Trade Unions and Arab Revolutions
by Hela Yousfi, (Routledge, 2017)
This book traces the role of the UGTT (the Tunisian General Labour Union) during Tunisia’s 2011 revolution and the transition period that ensued – Tunisia being the Arab country where trade unionism was the strongest and most influential in shaping the outcomes of the uprising. The UGTT; From its role as the cornerstone of the nationalist movement in the colonial era, has always had a key place in Tunisian politics: not so much a labour union but as an organisation that has always linked social struggles to political and national demands.
Examining the role played by the UGTT in Tunisia's revolution and more generally in the restructuring of the Tunisian political arena during the three years following the popular uprising. This book asks searching questions such as; how did UGTT interact with the popular uprising that led to the departure of Ben Ali? What was the role played
We are especially excited today to launch the new Political Economy Page on Jadaliyya. The new page, and this blog, will serve as a space for producing critical work in political economy, as well as a resource for researchers, educators, and students interested in the field. We will regularly review and publish submissions related to any facet of political economy in accordance with the mission statement of the Political Economy Project, with some variation that is intended to stimulate productive discussions and debates. This page will publish material in English and in Arabic, as well as other languages, and will increasingly feature resources useful to researchers in this domain.
Jadaliyya comes full circle to embrace the page that was originally intended to be the project that Jadaliyya is today. That is, the original plan in 2009-2010 was to produce an electronic publication on political economy. After some discussion, we opted to start from a broader vantage point and build a political economy page independently (which now has also developed, in part, into the Political Economy Project), or within the pages of Jadaliyya. And here we are, delayed for a few years by the Arab uprisings that started only three months after the official launch of Jadaliyya.
We are aiming for this page to be a vibrant representation of the best research and commentary out there on the topic. E-mail your contributions to email@example.com.
By Pete Moore and Omar Dahi
The concept of a war economy has varied considerably. Historically, the term referred to a marshalling of national resources to support a state’s prosecution of war. Walter Oakes argued that “a war economy exists whenever the government’s expenditures for war (or ‘national defense’) become a legitimate and significant end-purpose of economic activity” (Oakes 1944: 12). Oakes and other scholars saw war economies as logical developments of capitalism in the core countries.
In the decades of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, the term has come to embrace a complex array of material exchange and political violence. These range from the international level down to individuals and communities. In this sense, war economies can be viewed as types of political economies, but ones hardly detached from dynamics of identity, culture, or social relations.
Efforts to conceptualize war economies in the context of the modern Middle East have been almost singular (Steven Heydemann’s edited volume, War, Institutions and Social Change in the Middle East brought together contributions from social scientists and historians) and pre-date the last decades of metastasizing regional conflict. As such the Political Economy Project decided to invite several scholars of political economy to a virtual roundtable to explore these and many other issues.
The proposed roundtable seeks to examine current research on war economies. Some questions we wish to explore are: How should “war economies” be conceptualized or defined empirically? How do current processes of violence, accumulation and exchange in the Middle East today shed new light on the concept of “war economy?” In what ways are traditional approaches to understanding war economies useful or limiting to understanding the region today? What state, society, or transnational dynamics emerge? How are types of political violence and external intervention important?
This is the first of a five-part roundtable series. Read the articles of the roundtable here below:
By Toby C. Jones
In April 2008 a small US engineering firm—Stafford, Texas-based MKM Engineers—brought to a close almost two decades of toxic cleanup work on a former US military facility just west of Kuwait City. Seventeen years earlier, in July 1991, a defective heating unit on a military vehicle loaded with 155mm artillery shells at Camp Doha caught fire and ignited a devastating inferno. The blaze injured several dozen people and damaged scores of other vehicles, including several highly prized M1A1 tanks. Thousands of artillery shells cooked in fire, setting off an extended explosive chain reaction. Ricocheting debris and bursting ordinance sent base personnel scurrying for safety in what quickly came to be known as the Doha Dash. The fire also unleashed a toxic plume. Seared metal—the detritus of broken war machines and spent artillery—always leaves a hazardous legacy. But the base was also home to thousands of 120mm anti-tank depleted uranium (DU) artillery shells, weapons forged from the waste of the American nuclear fuel cycle. DU weapons are both radioactive and toxic. Normally, depleted uranium not put to military or other industrial use, is handled and stored as hazardous waste. The American Environmental Protection Agency and the Pentagon today have strict guidelines in place for its handling with both recognizing it as a danger to human and environmental health. At Camp Doha over 600 of the nuclear waste-turned-weapons detonated in the fire, coating the sky with noxious black smoke and dust that drifted for miles.
Although having been informed over many years that DU, particularly its chemical toxicity, constituted a threat to health and environments, the US military limited its effort to address the mess in Kuwait. Damaged machines were quietly returned to the US either to be scrubbed or destroyed. Spent weapons and some contaminated sand were packaged into barrels, many of which were shipped to remote parts of the Kuwaiti desert and buried. Claiming that it had only a minimal legal obligation to address the fallout and commit to the recovery of the environment around the base, the US abandoned the cleanup job only partially completed by the end of 1991. Halliburton, the giant oil services company, carried out additional work on the site after the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. But it was not until 2008 that the area around Camp Doha was fully neutralized and the danger abated by engineers from Texas. Financed by the Kuwaiti military, MKM Engineers oversaw the final excavation of the site, digging up almost 7,000 tons of toxic and irradiated sand. Once unearthed the poisoned sand was loaded aboard the container ship BBC Alabama and shipped thousands of miles away to the Port of Longview, Washington, nestled on Columbia River in the southwestern part of the state. From there, the sand was transported by rail to a private hazardous waste facility outside of Boise, Idaho where it was permanently buried.
The details of the fire at Camp Doha and its toxic legacy—in which the US military forsake its responsibility to ameliorate a toxic site, only to have much of the site itself ultimately transported back to the US for final treatment and disposal, are absurd. The global movement of hazardous waste remade as weapons in the United States and put to use the Middle East, in this case to be returned as waste years later, is remarkable and disturbing. Beyond the details of the fire at Camp Doha, though, why does this episode help us think critically and more broadly about economies and political economies of war? Below I suggest we set aside more conventional ways of thinking about the value of weapons and arms in war economies, particularly the oft-reported details of the monetary value of weapons bought and sold between global powers. (from monetary to exchange) Weapons systems are always also parts of environmental and health economies and ecologies. To think about this in part, I point toward broader visibility and invisibility as well as how we might use the environmental and health impacts of DU weapons’ use -- which remain little known and more disturbingly, often deliberately obscured from view—to expand our frame of what a war economy includes and how parts of it are able to function.
It is the furtive character of DU weapons manufacturing, its testing (primarily and secretly in the American southwest), the scale of its use, and ultimately, the nature and impact that result, that makes it simultaneously difficult to investigate, but also so useful for the American military and its clients. I suggest that the relative invisibility of DU weapons systems is more than just an idiosyncratic footnote to wars in the Middle East more generally. While non-DU weapons have almost certainly killed more people, caused more damage, and profited investors more significantly, the power of smaller systems and their secretive character transcends their relative “market share.” In one way this has to do with broader politics of visibility and war. Much happens, from profit to pain, out of sight. War and those it benefits carry on much more easily, and perhaps enthusiastically, as a result. Indeed, the invisibility of key aspects of war and its wages create small, but critical access ways for a broader range of private, corporate and political interest to benefit. They also bracket off or diminish suffering of various kinds, including long term environmental and health impacts.
