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Abstract

The paper presents the challenges to stability arising in the MENA region and having a possible impact on Western peace and security. It identifies the regional actors' efforts to maximize their power, Russia's revisionist efforts, China's ambitions, as well as the phenomena (or asymmetric threats) of migration and terrorism. The paper focuses on the competition of power and concludes that the strategic value of the region around the South Eastern Mediterranean has increased, that Western states should determine and coordinate their policies, and their institutions should increase their efforts and presence, cooperating, among others, with other pro-Western countries in the region.

Introduction 

The purpose of this paper is to discuss the short- and long-term challenges to Western security, appearing in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.1 To do so I am going to present the policies of both regional and international actors, who, as they compete for power and hegemony in the region, endanger peace and stability. In my opinion the reasons of the current instability remain systemic, non-domestic, and in no case due to religious antagonisms. After all, in Syria, Iraq, or Libya, no-one is fighting over the issue who is the rightful successor to Prophet Mohammed, but over who is going to control, partially or totally, these three states.

This approach, focusing on power competition, is rather a traditional one. It distances itself, however, from the two dominant and often aphoristic tendencies that are usually adopted by some of the political literature and the press in order to understand these issues and analyse the events of this region. The first claims that the basic cause of what is happening in the region is a competition for energy resources (hydrocarbons), provided by the simplistic approach of geography to international politics, usually supported with maps and (often imaginary) plans for pipelines. The second approach focuses on intra- or inter-faith hate and clashes. It claims that the cause of the instability in the region is religion, appearing both as a competition between the two dominant Muslim denominations, Sunni and Shia Islam, and as an effort of some of their factions to wage a war against the infidels of the region and, more generally, of the West. 

Obviously, in my perspective, both explanations are essentially inadequate as they focus on the partial and not the general... Download the paper

Δημοσιευμένο στην κατηγορία Ενδιαφέροντα
Παρασκευή, 22 Σεπτέμβριος 2017 12:38

The US, China and the Real Thucydides’ Trap

During the last decade there has been a lot of discussion among international relations experts and foreign policy analysts on whether the rise of China as a major international player could lead to a confrontation with the United States. Most recently, with China's activities in the South China Sea, the Korean peninsula crisis, and the new U.S. administration, this discussion was reanimated. The debate was also fueled by Graham Allison and his question, that is, whether the U.S. and China may avoid what he called the "Thucydides' trap", and not go to war. Further, it was reported that Allison briefed President Donald Trump's National Security Council on what Thucydides and his work could teach them about U.S.-China relations. The same author says that war between the two is not inevitable. The answer is correct, not just because a person of his academic authority says so, but simply because the content of the so-called "trap", attributed to Thucydides, is not right. The real trap, the one Thucydides warns for more than 2.400 years now, is different than that described by Allison.

The phenomenon of international politics students turning to ancient thinkers, such as Thucydides, in order to find answers in strategic matters, is not new. What authors often do is pick a phrase from Thucydides, separate it from the rest of the text, and build an argument, which projects rather their ideas than those of the classical author. This is precisely the case with the so-called "Thucydides' trap". Obviously, the work of Thucydides belongs to everyone; and everybody may use it and build upon it. Yet, a few things need to be respected, if the "trap" to go to war is linked with the name of Thucydides, and, most important, if it is linked with the possibility of a war between two major and, in this case, nuclear actors.

At first, one needs to bear in mind that ancient Greek thinking is multi-causal and not uni-causal, as the thinking of Western modernity. Therefore, maintaining initially that just the fear of a competitor's growing power could lead to war, may be seen as cherry picking; and, afterwards, saying that "Thucydides does not really mean inevitable" may appear as inconsistency. Read more...

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