Local scholars discuss significance of Middle-Eastern conflict

Drew Parker

Two of northeast Ohio’s most prominent experts in Middle-Eastern politics addressed a mixed audience of students, faculty and local economists Friday on the significance of the recent Arab uprisings.

The Arab Uprisings, or Arab Spring, is a term for the wave of protests, riots and civil wars that began in the Middle East during the past few years. Since 2010, rulers have been forced from power in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, and civil uprisings are currently taking place in Bahrain and Syria.

Pete Moore, professor of political science at Case Western Reserve University and co-author of “Beyond the Arab Spring: Authoritarianism and Democratization in the Arab World,” and Joshua Stacher, an assistant political science professor at Kent State, co-lectured at 7 p.m. in Room 215 of the Business Administration Building.

Moore and Stacher discussed several issues from the last decade, including current conflict in Syria, a transitioning Egypt and the significance of the Muslim brotherhood.

During a question-and-answer session, Moore said he feels that political differences are more powerful than religious differences in causing Middle-Eastern conflict.

“The origins are very complex, and the solutions have very little to do with religious doctrine and everything to do with the political differences that exacerbated those divisions in the first place,” Moore said.

“The Middle East has been a part of American policy for 20 years, particularly in the last 10,” Stacher said. “(Presidents) have spent an enormous amount of energy on the Middle East. For reasons that might not be the best reasons, the United States is deeply invested in that part of the world.”

Stacher said the purpose of the session was to make attendees feel connected to people outside of their culture.

Michael Simrak, a junior government and foreign affairs major at Walsh University, said after the presentation he now sees Middle Eastern countries as separate entities.

“There’s not one problem in each country, there’s a whole array of issues affecting all of them differently,” Simrak said. “I wasn’t really sure how the Muslim brotherhood in Egypt had the influence it had. One thing we have from an American perspective is that they’re bad for our foreign policy, but I learned that they provided good services for the Egyptian people.”

Moore said he believes that positive change will come from the uprisings.

“Don’t judge them too early. It’s easy for people to see the immediate euphoria and positiveness of these uprisings,” Moore said. “I think sometimes people expect these problems to be solved in a 30-minute time frame or even a year. A lot of people have soured on these uprisings and think they’ve led to a bad thing. I would just say they’re not over yet.”

Drew Parker is an assigning editor for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].