The magnitude of the damage done in Kuwait was relatively small compared to the devastation of war elsewhere, particularly in Kuwait’s northern neighbor Iraq, where the country was ravaged by the long American war there between 1991 and 2011. The small cost of the Camp Doha fire, perhaps around $40million, is minor in comparison to the trillions of dollars of spent on war and damage in Iraq. And while weapons manufacturing and sales, and the routine exchange of billions of dollars in oil revenues for American weapons and military systems, are critical for understanding the importance of the political economy of war in the Middle East—and its global entanglements—depleted uranium weapons, while not insignificant, make up a small fraction of the amount of weapons industry’s profit on wars in the region. Since the 1970s when depleted uranium waste first began to be fashioned into weapons designed to destroy Soviet tanks, the total number of DU weapons manufactured is unknown. Made in small batches and designed primarily to destroy heavy armor, depleted uranium’s total production likely numbers in the hundreds of thousands of artillery rounds, millions of smaller caliber shells, as well as armor for tanks and other uses. Whatever the actual scale of production over decades, the United States military used DU weapons extensively against military and non-military targets in Iraq between 1991 and 2011—as well as in Afghanistan and Syria. The Pentagon has been unwilling to disclose the full extent of its use of DU weapons, though anecdotal evidence from various media suggests it was widely deployed from Basra to Falluja against human and non-human targets.
The broader context and story around Camp Doha—in which DU weapons were made in places like Concord, Massachusetts, tested in places like Los Alamos, New Mexico, used in Iraq and Kuwait, finally disposed of by a firm from Texas in a global network that passed from the northern Persian Gulf to Idaho—enrolled and touched upon thousands of people, generated an unknown amount of damage and profit, and yet has remained almost entirely unknown. This invisibility is not trivial. Rather, it is productive, arresting the possibility of scrutiny, operating on multiple small levels simultaneously and over time, rendered local rather than caught up in the much broader networks of which it is a part, and almost entirely uncontested because the unseen is unseen.
The making and circulation of weapons, typically easily monetized and measured, are only one way to think through the cost of war and the character of its economies. There is a second dimension to the productive power of toxic invisibility for war-makers as well. Because so much around depleted uranium is deliberately mystified and withheld – a pattern that is at odds with how militaries often conspicuously celebrate the power of their weapons systems—military and political authorities have also been able to deny claims about its most pernicious toxic effects. While all war results in long lasting environmental, infrastructural, and embodied suffering, toxic weapons produce consequences that are particularly devastating and long lasting. Given their molecular qualities and the scientific and medical difficulty in linking particular cases of exposure to illness, and especially because they mete out their violence over years and decades—slow violence—the damage they do often persist well after that last bombs were dropped.
In spite of the Pentagon’s efforts to obscure the scale of the use of depleted uranium weapons in Iraq and elsewhere as well as what amounts to obstruction of investigation into DU’s effects, Iraqi scientists and doctors, often assisted by global observers, have documented some of health and environmental damage done. The environmental and health impact has been significant and generational. In the face of extensive epidemiological and other evidence, the US military, alongside its allies that employ it in battle as well, deny the toxic dangers of DU weapons. Whatever the arguments put forward by other observers that DU’s hazardous effects are yet unproven, and there are many, claims of uncertainty are not driven by science, but by politics. The evidence that DU causes health and environmental calamity is overwhelmingly understood to be true except to those who have an interest in believing otherwise.
Beyond the politically driven quest for scientific certainty around depleted uranium’s impact on Iraqi bodies and environments, much is lost. Because the impact of DU is denied by those with the power to potentially neutralize its effects, toxic DU dust is left suspended in Iraqi food systems, coated along infrastructure, lodged in the organs and bones bodies, passed on through childbirth, and left on scraps of metal destroyed in the war that themselves have become commodities exchanged in the country’s postwar economy. Iraqis in particularly affected areas come into constant contact with it. Their exposures are repeated and routine and, yet, remain unmeasured and untreated. And while experts can deny the linkage or withhold certainty about the connections between militarized toxins and affected communities, significant networks of suffering exist.
Indeed, alongside the weapons and the political economic terms of their production, use, and the veils that shroud them, the need for care in war-ravaged communities are the “other side” of these small parts of war economies. The injured and sick, particularly those who face long struggles as a result of toxic exposures, are also central to making sense of the economy of war. Suffering and care, then, must also be accounted for not as the afterlife of war, but as central to our moral and economic calculations of what it involves in the first place. Like depleted uranium weapons themselves, the scale and cost of care and the struggle over health are too easily unseen and uncounted.
 Associated Press, “56 Soldiers Hurt in Kuwait Blast,” New York Times, 12 July 1991, http://www.nytimes.com/1991/07/12/world/56-soldiers-hurt-in-kuwait-blast.html.
 See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8xXf41Fu4c.
 Thomas D. Williams, “The Depleted Uranium Threat,” Truthout, 13 August 2008, http://truth-out.org/archive/component/k2/item/79582:the-depleted-uranium-threat.
 For one early example such a warning, see Wayne C. Hanson, “Ecological Considerations of Depleted Uranium Munitions,” Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, United States Atomic Energy Commission, June 1974.
 Williams, op cit. See also, Snake River Alliance, “Tons of Waste Shipped to Idaho From Kuwait,” http://snakeriveralliance.org/tons-of-waste-shipped-to-idaho-from-kuwait/; Penny Coleman, “How 6,700 Tons of Radioactive Sand from Kuwait Ended up in Idaho,” Alternet, 16 September 2008, https://www.alternet.org/story/98950/how_6%2C700_tons_of_radioactive_sand_from_kuwait_ended_up_in_idaho.
 Toby Craig Jones, “America, Oil and War in the Middle East,” Journal of American History 99, no. 1 (June 2012): 208-218, https://academic.oup.com/jah/article-abstract/99/1/208/854761/America-Oil-and-War-in-the-Middle-East?redirectedFrom=fulltext.
 Daniel Trotta, “Iraq War Costs more than $2 trillion: Study,” Reuters, 14 March 2013, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-war-anniversary-idUSBRE92D0PG20130314. On the cost of the Camp Doha fire, see http://www.dtic.mil/ndia/2007/im_em/GeneralSession/Knudson.pdf.
 Samuel Oakford, “The United States Used Depleted Uranium in Syria,” Foreign Policy, 14 February 2017, http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/02/14/the-united-states-used-depleted-uranium-in-syria/.
 Toby Craig Jones, “Toxic War and the Politics of Uncertainty in Iraq,” International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 46 no. 4 (October 2014).
 See Omar Dewachi, Ungovernable Life: Mandatory Medicine and Statecraft in Iraq (Stanford University Press, 2017).
 Omar Dewachi, “The Toxicity of Everyday Survival in Iraq,” Jadaliyya, August 13, 2013. http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/13537/the-toxicity-of-everyday-survival-in-iraq
[This article is one of five contributions to the Jadaliyya roundtable on war economies. Click here to read the introduction or read other contributions by Tariq Dana, Pete Moore, and Mandy Turner.]
