From the inability to speak with one voice, a lack of shared norms, and being chronically conflict prone, one must wonder how the Arab League has managed to exist for as long as it has. Suspending, then either reinventing or dissolving the Arab League seems to be the best route in addressing future conflicts within the region.
Born out of the World War II era, the League of Arab States or the Arab League, was established in Alexandria, Egypt in 1945. Beginning with six members: Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan (Jordan), Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria, it is presently comprised of 22 countries (including Palestine). From the onset the League has set for itself several objectives, such as to maintain and strengthen solidarity among the Arab States in the face of external threats; to ensure cohesion and peace between the members states by offering to arbitrate in the event of conflict between two or more members states and by opposing any recourse of force; and to ensure the cooperation of members states in various areas.
We looked at the organization’s long history and determined that it is in dire straits. In order to determine the usefulness of this organization we turn to Iida’s three (legal, normative, and political) tenets of effectiveness to gauge what future direction the Arab League should take. The legal effectiveness aspect merely focuses on compliance which is measured on whether or not “contracting parties behave according to rules specified in the regime.” Normative effectiveness refers to whether or not a regime or in this case an international organization achieves a different value such as fairness and participation. Finally, political effectiveness refers to the ability a regime has in altering the behavior of actors.
When looking at the three aforementioned tenets of effectiveness, we can summarize that the Arab League fails to meet any of them. In regard to legal effectiveness, they lack the ability to enforce sanctions or have real power. The organization makes toothless threats to members who disobey the I.O.’s rules and they rely upon outside parties such as Western forces to carry out any military actions. In addition, they fail in normative effectiveness because of their inability to prevent conflicts in the first place.
The Arab League essentially did not learn from past mistakes (i.e. Libya and Syria) and during a recent Summit in Kuwait, the members chose to fight amongst themselves rather than to collaborate or compromise. Finally, politically the League has been ineffective in having sustainable management that worked. In 2008 the BBC reported that constant dangers to cohesion and unity have made them too weak internally to handle member’s issues or make firm decisions.
Just as fellow UN and Arab League joint special representative Kofi Annan resigned because of international deadlock, Lakhdar Brahimi cited this same difficulty in his May 31st resignation. The implications of Brahimi’s resignation are still suspect, but still this cannot bode well for the future safety of the Syrian people. Indecision on Syrian sanctions, the lack of ability to carry out the sanctions, and the lack of cohesion to find alternate solutions, makes the Arab League ineffective from all measured areas.
Having looked at the effectiveness of this organization we suggest that it should suspend activity and regroup or dissolve as an organization; and allow each sovereign nation to operate independently. They can, however, form a committee that works to broker peace, trade, and other transaction related issues within its former membership.
The amount of hard law this organization lacks keeps them from successfully sanctioning Syria’s material and social benefits. Without direct defensive military support from outside forces, the League has allowed the conflict to go unresolved, literally in their own backyard. Therefore, suspending, then either reinventing or dissolving the league seems to be the best route in addressing future conflicts within the region.
Before an absolute dissolution of the League, a system of measurements should concur during a period of suspension. Suspending the activity of the Arab League for a period of two years would give them ample time to analyze and address the multiple areas in which they are failing. These areas include: security, trade, human rights violations, and other key tasks should be measured to see if there has been any improvement since the suspension. If however, on multiple levels, the region has improved, the members of the League can vote to keep any and all laws, policies, treaties, that were enacted by the league.
Continuing with the status quo is hardly an option. The Middle East needs a regional organization that is willing and able to make hard decisions. The Arab League must reform or face the real possibility of being dissolved. Our option of dissolution might seem drastic, but it is well worth considering