In This Review

Escaping the Conflict Trap: Toward Ending Civil Wars in the Middle East
Escaping the Conflict Trap: Toward Ending Civil Wars in the Middle East
edited by Paul Salem and Ross Harrison
Middle East Institute, 2019, 213 pp

Until recently, the case could be made that discord in the Middle East was as much bluster as bloodletting, certainly by the standards of warfare in twentieth-century Europe. During the past decade, however, violence in the region has intensified to an extraordinarily damaging, and apparently intractable, degree. This edited volume includes serviceable case studies of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen and several useful essays that explore the global and regional context and the historical record of efforts to end such conflicts. Two main questions arise: To what extent are these national conflicts the product of regional rivalries among larger powers, and would these civil wars persist without the interference of the Egyptian, Emirati, Iranian, Israeli, Qatari, Saudi, and Turkish governments? And why have international actors, notably Russia, the United States, and European countries, not used their leverage with regional allies and clients to help end these conflicts? One contributor, the former U.S. diplomat Chester Crocker, provides what must be the answer: “In the end, we face the sobering reminder that most armed actors have interests other than peace.”