Follow the Money, Uncover the Power Dynamics: Understanding the Political Economy of Violence - by Mandy Turner
By Mandy Turner
In the 1976 drama-documentary about the Watergate scandal, All the President’s Men, the informant, “Deepthroat,” tells the journalists from The Washington Post to “follow the money.” This is also good advice when it comes to the political economy of violence. Follow the money: some people lose it; some people gain it–some for survival purposes, others for combat purposes, a lot purely because the opportunity arose. Understanding the different methods of accumulation and dispossession that are part of the political economy of violence is central to uncovering the origins, development, and aftermath of a variety of conflict contexts.
I prefer the term “political economy of violence” to that of “war economies” for three main reasons. First, it ensures that we extend the analysis to include revolutions and counterrevolutions, siege and sanctions, complex political emergencies, as well as, of course, the traditional focus on inter- and intra-state wars. Second, it underscores that violence exists on a continuum, i.e., that there is an emergence of violent political economies before the eruption of outright violent conflict; and that the political economies that are shaped during the phase of outright violence continue into the “peace.” Third, that by emphasizing a political economy approach, it focuses our attention on not merely the impacts on the economy, but on analyzing how different modes of accumulation, class and societal relations, and political alliances are formed and develop over time.
The researchers that have been most influential on my own intellectual development regarding this topic are: Michael Pugh, Neil Cooper, Jonathan Goodhand, David Keen, Chris Cramer, and Mark Duffield, to name but a few. I will briefly tease out what I consider to be the six most important aspects that I took from their work. The first is that they promoted the study of conflict dynamics (particularly the production and distribution of power, wealth, and destitution) and critiqued the overwhelming focus on identity issues or “primordial hatreds.” The second is that they emphasized the international and regional dimensions of both the origins of violent conflict, and the political economies of violence that emerge. Their research has emphasized the destabilizing impacts of the globalization of capitalism and the concomitant weakening of the nation-state through market de-regulation and the policies of the Washington Consensus that created lucrative margins and thus an intricate relationship between “legal” markets and “illegal” mafiosi. Third, they have insisted that violent conflicts should be regarded as the emergence of alternative systems of profit and power, rather than simply the breakdown of a system. This was an important corrective to the dominant narrative in the 2000s (and still often heard) that conflict is “development in reverse.” Keen’s research on the 1980s famine in Sudan was particularly original in that he showed how, in fact, despite common perceptions that famine affects all indiscriminately, the assets of the politically weak were forcibly transferred to powerful beneficiaries such as political elites and traders.Underpinning the work of these researchers is the recognition that violent contexts allow for an acceleration of processes of accumulation by dispossession.
The fourth important aspect is the three-fold conceptual distinction developed by Pugh, Cooper, and Goodhand between “combat” economies, “criminal” economies, and “coping” economies. This has proven to be particularly useful and has been utilized by a lot of researchers since (including a gender analysis of Iraq’s informal economies by V. Spike Peterson)–although, of course, these are not hermetically sealed categories but overlap in a variety of ways. The fifth is the problematization of the “security-development nexus” which has underpinned more invasive levels of western donor and multilateral intervention based on the belief that “southern” instability, caused by underdevelopment, is the main threat to western security. Duffield, in particular, has emphasized that the world has polarized into “zones of privilege” surrounded by a “surplus population” which is being secured and silenced through the use of kinetic violence such as military intervention and techniques of counterinsurgency and more bureaucratic forms of control such as development and governance strategies. Finally, the sixth important aspect was that they drew attention to the fact that the way in which conflicts play out and the tactics used in them are partly determined by the type of political economy of violence, and that this will shape the type of “peace” that emerges after the end of violent confrontation. My first co-edited book with Pugh and Cooper explored these legacies and how to transform them.
While this early round of research shaped the agenda in important ways (as well as my own approach), much of it suffered from an important conceptual weakness: its tendency to buy into the “new wars” thesis. Initially proposed by Mary Kaldor, the concept of “new wars” has been dominant in the lexicon of the study of violent conflict since the late 1990s. While this thesis has been critiqued from a number of different angles, for me the two most important problems with it are: first, that it reintroduces a focus on identity (ethnic, religious, or tribal); and second, that it is entirely dependent upon a distinction between “new” and “old” based on a Eurocentric conception of war. While the authors referred to above critiqued identity-based explanations and offered a different model, they accepted other aspects of the thesis (and indeed used the term widely) that are tied up with the ahistorical and Eurocentric conception of war that it advances, i.e., that the end of the Cold War heralded a new era of warfare that could no longer be understood as constituting a conflict between two sides with opposing views but instead should be understood as being characterized by irregular forms of warfare driven by highly criminal behavior in the economic sphere (profiteering) and in the political arena (indiscriminate violence that ignores the rules of war). However, “new wars” are not all that new, because most warfare has not taken the form of the inter-state model as exemplified by the First and Second World Wars, but has largely taken the form of what Tarak Barkawi calls “small wars” (which includes civil wars, colonial wars, insurgencies and counterinsurgencies, death squads, etc.). Once this is recognized, the field opens up for critical enquiry and comparison–both past and present–that is not dependent on an ahistorical “western” model as the baseline.
As pointed out by the editors of this roundtable, there has been less engagement with the Middle East from researchers of war economies–which is surprising given that no society in the region has escaped some form of violent conflict: inter-state war, revolution and counter-revolution, intra-state civil conflict, military coup, as well as siege and sanctions. Steven Heydemann’s edited volume, War, Institutions and Social Change in the Middle East, which was published in 2000, was one of the few exceptions. The book was groundbreaking, particularly because it insisted that war should be understood as a social process; plus (despite its title) it did not confine itself to an analysis of “war” as is normally narrowly defined but also included, for instance, an analysis of the rise of the PLO, and the impact of the Arab revolt on statebuilding in Jordan. However, this collection was written and produced before the current round of violent confrontations that have crisscrossed the Middle East in the past twenty years.
Since then there have been some excellent analyses that do not explicitly use the language or frameworks of war economies research but their methods, concepts, and findings are complementary because they reside within the critical political economy tradition in that they emphasize the analysis of processes of accumulation and dispossession, the international and regional setting, and political alliances. For example, Adam Hanieh’s Lineages of Revolt is seminal in its analysis of the political economy that underpinned the revolutions that have swept the Arab world. Similarly, the works of Ali Kadri and Gilbert Achcar are important, as are some of the chapters in Fawaz Gerges' edited volume The New Middle East as well as the MERIP policy brief by Omar S Dahi. There have also been some interesting studies on the causes and impact of the US occupation of Iraq (from other angles); the causes and ongoing consequences of the revolution and counterrevolution in Egypt; Lebanon’s wars and post-conflict reconstruction; and the origins and development of Syria’s revolution and civil war.
Iraq’s experience has, of course, garnered a lot of research attention given that it has been in a continuous war situation since 1980: initially with Iran, and then its invasion of Kuwait in 1990 provoked international sanctions that helped to hollow out the economy and create international black-market networks fostered by the Ba’athists. This created a new elite, destroyed the middle class, and impoverished most of society, so when it came to the invasion and occupation by US and British forces in 2003 to overthrow Ba’athist rule, it is little wonder that the state crumbled. These problems were compounded by corruption and profiteering by occupation forces, and the economic and governance policies of the Coalition Provisional Authority including ‘de-Ba’athification’ and opening up Iraq to the world economy (including selling off state enterprises). This truly was an example of “war by other means” designed to destroy the old governing elite and build a “new Iraq”–but instead it destroyed the country which descended into civil war, and was the proximate cause of the emergence of Da’esh.
