The Rise of the Mezzanine Rulers

Author
Michael Crawford, Jami Miscik
Content Type
Journal Article
Journal
Foreign Affairs
Volume
89
Issue Number
6
Publication Date
Nov/Dec 2010
Institution
Council on Foreign Relations
Abstract
Governments across the Middle East and South Asia are increasingly losing power to substate actors that are inserting themselves at a mezzanine level of rule between the government and the people. Western policymakers must address the problem systematically, at both a political and a legal level, rather than continue to pursue reactive and disjointed measures on a case-by-case basis.
Topic
Government
Political Geography
South Asia, Middle East
Governments across the Middle East and South Asia are increasingly losing power to substate actors as those actors insert themselves at a mezzanine level of rule between the government and the people. Local populations often regard such mezzanine rulers as championing ethnic, religious, or political causes; protecting marginalized communities; and providing vital services, but Western governments think they undermine effective governance and encourage state fragmentation. Western governments also tend to see such movements as temporary, destined to wither away. Many mezzanine rulers, however, are neither on the escalator to statehood nor sliding into extinction. They enjoy a wide range of formal statuses, and some even have a stabilizing influence at home and regionally. In the Kurdish region in Iraq, mezzanine rulers have been granted some autonomy by the state's federal structure; in Somaliland and Gaza, they are not formally independent, but they operate as near-state entities, existing in a political and legal limbo without international recognition. And although Hezbollah has no constitutional status in Lebanon, it is an established political player domestically and regionally.