A Westphalia for the Middle East?

It was the original forever war, which went on interminably, fuelled by religious and constitutional disputes, personal ambition, fear of hegemony, and communal suspicion. It dragged in all the neighbouring powers. It was punctuated by repeated failed ceasefires. It inflicted suffering beyond belief and generated waves of refugees. This description could apply to Syria today, but actually refers to the Thirty Years War (1618-48), which turned much of central Europe into a disaster zone. The Thirty Years War is often cited as a parallel in discussions of current conflict in the Middle East. The Peace of Westphalia, which ended the war in Europe in 1648, has featured strongly in such discussions, usually with the observation that recent events in some parts of the region have seen the collapse of ideas of state sovereignty -ideas that supposedly originated with the 1648 settlement. This talk will discuss the parallels between the Thirty Years War and today’s Middle East and suggest ways in which lessons drawn from the congress and treaties of Westphalia might provide inspirations for a peace settlement for the Middle East’s new long wars. The talk is based on a recent book and ongoing collaborative project.

Patrick Milton was born in Zimbabwe and is a German-British research fellow at Peterhouse, Cambridge, and an affiliated lecturer at the Dept of Politics and International Studies, Cambridge. He was previously a postdoc at Freie Universitaet Berlin and has been working on the ‘Westphalia for the Middle East’ project since 2016.

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The presentation is a part of the CCW Tuesday Seminar Series hosted by the Conflict Platform.

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