Dominating the media at the moment is, of course, the Syrian revolution and civil war–and this has spawned some incisive analyses of its political economy. Samer Abboud, for instance, has emphasized that there is not one war economy but multiple war economies based on territorial fragmentation–with a plurality of forms of accumulation, actors, and geographies (some of which overlap). He draws our attention to the lack of productive activity and the secondary role that resource extraction plays in the financing of the conflict, which has meant a greater role for predatory behavior such as taxation, smuggling, and kidnapping. The journalist, Nour Samaha, has emphasized the impact of the sanctions regime in creating a new class of war profiteers and “black market kings.” While Will Todman, in his analysis of siege warfare, shows how what is normally understood as a military tactic to subdue and defeat opponents, is also a profitable system of accumulation and dispossession. He develops the concept of the “siege enterprise” to explain the complex web of businessmen, traders, armed groups, and the upper echelons of the Assad regime that are making huge profits. The work of Jihad Yazigi reminds us that these new interests and power centers are likely to clash with any attempts to rebuild central control.
In terms of the occupied Palestinian territory (my own research interest), work has tended to focus on the economic impacts of Israel’s occupation and colonization practices. The concept of de-development, coined by Sara Roy, to explain Israel’s deliberate practices designed to destroy the economy of Gaza, has been particularly useful and influential. Indeed, an exploration of its applicability in other contexts outside of Gaza underpinned my co-edited book, Decolonizing Palestinian Political Economy. However, there have been fewer studies of how the political economy of the OPT is shaped by processes of accumulation by dispossession from both the occupier, Israel, as well as from Palestinian elites. There is an excellent chapter in Hanieh’s book that sets a useful framework for analysis particularly in terms of the influence of regional (Gulf) capital. And Mushtaq H. Khan and Toufic Haddad offer some useful insights on the relationship between the Palestinian political elite and the Palestinian business elite in the context of Palestinian (quasi-) state formation. In the case of Gaza, the research on the 2007-13 “tunnel economy” by the journalist, Nicolas Pelham, was groundbreaking in its analysis of the political economy that emerged in the context of siege and the concomitant change in class relations and political allegiances. There are many more excellent analyses (including in Arabic) that I have not mentioned here.
Suffice it is to say, therefore, that those who employ a critical political economy framework are natural research allies for those of us working more directly with the frameworks developed to understand the political economy of violence.
Violence is inherent in all societies–but how we understand it derives from our analytical frameworks. To me, an approach that emphasizes the six aspects I outlined earlier provide us with an excellent framework from which to analyze the political economy of violence, across regions and time: i) explore the production and distribution of power and wealth over a focus on identity; ii) uncover the international and regional dimension; iii) analyze the emergence and development of alternative systems of power and profit that empowers some and marginalizes others; iv) employ the conceptual distinction (albeit an overlapping one) between “combat,” “criminal,” and “coping” economies; v) analyze the discourse and impact of intervention strategies by donors and multilaterals, and how they become part of the conflict dynamics; and vi) explore how the type of political economy that emerges during these violent confrontations shapes the “peace.”
All in all, the principle underpinning our research should be: follow the money, uncover the power dynamics.
 Paul Collier et al, Breaking the Conflict Trap: Civil War and Development Policy (Washington DC: World Bank, 2003).
 David Keen, The Benefits of Famine: The Political Economy of Famine Relief in Southwestern Sudan, 1983-1989 (Princeton University Press, 1994).
 See especially Chris Cramer, Civil War is Not a Stupid Thing: Accounting for Violence in Developing Societies (Hurst & Company, 2006).
 Michael Pugh, Neil Cooper, with Jonathan Goodhand, War Economies in a Regional Context: Challenges of Transformation (Lynne Rienner, 2004), 7.
 V. Spike Peterson, “Gendering informal economies in Iraq,” in Women and War in the Middle East: Transnational Perspectives, edited by Nicola Pratt and Nadje Al-Ali (Zed, 2013).
 Mark Duffield, Global Governance and the New Wars: The Merging of Development and Security (Zed Books, 2004); Mark Duffield, Development, Security and Unending War: Governing the World of Peoples (Polity, 2007).
 Michael Pugh, Neil Cooper, and Mandy Turner (eds.), Whose Peace: Critical Perspectives on the Political Economy of Peacebuilding (PalgraveMacmillan, 2008).
 Mary Kaldor, “In Defence of New Wars,” Stability: International Journal of Security and Development 2, no. 1 (2013).
 Tarak Barkawi, “Decolonising War,” European Journal of International Security, 1 Part 2, (2016), 199-214.
 Steven Heydemann (ed.), War, Institutions and Social Change in the Middle East (University of California Press, 2000).
 Adam Hanieh, Lineages of Revolt: Issues of Contemporary Capitalism in the Middle East (Haymarket, 2013).
 Ali Kadri, Arab Development Denied: Dynamics of Accumulation by Wars of Encroachment (Anthem Press, 2014); and forthcoming The Cordon Sanitaire: A Single Law Governing Development in East Asia and the Arab World (Palgrave, 2017).
 Gilbert Achcar, The People Want: A Radical Exploration of the Arab Uprising (University of California Press, 2013); and Morbid Symptoms: Relapse in the Arab Uprising (Saqi, 2016).
 Fawaz Gerges (ed.), The New Middle East: Protest and Revolution in the Arab World (Cambridge University Press, 2013).
 Omar S. Dahi, “Understanding the Political Economy of the Arab Revolts,” Middle East Report 259 (Summer 2011).
 Toby Dodge, “Intervention and Dreams of Exogenous Statebuilding: The Application of Liberal Peacebuilding in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Review of International Studies, 39, no. 5 (2013), 1189-1212; Eric Herring and Glen Rangwala, Iraq in Fragments: The Occupation and its Heritage (Cornell University Press, 2006); Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone (Vintage Books, 2007).
 Maha Abdulrahman, Egypt’s Long Revolution: Protest Movements and Uprisings (Routledge, 2014); Roberto Roccu, The Political Economy of the Egyptian Revolution: Mubarak, Economic Reforms and Failed Hegemony (PalgraveMacmillan, 2013); Joel Beinin, Workers and Thieves: Labor Movements and Popular Uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt (Stanford University Press, 2015).
 Toufic Gaspard, A Political Economy of Lebanon, 1948-2002 (Brill, 2003); Hannes Baumann, Citizen Hariri: Lebanon's Neoliberal Reconstruction (Hurst: London, 2017).
 Raymond Hinnebusch and Tina Zintl (eds.), Syria from Revolt to Revolution, Volume 1: Political Economy and International Relations (Syracuse University Press, 2015); Shamel Azmeh, “The Uprising of the Marginalised: A Socio-economic Perspective of the Syrian Uprising,” London School of Economics Middle East Centre Paper Series 6, November 2014.
 Pete Moore and Christopher Parker, “The War Economy of Iraq,” Middle East Report 243 (Summer 2007); Dodge, 2013, op cit; Herring and Rangwala, 2006, op cit.
 Toby Dodge, “Enemy Images, Coercive Socio-engineering and Civil War in Iraq,” in The Politics of International Intervention: The Tyranny of Peace, edited by Mandy Turner and Florian P. Kühn, (Routledge, 2016).
 Samer Abboud, “Social Change, Network Formation and Syria’s War Economies,” Middle East Policy, XXIV, no. 1 (Spring 2017).
