Pax Arabica? Provisional Sovereignty and Intervention in the Arab Uprisings

33 Pages Posted: 23 Dec 2012 Last revised: 9 Jan 2013

See all articles by Asli U. Bali

Asli U. Bali

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law

Aziz Rana

Cornell Law School

Date Written: March 1, 2012


This Essay was initially presented at the 16th Annual LatCrit Conference as part of the plenary panel on "Race, Resistance, and Solidarity in the International Order.” It is an early effort to make sense of external (particularly American) responses to the Arab uprisings of 2011. We argue that much of the American approach is premised on a vision of Arab political sovereignty as provisional and dependent on the state’s position in existing regional alliances. Indeed, we contend that such provisional sovereignty is a wider feature of the current global order, and speaks to pervasive substantive limitations on the capacity of weak states to shape domestic decision-making. Our discussion focuses on five transitions (Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria, and Bahrain) presently underway in the region and the role of international actors in shaping political possibilities and outcomes. In particular, we emphasize how — regardless of whether the United States and its allies are promoting “orderly transition” or more revolutionary overthrows — international actors are “intervening” continuously throughout the region in ways that reinforce the conditional nature of Arab self-determination.

Keywords: Middle East, Arab spring, intervention, American foreign policy, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, revolution

Suggested Citation

Bali, Asli U. and Rana, Aziz, Pax Arabica? Provisional Sovereignty and Intervention in the Arab Uprisings (March 1, 2012). California Western International Law Journal, Vol. 42, No. 2, 2012, Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 13-04, Available at SSRN:

Asli U. Bali (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law ( email )

385 Charles E. Young Dr. East
Room 1242
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476
United States

Aziz Rana

Cornell Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics