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Pax Asiatica versus Bella Levantina: The Foundations of War and Peace in East Asia and the Middle East


Although turmoil characterized both the Middle East and East Asia in the two decades following World War II, the two regions looked dramatically different at the dawn of the twenty-first century. Since 1965 the incidence of interstate wars and militarized conflicts has been nearly five times higher in the Middle East, as was their severity, including the use of ballistic missiles and chemical weapons. By contrast, declining militarized conflict and rising intraregional cooperation has replaced earlier patterns in East Asia. There are no systematic efforts explaining this contrast between Bella Levantina and an evolving Pax Asiatica. This article traces these diverging paths to competing domestic models of political survival. East Asian leaders pivoted their political control on economic performance and integration in the global economy, whereas Middle East leaders relied on inward-looking self-sufficiency, state and military entrepreneurship, and a related brand of nationalism. I examine permissive and catalytic conditions explaining the models' emergence; their respective intended and unintended effects on states, military, and authoritarian institutions; and their implications for regional conflict. The final section distills conceptual and methodological conclusions.

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Etel Solingen is Professor, Political Science, University of California Irvine, Irvine, CA (
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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
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