 Nour Samaha, “The Black Market Kings of Damascus,” The Atlantic, 3 October 2016.
 Will Todman, “Sieges in Syria: Profiteering from Misery,” Middle East Institute Policy Focus, June 2016, Washington DC.
 Jihad Yazigi, “Syria’s War Economy,” European Council on Foreign Relations Policy Brief, April 2014, London.
 Sara Roy, “De-development Revisited: Palestinian Economy and Society Since Oslo,” Journal of Palestine Studies 28, no. 3 (Spring 1999), 64-82.
 Mandy Turner and Omar Shweiki (eds.), Decolonizing Palestinian Political Economy: De-development and Beyond (PalgraveMacmillan, 2014).
 Mushtaq H. Khan, George Giacaman, and Inge Amundsen (eds), State Formation in Palestine: Viability and Governance During a Social Transformation (Routledge Curzon, 2004); Toufic Haddad, Palestine Ltd: Nationalism and Neoliberalism in the Occupied Territories (IB Tauris, 2016).
 Nicolas Pelham, “The Role of the Tunnel Economy in Redeveloping Gaza,” in Turner and Shweiki (eds.) 2014, op cit.
[This article is one of five contributions to the Jadaliyya roundtable on war economies. Click here to read the introduction or read other contributions by Tariq Dana, Toby Jones, and Pete Moore.]
By Pete Moore
At dawn on 17 September 1970 two divisions of the Jordanian Armed Forces (JAF), plus newly formed internal security units from the Government Intelligence Directorate (GID), attacked the capital Amman. Over the previous year, sporadic violence flared between JAF units and the Palestinian fida’iyyun as multiple efforts at negotiation and resolution faltered. The fighting lasted longer than the Jordanian command expected, encompassing many parts of the country and not ending until July 1971 in the city of Ajlun. This was Jordan’s longest war, and for a country involved in nearly every major Middle Eastern war, a turning point like no other.
Neat conceptualization of war economies can be tricky. Social scientists and historians have long investigated how war and states relate but variation in political violence and state origins vex clear relationships. Additionally, markets and violence intersect in historically contingent ways limiting the reach of generalizing claims. I am interested in war economies as types of political economies in which organized violence and state preparation for conflict are constitutive of national and regional economies. War can act as an external stimulus impacting a country’s politics, but it can also be endogenous to societies and regimes.Temporally a war economy can align with the start and end of formal political violence but in most cases understanding war economies should not be isolated from socio-political antecedents not necessarily defined by violence.
In the case of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, my research investigates a dynamic war economy which I argue has become the monarchy’s ruling strategy but has also adversely shaped pathways of state building and socio-economic development. There is clearly a transnational, neo-colonial component to this war economy. British assistance was crucial to its institutional origins while deeper American patronage since the 1950s ensured institutional endurance. There is also a path dependence to Jordan’s war economy. The first historical phase stretches from its emergence in the early twentieth century until the civil war in 1970. This early war economy involved a massive fiscal commitment to maintaining a large land force beside a minimalist state. There were other factors at play but the 1970 civil war proved crucial in compelling changes in these arrangements. In the years after, the Jordanian state expanded its administrative roles, provision of public goods, and regulatory interventions. Jordan’s role in war also changed from direct participation in interstate wars to indirect linkages with Iraq’s multiple conflicts starting in 1980. A clear result of this war economy is that by the late twentieth and early twenty-first century the Jordanian state has been gripped by chronic fiscal crisis. Conversely, the JAF and the GID have gradually built institutional capacities taking on the characteristics of the type of military-political actors best exemplified in Egypt and Pakistan. Jordanian society has responded, in increasing frequency since the late 1980s, with unrest and revolt.
Scholars of Jordanian history recognize that “war built the Jordanian state” or as early Israeli observers noted, “in Jordan an army owns a state.” Less appreciated is the broader war economy which emerged. There were three ingredients. One part of the institutional adhesive was the British command and finance of the Arab Legion, the forerunner of the JAF. A second component was TransJordan’s relatively equal land tenure system and the absence of the kind of repressive rural labor conditions which plagued neighboring Iraq and Syria. This situation combined with rural deprivation during WWI facilitated British recruitment of tribal and village populations at precisely the same time as the Hashemite monarchy came into being. The Legion acted as a proto-state distributing resources and meager public goods to tribal networks in the southern parts of the country while military bases farther north, Zarqa and Mafraq for example, boosted local economies. The third ingredient to this arrangement was fiscal. Though tribal elites and urban merchants acquiesced to Hashemite rule, they refused to pay for it. Foreign rents would cover much of the military budget but domestic extraction would remain limited. Often the role of external rents is explained in ecological terms, i.e. TransJordan as a territory with sparse rainfall and little from which to extract. Or it is argued that British financial largess reduced the need for domestic fiscal centralization, thus Jordan’s status as “a semi-rentier state.” But these claims miss the political origins of Jordan’s particular war rentierism. From the mandate period through the 1960s, there were attempts at and opportunities for fiscal strengthening (before and after war), even reductions in military spending. All failed because the principle rural and urban supporters of the monarchy were never on board.
In the 1948 War, the Hashemite monarchy, it can be argued, emerged a winner with control of the more developed cities and better educated populations of the West Bank. However, the Hashemite state did little to incorporate or build on these advantages. Historical explanations emphasize East vs. West Bank calculations which cannot be discounted but the Hashemite state did little on the East Bank as well. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, what was left to spend on the villages and cities of Jordan was minimal, particularly in contrast to the more robust security budgets. Instead, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees and the US Agency for International Development built and managed “parallel institutions” to provide initial investments in education, infrastructure, and vocational training. The 1967 War is often singled out because of the loss of the West Bank, but more importantly, it set the stage for the fighting in 1970.
The civil war was never really a military contest. The JAF far outgunned and outmanned the factionalized Palestinian fighters. Rather the challenge was political. The Palestinian factions were hardly a foreign force holding sway over a resistant population as Royal Court loyalists would later argue. The Palestinian guerillas and their supporters were, in the terms of the day, a “state within a state.” The more radical Palestinian elements did prove unpopular and excessive to many civilians but the case was different for Yasir Arafat’s Fateh movement. Fateh organizations had come to dominate popular elections to the country’s professional associations by 1970—to the point where a Fateh list of candidates ran in the leadership elections of the Amman Chamber of Commerce two days before the fighting in September. Fateh maintained a rival visa counter at Amman’s international airport, Palestinian organizations took over municipal services and taxes, and their police units controlled most of the major cities. Destroying the fida’iyyun laid bare the shallowness of the Jordanian state. Simply maintaining a massive land force astride a minimalist state would no longer suffice. The existential crisis of the civil war forced the monarchy to take account of the country’s growing, mostly urban, middle classes.
In the decade after the civil war, the Hashemite regime expanded the state in wholly different ways. The region’s oil-fed economic expansion flooded Jordan with external revenue allowing authorities to spend more but it was the spending choices which mattered. They significantly expanded the public sector reaching almost 50 percent of the labor force. They implemented basic consumer subsidies, extended the reach of public education, established a national social security fund, and undertook urban infrastructure expansion. Yet, the greater reach of public goods and regulation had important limits. First, the military/security commitment, as a percentage of the state’s budget, did not change. By 1990 according to World Bank data, Jordan ranked second in the world in terms of military employment as a percentage of the labor force, behind Iraq but ahead of North Korea and Syria. This labor force ratio would eventually decline but overall spending would not as Jordanian leaders and US advisors shifted funding to weapons systems procurement, training (capacity building), and social welfare benefits for military personnel. In the mid-1970s, Washington began training Jordanian officers under the new International Military Education and Training program, and since, Jordan has been among the top three countries sending officers to the US. The GID, which until the civil war, had been second to military intelligence, emerged as an independent and powerful domestic actor. Decades later, the former Director of the CIA George Tenet would tell the journalist Bob Woodward, with no hyperbole, “We built the GID.”
