Global di­men­sions of neigh­bor­hood desta­bi­liza­tion

Executive Magazine - - Contents -

The re­gion (de­fined by au­thors Swain and Jäger­skog to in­clude all Arab coun­tries in Asia, plus Egypt and Oc­cu­pied Pales­tine — though I per­son­ally might also add Iran and Ana­to­lia) suf­fers from strained wa­ter sup­plies and lim­ited arable land, along with in­creas­ing pop­u­la­tions, stag­nant agri­cul­ture and lack­ing food sup­plies. Another is­sue is large-scale la­bor migration, along with the huge num­bers of forced mi­grants and refugees com­ing from the re­gion (not to men­tion mil­lions of in­ter­nally dis­placed per­sons). The book an­a­lyzes such emerg­ing chal­lenges com­pre­hen­sively and sys­tem­at­i­cally, look­ing at these Mid­dle East is­sues from a se­cu­rity per­spec­tive, as well as their global con­text.

Se­cu­rity is in­creas­ingly on peo­ple’s minds af­ter the Western re­ac­tion to the Septem­ber 11 at­tacks on the United States ex­ac­er­bated vi­o­lence across many parts of West Asia and North Africa, of which the Mid­dle East is the strate­gic heart. Fol­low­ing 9/11, the US at­tacked Afghanistan and Iraq, and abet­ted or oth­er­wise be­came in­volved with fight­ing in Ye­men, Libya, and Syria. The legacy of in­ter­ven­tion was sev­eral failed wars and a lot of other med­dling that in­flamed an al­ready trou­bled re­gion, in­ten­si­fy­ing prob­lems such as forced migration and food inse­cu­rity. In their wake, the up­ris­ings of the Arab Spring swept across the Mid­dle East from late 2010, lead­ing to po­lit­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion.

All of this fur­ther eroded sta­bil­ity through­out the Mid­dle East, ex­ac­er­bat­ing ex­ist­ing long-term se­cu­rity prob­lems. In turn, as the au­thors note, out­side forces, in­clud­ing glob­al­iza­tion and cli­mate change, are in­ter­act­ing with this mess, lead­ing to even greater inse­cu­rity in a vi­cious cir­cle. Subti­tled ‘ The Im­pact of Cli­mate Change and Glob­al­iza­tion,’ the book’s strength is in its link­ing of the re­gion’s woes with wider in­ter­na­tional themes. Cli­mate shifts and the im­pact of glob­al­iza­tion are ex­am­ined in some depth and with crit­i­cal eval­u­a­tion. An in­ter­est­ing ex­am­ple of this is the pur­ported con­nec­tion be­tween the cri­sis in Syria and that coun­try’s drought of the last decade, given that the Syr­ian prob­lem now has a strong geopo­lit­i­cal di­men­sion.

The book was pub­lished last year, and so it does not ac­count for re­cent in­ter­na­tional pol­icy devel­op­ments on cli­mate change and glob­al­iza­tion, such as the US with­drawal from the Paris cli­mate agree­ment. The new Amer­i­can course can­not bode well for the Mid­dle East, if only be­cause unchecked cli­mate inse­cu­rity com­bined with war may lead to more famine in bro­ken states (as is al­ready the case of Ye­men to­day), with mass migration from and through war­zones ex­ac­er­bat­ing global ten­sions. The post-9/11 wars led by Amer­ica took scant ac­count of lo­cal in­ter­ests, with few se­ri­ous plans for what to do once the fight­ing ended — ul­ti­mately let­ting chaos reign. In a cu­ri­ous par­al­lel, the new US cli­mate pol­icy also seems to in­vite chaotic events, which could be prob­lem­atic for the re­gion.

Glob­al­iza­tion has also had a ma­jor im­pact in the Mid­dle East. Global forces have un­set­tled es­tab­lished pol­i­tics, al­tered la­bor mar­kets, and cre­ated more in­ter­na­tional eco­nomic con­nect­ed­ness, shift­ing the costs and ben­e­fits of es­tab­lished so­cio-eco­nomic pol­icy. These prob­lems, some of which are con­sid­ered by the au­thors, can­not be solved by any one coun­try alone, but need col­lec­tive and col­lab­o­ra­tive ac­tion — some­thing that the coun­tries of the neigh­bor­hood need to work on if these is­sues are to be ad­dressed.

The West’s global dom­i­nance has been halted with the fail­ure of Amer­i­can eco­nomic and se­cu­rity pol­icy over the last two decades or so. The trend re­gion­ally, as else­where, is to­ward mul­ti­po­lar­ity, with the West no longer as­cen­dant. Mean­while, the in­te­gra­tion of refugees and asy­lum seek­ers on both sides of the Mediter­ranean, and the spe­cific bar­ri­ers such peo­ple face, rep­re­sent a grow­ing chal­lenge. I for one look for­ward to see­ing more on such top­ics from Swain and Jäger­skog.

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