political life. Its unifying spirit is more important than all other things.' Syrian Minister in Cairo
(from La Bourse Egyptienne, 12 May 1949)
'Had Arabs been able to create their own viable entity, they would have achieved their national unity during the age of nation-states.' Muammar al-Qaddafi, Leader of Libya
22 June 2004
The League of Arab States is an international institution that has played a variety of roles since its inception in 1945. These roles have done little to clarify what makes a state an Arab state and often produce contradictory aims for individual states in the League. Regional organizations exist to encourage and form common identity and address local issues, but the League of Arab States seems to be based on a pre-existing identity and is unwilling or unable to solve local problems. This is ironic because the League has a built in identity and goal of unification, yet still finds itself mired in internal conflicts. Though the League of Arab States bases membership on the vague notion of an Arab identity, there are many other reasons that countries join the League and as such, goals based on this identity are not always pursued. II. Regional Organizations
The League of Arab States (the League or the Arab League) was founded on 22 March 1945 when representatives from Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia signed the Pact of the League of Arab States. It was a symbol of unity and independence, the two aims that Arab leaders had been pursuing in their relationship with Western powers who had dominated and manipulated them since the time of the First World War. The League also reflected the belief at the time that regional organizations would help to stabilize the world, especially when combined with an overarching global organization, the forthcoming United Nations, since regional organizations would be able to maintain peace and security on a greater scale than the failed League of Nations. International organizations as a whole were and are seen as stabilizing to their member regions because they are not wholly dependent on the individual whims and preferences of state leaders (Barnett 1993:274). Though states do retain their sovereign right to essentially do as they please, regional organizations establish a set or norms and values that make it very clear what acceptable behavior entails outside of a single leader's experience.
Regional organizations incorporate international membership and encompass geopolitical entities that operationally transcend a single nation state. Membership is generally characterized by geographic boundaries and many regional organizations are named after the continent or region that they cover. Regional organizations exist to foster cooperation and political and economic integration and dialogue among member states within a certain boundary. By focusing on a limited scope, regional organizations...
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