Book review: A 17th-century solution for conflict in the Middle East

Thu, 2018-11-22 04:45

BEIRUT: “Towards A Westphalia for the Middle East” by
Patrick Milton, Michael Axworthy and Brendan Simms provides the
framework for a solution to years of conflict and unrest in the
Middle East. This refreshing discussion is based on the Peace of
Westphalia, the treaty that put an end to the Thirty Years War in
Europe in 1648.

Ralf Beste and Maike Thier mention in the preface that German
diplomats’ interest in this treaty did not originate at home, but
in the Middle East. Former German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter
Steinmeier, who is now the country’s president, participated in a
symposium with Arab intellectuals during a trip to Jeddah some
years ago, during which a young man exclaimed that the Middle East
needed its own Peace of Westphalia.

The remark was impactful and eventually the Korber Foundation,
in cooperation with Germany’s Policy Planning Unit of the Federal
Foreign Office and the University of Cambridge, initiated a
project, “A Westphalia for the Middle East,” to search for
constructive approaches and creative ideas in the search for

The authors argue that both the Thirty Years War in Europe and
the conflict in the Middle East consist of a series of separate but
interconnected struggles and detail their belief that the 17th
century treaty’s success was due to its peacemaking techniques
and diplomatic lessons — to include bigger powers, to be
innovative, creative, willing to compromise and, finally, to
negotiate for as long as it takes until a peace deal is signed.

David Petraeus, the former director of the US Central
Intelligence Agency, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, secretary-general of the
Arab League, and German leader Angela Merkel, to name but a few,
have endorsed the Westphalia project.

The book itself has gained recognition from international
scholars, with Peter Wilson, professor of History at Oxford
University, calling it a “lucid, critical discussion of how the
historical example of the Peace of Westphalia might encourage more
constructive solutions to current conflicts in the Middle

The Peace of Westphalia brought reconciliation, order and peace
to central Europe — “such a feat is worth emulating,” the
authors conclude.

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Source: FS – All – Interesting – News
Book review: A 17th-century solution for conflict in the Middle East