The second limit to the state’s expansion after the civil war was fiscal. While the state expanded, its domestic finances continued to wither. Once oil rents from the Gulf began to decline in the 1980s, Jordan’s fiscal crisis began to bite. In every decade since 1970, the Jordanian state has witnessed a steady decline in overall revenue (external and internal) as a percentage of GDP. Gradual fiscal decline turned the gains of the 1970s into “fire and forget” policies. Build more schools, increase literacy. Hire more civil servants, boost incomes. Expand infrastructure, feed domestic real estate consumption (and similar footloose investment). Leveraging state capacities to build upon these gains in developmentally nutritious ways would prove allusive and forever be at the mercy of military spending and fiscal decline.
A decade after the Jordanian civil war, Iraq’s invasion of Iran helped forge a new regional war economy. This war economy no longer involved direct Jordanian combat but it would bind the country’s future to the battlefields of Iraq. Baghdad quickly became reliant on imports from Jordan to replace the loss of its access to the Gulf. Shipments of Iraqi oil not only financed Jordanian exports but Baghdad funded infrastructure upgrades in the Kingdom to facilitate the trade. According to declassified CIA reports, Iraqi money even found its way to directly financing the JAF in the 1980s. Amman’s support for Ba‘thist Iraq also opened the door for the GID to expand its role outside the Kingdom. The Regan Administration’s determination that Iraq could not be defeated by Iran positioned Jordan as the conduit for all of the Iraqi Army’s munition needs and for the supply of American battlefield intelligence to Iraqi commanders.
With the end of the war, the fiscal strain generated its first national crisis. In 1989 a run on the Central Bank’s currency reserves brought Jordanian citizens to their knees. Protests and riots broke out for the first time since the 1950s, but ironically, these protests took place in parts of the country where many of the beneficiaries of the earlier war economy resided. The return of hundreds of thousands of workers (many with personal finances) from the Gulf after the liberation of Kuwait in 1991 provided short term fiscal relief. As this faded, US sanctions on Iraq cut into Jordanian exports reversing the growth of employment in small-scale export industries in cities like Zarqa. The important transport sector based in Ma’an also suffered with a decline in truck transport to Baghdad. A peace treaty with Israel in 1994 rewarded the JAF with major non-NATO ally status and allowed for US patronage to expand. The financial crisis nevertheless deepened and the World Bank took notice. But instead of curtailing military outlays or redirecting foreign aid to other areas, conditionality policies pushed the monarchy toward limited fiscal reform. By the end of the 1990s, Jordan adopted a national sales tax, which did little to arrest the overall decline of public revenue but did succeed in spreading a regressive tax to all parts of Jordanian society.
Upon ascension to the throne, King Abdullah faced a clear paradox. Socio-economic stagnation and fiscal crisis were deeply intertwined. Cutting either military spending or directly taxing urban wealth to close the fiscal gap was too politically threatening. American diplomats at the time reportedly cautioned the new King against consideration of any reduction of the land forces. Instead, Abdullah championed an expansion of Jordan’s special forces and remained content to preside over an ever weakening public sector that invests less and less in its citizens. Public education in Jordan, once a regional leader as a result of the 1970 investments, has declined precipitously. Pressure on families to keep up by hiring private tutors increased the socio-economic strain at the same time numerous cheating scandals emerged. Pockets of urban wealth and exclusion in Amman contrast with vast tracts of crumbling roads and infrastructure in much of the rest of the capital.Corruption linked to public-private real estate development and the looting of public assets has spread forcing state officials to occasionally investigate. Unemployment remains among the highest in the region and job market prospects for even university graduates bleak. Despite popular portrayals of the country as “the stable patch” during the 2011 Arab uprisings, protest fueled by socio-economic grievance has mounted.
The US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 afforded the JAF’s special force units the chance to operate directly with the US military. These early “blood sharing missions” and eventual participation in US operations in Iraq (and now Syria) were transformative. Though there are few open sources, it is generally understood that CIA presence and funds in the country expanded rapidly. The GID, with its CIA patrons, is an authority all its own. Its budgets are classified, its recruiting is distinct from other Jordanian services, and it operates beyond the law. A joint CIA-GID center in the north of the country manages operations with Syrian rebels, largely in isolation from the US Army and the US Embassy in Amman. With such weak oversight, it is no surprise that the GID has become embroiled in public corruption scandals and the black-market sale of American supplied weapons, some of which were used to kill US servicemen. Not to be outdone, the US Army has become a principle financier of the war economy in the new century. After 2009, the US Central Command moved its annual training exercises, “Eager Lion,” from Egypt to Jordan. Though Jordan and the US do not have a basing treaty, significant US Army presence in the country has paid hundreds of millions (distinct from the billions in reported military and economic aid) in contingency and operations funds to the JAF. One US official interviewed for this project described the JAF’s billing for these services as “organized corruption.” The King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center (KASOTC), built by the US Army Corps of Engineers and opened in 2009, also earns the JAF funds through rental agreements with foreign militaries. Typically, allied foreign militaries use their own US military aid to pay for time training at KASOTC giving new meaning to the recycling of US taxpayer monies. And following in the Egyptian military’s footsteps, the JAF created its own arms manufacturer, the King Abdullah II Design and Development Bureau.
Today, commentators typically cite the addition of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees and the disruption of regional trade as reasons for Jordan’s socio-economic decline. But long before the Jordanian state struggled with these challenges, it had already failed its own people. In a region where declining state capacity has produced dramatic and tragic results, Jordan’s own decline has largely gone unnoticed by outside observers. In part that is because despite these costs, Jordan’s long war economy has served as a profitable ruling strategy for the monarchy and its allies.
  Tariq M. Tell, “Guns, Gold, and Grain: War and Food Supply in the Making of TransJordan,” in War, Institutions and Social Change in the Middle East, edited by Steven Heydemann (University of California Press, 2000), 33; and P. J. Vatikiotis, Politics and the Military in Jordan, a Study of the Arab Legion, 1921-1957(London,: Cass, 1967), 5.
 Tell, “Guns, Gold, and Grain.”
 Avi Shlaim, Lion of Jordan: The Life of King Hussein in War and Peace (Alfred A. Knopf, 2008), 33.
 Anne Mariel Peters and Pete W. Moore, "Beyond Boom and Bust: External Rents, Durable Authoritarianism, and Institutional Adaptation in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan," Studies in Comparative International Development 44, no. 3 (2009).
  See http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/MS.MIL.TOTL.TF.ZS.
   Office of Near Eastern and South Asian Analysis, Central Intelligence Agency, “Jordan: Economic Recession and the Impact on Key Interest Groups,” December 1987, 11, https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/collection/crest-25-year-program-archive.
 Popular analysis of extremist networks in Jordan and Iraq often focus on these two “problem” cities emphasizing ideological drivers and personalities but missing the more important political economy factors. See just about any book on al-Qaeda or the so-called Islamic State.
 Jillian Schwedler, “Amman Cosmopolitan: Spaces and Practices of Aspiration and Consumption,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East (2010), 30.
 F.R. Campante and D. Chor, “Why was t\he Arab World Poised for Revolution? Schooling, Economic Opportunities, and the Arab Spring,” Journal of Economic Perspectives (2012). 26.
  Interview with Jordanian security official, May 2016, Amman, Jordan.
 See https://www.hrw.org/report/2006/09/18/suspicious-sweeps/general-intelligence-department-and-jordans-rule-law-problem.
 Interview with US Army employee with knowledge of US-Jordanian security cooperation. May 2017.
 Shana Marshall, "Jordan’s Military-Industrial Sector: Maintaining Institutional Prestige in the Era of Neoliberalism," in Elke Grawert and Zeinab Abul-Magd, Businessmen in Arms: How the Military and Other Armed Groups Profit in the Mena Region (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2016).
[This article is one of five contributions to the Jadaliyya roundtable on war economies. Click here to read the introduction or read other contributions by Tariq Dana, Toby Jones, and Mandy Turner.]
By Tariq Dana
The Arab revolutions of 2011 turned violent conflicts have renewed scholarly interest in exploring the role political economy may have played in their causes, dynamics, and consequences. Of great significance within those broad lines of inquiry is the phenomenon of “war economy,” and its multiple manifestations, as a dominant system within ongoing wars, as well as possibly shaping the context of post-conflict reconstruction. There is less attention, however, to the idea that a “war economy” may be a central and ongoing part of states’ economies, rather than an abnormal event that occurs during periods of violent conflict. Israel is a case in point for the latter. Throughout the past century, Israel’s very existence has been, and continues to be, primarily dependent on a permanent war economy system.
The establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 inaugurated an era of persistent instability, wars, and conflicts in the region. Understanding the Israeli state as a settler-colonial regime guided by ambitions of expansionism and regional hegemony, helps explain why it has been a key actor in much of the region’s major wars and conflicts throughout the past century. The ideological underpinning of the Zionist state inherently embraced military prowess and supremacy, fostered by a culture of militarism and a highly profitable militarized business sector. Much of Israel’s economic prosperity is due to its military industrial complex being a key node in regional and international conflicts. In turn, the global promotion of Israel’s war economy lies primarily through transforming the occupied West Bank and Gaza into a testing ground for military hardware, surveillance technologies, and unconventional weapons.
Israel’s military industry preceded the establishment of the state. In the 1920s, Zionist settlers in Palestine founded a clandestine network of military workshops to produce weapons and ammunition for Zionist paramilitary groups. Zionist military industry was further boosted by the establishment of TAAS in 1930s, currently known as Israel Military Industries (IMI Systems ltd), which specialized in the production of assault rifles, light guns, mortars, grenades, and ammunition. Imports of weaponry from Europe, facilitated by the British colonial mandate, also heavily armed Zionist groups. This effectively ensured military supremacy over the Palestinian resistance and systemically fueled the ethnic cleansing operations against the population in 1948, leading to the violent birth of the Israeli state. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Israel’s military industry became a significant pillar of the economy, and, following the Arab-Israeli war in 1967, Israel embarked on large-scale modernization and advancement of its military industries. In the 1980s, Israel formally achieved a level of military self-sufficiency, and was already exporting billions of dollars in arms per year. Today, Israel stands as one of the world's leading traders of arms and military services.
Along with Saudi Arabia, Israel has the largest military budget as a percentage of its GDP in the world. In recent years, Israel has spent around 5.2 percent of its GDP on its military, thus surpassing US military expenditure (3.5 percent of its GDP), and Russian and Chinese military spending (4.5 percent and 2.1 percent of GDP respectively). In addition, such massive military spending is accompanied by high employment in military industry. In fact, around twenty-five percent of the Israel’s labor force is absorbed in military and related industries, while about half of the labor force is involved indirectly in various private and public military-related projects.
Israel built a global reputation as being one of the world’s largest exporter of arms with annual sales of approximately 6.5 billion dollars. As much as eighty percent of its military production is directed for export to more than one hundred countries, specifically to developing countries. Yet it is a bloodstained reputation. While Israel does not publicly list all importing countries, evidence indicates that a significant proportion of its arms go to dictatorships and regimes accused of excessive violations of human rights, war crimes, and genocides. As noted by Beit-Hallashmi (1987, p.xii) “mention any trouble spot in the Third World over the past ten years, and, inevitably, you will find smiling Israeli officers and shiny Israeli weapons on the news pages.” To name just a few, Israel was involved in arm supply to Pinochet’s regime, apartheid South Africa, Azerbaijan, and Israeli-made weapons were used in the Rwandan genocide, El Salvador’s civil war, and Ethiopian’s civil war.Furthermore, Israeli arms trade penetrated Chinese, Brazilian, and Indian markets all of whom ranked among the top importers of Israeli military and security products.
Israel is also a large importer of arms. Yet, its arms imports are heavily subsidized by US and other Western taxpayers. As a strategic pillar of the American global military order, the Israeli military operates as a research and development functionary for US military industries and receives more than half of all American foreign military financing. Cumulatively, it has received around 121 billion dollars in military aid from the United States since 1949. In 2016, the Obama administration signed a record agreement granting Israel 38 billion dollars of military aid over ten years; an agreement that was described by the State Department as the “single largest pledge of bilateral military assistance in US history.” As for European states, Israel is a major military partner of most EU member states, trading most notably with Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Finland. In the context of security research, Israel enjoyed the status of the main non-EU participant in the European Security Research Program (2007-2013), which supported projects worth 393.6 million euros to develop Israeli drone technology. Recently, the European Union approved 162 projects with Israeli participation within the Horizon 2020 research cycle, to a total value of 452.3 million euros which aim to provide a means of funding Israeli military and security companies.
Military and security companies are central to Israel’s economy. Firms operating within the military-industrial sphere can be classified according to size and form of ownership: 1) State controlled military companies are the largest and include companies such as Israel Aerospace Industries, the Military Industry, Israel Aircraft Industries, and the Armaments Development Authority (RAFAEL). 2) Around 1500 medium-sized firms are privately owned and focus on surveillance and a range of military and security instruments. 3) Private-public ventures and non-governmental industrial agencies closely linked with the state military sector, which focus on a wide range of military and security productions.
The so called “start-up nation” that relies on hi-tech innovation is in fact deeply propelled by Israel’s military spending on research and development. Former high-ranking army officers and officials commonly utilize their previous military service for private profit in these industries. Some of the well-known Israeli security companies established by former army officials are, Audiocodes and MetaLink, Elbeit, Comverse, Checkpoint, and Nice Systems. Gordon calls this phenomenon an “experience economy,” which involves the packing and selling of Israel’s military experience to foreign customers. Besides developing advanced military technologies, many of these private companies are concentrated on “homeland security,” specialized in integrating military-civilian security control by developing surveillance equipment; an industry that boomed after the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent global “war on terror.”
For several years, almost all military index reports have ranked Israel as the most militarized nation in the world. Israel’s nation-building has been rooted in the “nation-in-arms” doctrine, whereby the army plays a central role in every aspect of society and culture. This serves to make the Israeli population in a perpetual status of mobilization for war. Studies surveying Israeli perceptions toward the military regularly suggest a broad consensus in support of the army. Various public institutions are deeply involved in diffusing cultural militarism and assisting the military sector. Israeli academia, for example, is systemically deployed to serve military industrial needs through research and technological modernization, training students to work in the field of military, and conducting courses on international marketing of military technology.
