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

Updated 22 November 2018
0

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

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

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 peace.

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 East.”

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


What We Are Reading Today: Once More We Saw Stars by Jayson Greene

Updated 19 May 2019
0

What We Are Reading Today: Once More We Saw Stars by Jayson Greene

A beautiful, devastating eloquent memoir about what is it like to lose a child and continue living, says a review published on goodreads.com.

It is a journey of grief and hope and resilience, and one I will not easily forget. 

An incredibly sad memoir written by a father whose daughter’s life is cut short by a freak accident. Shortly after her second birthday, Greta Greene is struck in the head by a crumbling brick. 

Author Jayson Greene chronicles the aftermath of her death, narrating his stages of grief and quest for some sense of relief from the emotions threatening to overwhelm him.

Because neither Jayson nor his wife are religious people they seek a variety of sources in an attempt to assign some meaning out to their tragic loss. Throughout the book, Greene describes their journey and the legacy Greta’s short life has had on her grieving family.

After all, it is hard to find a more depressing topic than the death of a toddler. But, it really is worth a read. The language is luminous and captivating. The author is gifted at describing the grief and different emotional states experienced by bereaved parents.