Political Islam and the post-Cold War international order
Religion in general and political Islam in particular is widely seen as responsible, at least in part, for a breakdown in the post-Cold War international political order. Violent sectarian conflict, threatening the stability and security of states in North Africa, the Levant, and adjoining regions has obliged a reluctant United States to return to a limited combat role in the Middle East. It has turned what the European Union hoped would be a “ring of well-governed states” along its borders into a “ring of fire,” as one commentator recently put it. Russia has exacerbated the situation through its actions in Syria and Ukraine. But the significant place attributed to religion in this analysis overlooks the precarious nature of the post-Cold War order, the multiplicity of elements challenging it, and the instrumentalization of religion for political ends.
After the Cold War, it seemed reasonable to expect the liberal international order gradually to extend its reach to much of the globe. The EU’s neighbors to the east and to the south appeared next in line for the overthrow of post-Soviet or post-colonial autocracies in favor of systems founded on libertarian principles, albeit with local characteristics.
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