Since the Israeli state occupied the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, it violently turned people, lands, and resources into a laboratory to test its unconventional weaponry and military technologies. Israeli military testing intensified since the Second Intifada in 2000 and the subsequent military aggressions such as the Second Lebanon war in 2006, and Gaza in 2008-2009, 2012, 2014. Reports suggest that after every military aggression by Israel, military sale overseas soar. According to Haaretz “in 2002, such exports were worth two billion dollars, grew to 3.4 billion dollars in 2006, and were six billion dollars in 2012. In 2013, the three largest defense contractors all showed increases in sales: Elbit had annual revenues of three billion dollars; IAI 2.65 billion dollars; and Rafael two billion dollars. At fifteen percent, Rafael’s sales showed the highest growth rate.”
Israel’s devastating wars on the besieged Gaza Strip caused thousands of deaths among Palestinian civilians and the wide spread destruction of houses and infrastructures. Yet, for Israel, these wars represent a transnational marketing event for its “battle-tested” new military products. According to an investigation by human rights groups following “Operation Protective Edge,” thirty-seven percent of those killed died in drone attacks. Strikingly, Elbit which produces eighty-five percent of Israeli drones, saw a 6.1 percent increase in value, “bringing the company close to an all-time high set in 2010.” As affirmed by the military correspondent, Amir Rapaport, “from a business point of view, the operation was an outstanding thing for the defense industries.”
 N. Gordon, “The political economy of Israel's homeland security/surveillance industry,” WP III, The New Transparency: Surveillance and Social Sorting, (2009), 20.
 W. W. Keller & T. M. LaPorte, Global Arms Trade: Commerce in Advanced Military Technology and Weapons(Washington DC: Office of Technology Assessment, 1991).
 A Mintz, “The military‐industrial complex: The Israeli case,” The Journal of Strategic Studies, 6, no. 3 (1983), 103-127, 111.
 B. Beit-Hallahmi, The Israeli connection: Whom Israel arms and why (IB Tauris, 1987).
 Edo Konrad, “The story behind Israel's shady military exports,” 972 Mag (2015). See also Jimmy Johnson, “Israeli Arms Sales to Rwandan Genocidaires Should Not Be Surprising” Jadaliyya (2012).
 P. L. Hahn, Historical Dictionary of United States-Middle East Relations (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016), 105.
 “US approves record $38bn Israel military aid deal,” BBC, (2016).
 J Halper, War Against the People: Israel, the Palestinians and Global Pacification (Pluto Press, 2015).
 N. Gordon, “The political economy of Israel's homeland security/surveillance industry,” 20.
 H. A. Giroux, University in chains: Confronting the military-industrial-academic complex (Routledge, 2015).
 Shuki Sadeh, “For Israeli Arms Makers, Gaza War Is a Cash Cow,” Haaretz, (2014).
 Corporatewatch, Gaza: Life beneath the drones,” Corporatewatch (2015).
 B. Makuch, “The Gaza Conflict Is Fuelling Israeli Weapons Sales,” (2014).
 Shuki Sadeh, “For Israeli Arms Makers, Gaza War Is a Cash Cow,” Haaretz (2014).
[This article is one of five contributions to the Jadaliyya roundtable on war economies. Click here to read the introduction or read other contributions by Toby Jones, Pete Moore, and Mandy Turner.]
Join the cohort of the 2017 Political Economy Summer Institute for two public events at George Mason University from June 10th - 13th:
Political Economy Summer Institute
Two Public Events | GMU
Sunday, 11 June, 6:45 PM
Merten Hall 1201
The Political Economy of the Arab Uprisings
Monday, 12 June, 6 PM
Merten Hall 1202
Reflections on Political Resistance & the Roots of Power
Labor Movements and Popular Uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt
Political-Economy and the Roots of the Syrian Uprising
The Military and the State
Moderator: Sherene Seikaly
Discussant: Samer Abboud
These public events are presented by the Arab Studies Institute and Middle East and Islamic Studies Program and co-sponsored by Philosophy and Political Economy, Schar School of Policy and Government, Center for Global Islamic Studies, History Department, and Global Affairs.
RSVP to info@PoliticalEconomyProject.org
Issue 4.1 of Status/الوضع Audio Magazine is live on StatusHour.com! Read about the new issue below and visit the website to listen:
Status/الوضع Audio Magazine Issue 4.1
"With the Middle East and North Africa facing social and political convulsions resulting from a muscular resurgent authoritarianism, a mobilization of fractious divisive sectarianism, and a resistant revolutionary impulse that admonishes both, there is an urgent need to document and deliberate, archive and articulate. It is during these times, and in response to six years of impulsive reportage about the region which has eviscerated context and effaced complexity, that we must be committed to an unabashed anthropological sensitivity to lives forged under these circumstances in locales. That is why this issue of Status, more so than any previous one, was curated with a clear and present desire to situate abstract phenomena in local situations, localize the regional, locate the voices that speak to communities in flux, and see the local for what it is—simultaneously rooted and uprooted. For us in Status, understanding what is taking place in the region necessitates throwing away the broad brush altogether and instead using fine lines to dialogue with subnational, municipal, familial, solidaristic, and even solitary experiences.
It is in the magnificence of minutia that we are able to truly appreciate the changes—simultaneously cataclysmic and exuberant--currently taking place in locales from besieged Yemeni mountain villages, politically disparaged Palestinian municipalities, and resistant Syrian archaeological communities to victimized Mosul families, embattled Turkish dissenters, and virtually-extinct Egyptian journalists. Yet one should not mistake commitment to amplifying locale with the dislocation of intersectionality nor with the absence of translocal commitments. To the contrary, we are convinced that solidarity must be grounded in a genuine commitment to locale. One can no longer discuss Syria’s catastrophic war without comprehending mass suffering in Yemen. One can longer discuss the calamitous experiences of First Nations communities of the Americas without contemplating the settler colonial project in Palestine. Poetry written by Arab Americans is at once located here, there, and in the interstitial spaces between them.
We hope that you will take the time to peruse and be in dialogue with, not simply listen to, the expressive, informative and inspiring interviews that we carefully, painstakingly and meticulously curated in this most local of Status issues."
Continue reading on Jadaliyya: STATUS/الوضع: Issue 4.1 is Live!
Issue 4.1: Status/الوضع Issue 4.1
The Political Economy Project's Pedagogy Working Group is proud to announce the 2017 Middle East Political Economy Summer Institute, which will take place from June 10th-13th at George Mason University.
This multidisciplinary summer institute is intended to address the needs of doctoral students and scholars researching the Middle East who may not have received formal instruction in critical political economy at their own institutions. The goal of the summer institute is to help foster critical political economy approaches to the study of the region by bringing together select faculty leaders and student participants for four days of intensive discussion of key texts in critical political economy. In addition to the faculty-led sessions on topics such as state formation, imperialism, and labor, students will be presenting and receiving feedback on their current research projects.
The Political Economy Summer Institute is a step towards creating a community of scholars working within the tradition of critical political economy on issues of historical and contemporary relevance to the Middle East. Information on the summer institute, as well as our 2017 lineup of faculty and student participants can be found below: