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Event Detail

"The Arab Spring and War and Peace in the Middle East"
Date: April 08, 2013 from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm EDT
Location: Columbia University
Morningside Campus
International Affairs Building, Room 1302
Contact: For further information regarding this event, please contact Keenan Mahoney by sending email to .

The Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies presents:

"The Arab Spring and War and Peace in the Middle East"

A lecture with <b>Dr. Benjamin Miller</b>
Professor of International Relations University of Haifa; President, Israeli Association for International Studies; Head, International MA Program in Peace and Conflict Management

Monday, April 8, 2013
10:00am - 12:00pm
International Affairs Building, Room 1302


With the end of the Cold War, analysts advanced competing expectations about the likely character of the post-Cold War Order. Many expected a far-reaching transformation in the fundamental character of world politics. Some of these predictions were quite optimistic (especially by Liberals and Constructivists in International Relations theory)— believing the changes will lead to more peace and cooperation. Some, however, were Pessimists—predicting the emergence of new types of conflicts (for example, Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations”; and Robert Kaplan’s “The Coming Anarchy”), while others (the Realists in IR theory) remained skeptic regarding the possible transformation (for better or worse) in the fundamental character of international politics, even if taking into account specific changes in the global distribution of capabilities as leading to some important changes in the dynamics of the international system—whether in the direction of a benign hegemon or balance of power politics. The paper will investigate the effects of the “Arab Spring” on war and peace in the Middle East according to these competing theoretical perspectives. The study will then evaluate the explanatory and predictive power of the perspectives. The Optimists underline the positive effects of the liberalization processes in the Arab world on rising prospects for cooperation both inside the Middle East as well as between the democratizing region with the democratic powers based on the pacifying and cooperative effects of liberal mechanisms such as the “democratic peace,” international institutions and the rising economic interdependence with the West and inside the region. The Skeptics (The Realists) minimize the importance of the domestic changes on foreign policy and international outcomes. According to them the key patterns will continue to be around the formation of regional balances of power and struggles over hegemony both inside the Middle East and among the external powers involved in the region. The Pessimists focus especially on the danger of the emergence of failed states as a result of the “Arab Revolt” and the spread of civil wars and foreign intervention. The “Clash of Civilizations” highlights the cultural/religious constraints on the rise of liberal democracy in Arab/Muslim societies. I argue that the combined effect of two factors—state strength and national congruence-- is the most important for assessing the predictive power of the competing approaches. The two key factors are state strength—the effectiveness of the functioning of state institutions; and national congruence—the extent of congruence between geo-political boundaries and national aspirations and identities in the state. States, which are strong and nationally coherent, will tend to meet the Optimists’ predictions and will be good candidates for successful democratization and for the pacifying effects of liberalization. States which are both weak and incongruent -- will follow the Pessimists’ predictions and will tend to be failed states with civil wars and foreign intervention; while strong states but incongruent will tend to produce a revisionist model and pose a potential threat to their neighbors. Finally, the instability prevalent in failed states can be mitigated by the intervention of a benign hegemon in the Middle East, but in highly fragmented regions such interventions might face a lot of problems and have some de-stabilizing effects.

This event is free and open to the public.