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The Conclusion discusses the failure of what Carter had envisioned as a virtuous circle between the human rights campaign and bipolar détente. It argues that the rationale for such a failure was threefold. First, the White House underestimated Soviet resistance to the human rights campaign. Second, the domestic consensus for a human rights-based foreign policy was illusory, precarious and short-lived. Finally, Carter’s strategy was based on a negotiation process with partners – the Soviet Union and American opponents of détente – who had no interest in negotiating on their counterparts’ terms.

in A precarious equilibrium
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The choice in favour of quiet diplomacy, 1978

The chapter focuses on 1978, when the Carter administration’ decided to discuss Soviet violations of human rights through quiet diplomacy and private channels. The chapter explains this shift through a twofold rationale. First, it argues that the administration was satisfied with the early achievements of its campaign. Moving human rights from open to quiet diplomacy would strengthen both what the White House identified as positive trends in the Soviet record on human rights and the conclusion of SALT II negotiations. Second, the Carter administration tried to confine human rights to backchannels to address growing protests within the United States. To many liberals within the United States, the human rights campaign was becoming a new anti-Soviet crusade. This shift, however, occurred at a time when the Soviets condemned many prominent dissidents and the White House left its flank exposed to conservative critics, who accused the White House of being too soft on Soviet violations of human rights.

in A precarious equilibrium
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Quiet diplomacy, SALT II and the invasion of Afghanistan, 1979–1980

The chapter focuses on the decline and collapse of bipolar détente in 1979 and the domestic backlash against Carter’s equilibrium between human rights and détente. Since late 1978, the conclusion of SALT II dominated both bipolar relations and the political debate within the United States, and human rights were relegated to quiet diplomacy channels. This brought a backlash against Carter’s foreign policy, led by neoconservative critics, such as Jeane Kirkpatrick. After the December 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, détente was finally over and Carter’s difficult balance between arms control and human rights ended. Human rights remained on the American agenda but the issue became a mere propaganda tool to be used against the Soviets.

in A precarious equilibrium
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Religion is fundamentally concerned with the regulation of life, yet contemporary ideas about the role of faith in political life are deeply contested. Across faiths, sects and ideologies, different visions of the role of religion have resulted in political contestation with regional repercussions. Understanding these issues requires consideration of competing claims to authority and legitimacy, along with an exploration of the role of Islam within the political realm. Amidst a region increasingly characterised by sectarian divisions, it is imperative to consider the spatial aspects of the relationship between religion and politics and to explore how sect-based identities can be mobilised for (geo)political purposes. The chapter also considers the way in which similar issues emerge in Judaism, exploring the relationship between the state of Israel and settler groups.

in Houses built on sand

Once at the White House, Carter moved swiftly to give human rights high priority in America’s foreign policy. The chapter recognizes that Carter’s human rights campaign was almost global but it focuses on its impact on bipolar détente. It argues that Carter conceived human rights and détente as interdependent and mutually reinforcing. Conscious that the American public’s attitude towards détente represented a major obstacle to bipolar dialogue, the White House hoped to build a domestic consensus on détente through a firm stance on Soviet violations of human rights. At the same time, through the continuation of détente, it tried both to ideologically challenge the Soviet Union and to promote human rights there.

in A precarious equilibrium
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With the onset of the uprisings, new arenas of proxy competition emerged across the Middle East, simultaneously serving as zones of possibility and restriction as international players sought to manipulate domestic affairs often for their own ends. Yet the increasingly securitised and politicised role of religion, particularly within the context of the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, has left regimes open to criticism while state security is undermined by the ability of clerics in one state to speak to audiences in another. Evoking memories of Paul Noble’s regional echo chamber, this chapter draws together the first and second parts of the book to show how the fallout from the Arab Uprisings has consequences for the organisation of the contemporary Middle East.

in Houses built on sand
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Sovereignty, violence and revolution in the Middle East

In events that have since become known as the Arab Uprisings or Arab Revolutions, people across the Middle East took to the streets to express their anger and frustration at political climates, demanding political and economic reform. In a number of cases, protest movements were repressed, often violently, with devastating repercussions for human security and peace across the region.

While a number of scholars have sought to understand how the protests occurred, this book looks at sovereignty and the relationship between rulers and ruled to identify and understand both the roots of this anger but also the mechanisms through which regimes were able to withstand seemingly existential pressures and maintain power.

The chapter zooms in on the place of human rights during the 1976 American presidential elections. It argues that Jimmy Carter was a latecomer to the new human rights language. Beyond his deep religious and moral beliefs, the chapter points out three major issues for Carter’s human rights commitment. First, the creation of many transnational groups monitoring Soviet compliance with the human rights provisions of the CSCE and the establishment of a specific Congressional Commission on this issue contributed to putting human rights under the spotlight. Second, the chapter argues that a strong commitment to the promotion of human rights abroad offered an opportunity to unify Carter’s Democratic Party, which at the time was split over foreign policy issues. Finally, the chapter narrows its focus on Carter’s advisers for foreign policy during the electoral campaign, Cyrus R. Vance and, especially, Zbigniew Brzezinski.

in A precarious equilibrium
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Drawing on Agamben’s ideas of the state of exception, the third chapter considers the development of political systems and the way in which they regulate life. Central to the chapter is understanding particular forms of sovereign power, the regulation of life and the ban that underpins such regulatory efforts. A range of different mechanisms facilitate the regulation of life, from claims to legitimacy to the coercive mechanisms of the state, including the security services and military.

The chapter begins with an exploration of different typologies of political structures before turning to a discussion of constitutions and citizenship. It then turns to consideration of the security mechanisms that underpin regulatory efforts before considering examples from Kuwait, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Iran.

in Houses built on sand
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in Houses built on sand