Could the Arab Spring Create a New Balance of Power in the Middle East?

“The political transformations and new foreign-policy alignments emerging in the ashes of the Arab Spring create a unique window of opportunity for regional realignment.”

This summer will mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914 would herald total war to Europe, destroy empires and political systems, and usher a new order for the continent as well as the Middle East.

International-relations history features only a few watershed moments when a new international order emerges, usually built upon the ashes of human suffering and devastation. When emperors, kings, presidents and religious leaders renegotiated international order, war always preceded. In his influential book After Victory, John Ikenberry analyzes these very moments in history. The “settlements” of 1648, 1713, 1815, 1919 and 1945 offered critical junctures in which major-power conflict had sufficiently destroyed the existing order to permit the reorganization and rebuilding of international order. Ikenberry argues that during post war junctures, victorious powers may either use coercion to dominate the system, withdraw, leaving the intermediate powers to fend for themselves, or pursue a systemic transformation in an attempt to lock its post-conflict advantage for the foreseeable future. In 1919, the United States abandoned the international system, leaving an inherently flawed League of Nations that, without the lead power, was unable to prevent the rise of fascism (what we might now call ‘rogue states’) in Europe and Asia. In contrast, the 1945 settlement witnessed the transformation of the international system through the creation of a set of organizations that added a constitution-like quality. Whilst the United States and other victorious powers locked in their post-war advantage (through a Permanent Seat in the UNSC), the UN Charter became the universal organizing principle for international relations. Binding institutions and international law acted as restraint on concentrated power. Post-1945 international relations witnessed a stable political structure in which states’ returns to power were low while returns to cooperation through international institutions increased. READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE ATpix4_052314

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