Milton, Patrick; Michael Axworthy & Brendan Simms (2018) Towards a Westphalia for the Middle East. London: Hurst. Xxi+160 pp.

​ISBN: 978-1-78738-023-3

Jørgen Jensehaugen

Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)

Read more about this book: www.hurstpublishers.com

​In war-torn Middle East states, Yemen and Syria in particular, political solutions are few and far between. These conflicts have local roots, but as they have deepened over time, they have also become increasingly complex, drawing in regional and international actors. In an attempt to provide an ambitious and creative peace structure that can address both the local roots of the various conflicts and the overarching structures that these conflicts are embedded in, the authors seek inspiration in the peace of Westphalia from 1648. That treaty brought an end to the Thirty Years War which had wrought destruction across Europe. Like the current conflicts in the Middle East the European wars were multi-level, and the peace treaty was ingenious in that it addressed all these levels and created a new European order. The authors base their discussion on a series of high-level workshops from the past years with both academics and policymakers. As a peace researcher, I am obviously positive to the ambition of bringing peace to the entire Middle East. As a historian I am also positively inclined to the idea that there is plenty to learn from the past – both in terms of rights and wrongs. Unfortunately, the book is simply too short (160 pages) to do justice to either the Thirty Years War or the contemporary Middle East, as both of these are excruciatingly complex. The book is thought-provoking and its biggest contribution is therefore that it challenges the reader to do more thinking. Is a grand overarching peace structure necessary, or even possible, or should we instead sharpen our focus on solving the national aspects of the various conflicts?