Middle East Politics Expert Delivers Guest Lecture

Dr. Robert Springborg visited the Department of Political Science and International Relations

On September 22, the Department of Political Science and International Relations played host to Dr. Robert Springborg as a guest lecturer for Dr. James Devine’s Comparative Politics of the Middle East course this semester. Dr. Springborg is a highly accomplished and extremely well-respected scholar of Middle Eastern studies, with a career spanning decades that has ranged from advising governments working in the region, to teaching national security affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. He is currently an adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University and has published a number of books, including titles such as Mubarak’s Egypt: Fragmentation of the Political Order (1989), Oil and Democracy in Iraq (2007), and Political Economies of the Middle East and North Africa (2020).   

Dr. Springborg provided insight to students and faculty in the political science department about the relationship between the current global order and the Middle East, specifically discussing the unraveling of American predominance in the region and the declining appeal of democracy. He addressed the common misconception that Russia or China may step into the vacuum left by the end of American hegemony. In the opinion of Dr. Springborg, the ability for either of them to become the single predominant power globally is limited. While China and Russia will continue to have an active role in the Middle East because of the region’s oil reserves, he said their domestic issues will take priority, specifically as the world experiences the end of rapid globalization and a push for localization for the sake of security. Astrid Kreuger, fourth year political science student, noted that although it is a good thing that Russia cannot step into a superpower role, Dr. Springborg’s talk left her wondering where Russia’s reach will end given its invasion of Ukraine and annexation of territory. 

Dr. Springborg highlighted the failure of global institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in their projection of the neoliberal model, with the world currently at its highest levels of indebtedness. He noted that what is true globally also applies to the Middle East in terms of the weakening state system and poor regional linkages between states. Additionally, as demonstrated by the devastating floods in Pakistan and the resulting humanitarian crisis, the Middle East has already begun to bear the brunt of climate change. The region is set to continue grappling with worsening water and air pollution, a lack of rainfall causing droughts, and unbearable heat, all while remaining the least capable region in terms of food production. 

Dr. Springborg believes that European countries will be inheritors of the increasing instability brought by climate change and the unraveling of current systems in the global order. This is purely due to its geographical location lending itself to migration from the Middle East, as previously demonstrated at the height of the Syrian civil war and ensuing refugee crisis. 

Ultimately, though the picture he painted was admittedly pessimistic, Dr. Springborg was eager to hear from students. He emphasized that the younger generation will be required to tackle the issues of the new global political-economic order in the age of climate change and increasing instability. Dr. Springborg was headed to Wolfville, Nova Scotia to speak at Acadia University on September 23 before returning to British Columbia. 

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