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This year marks the centennial of the outbreak of World War I, which is reason enough to reflect on what this seminal European catastrophe teaches us today.Indeed, the Great War's consequences for international relations and the global system of states continue to be felt. No such hope currently exists for the Middle East, whose contemporary political borders were largely established by Britain and France during World War I, when the diplomats Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot negotiated the division of the Ottoman Empire. Likewise, the creation of Israel harks back to the 1917 Balfour Declaration, whereby the subsequent British mandatory power in Palestine supported the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people.The Middle East created back then is, more or less, the Middle East today. Great Britain and France, the first hegemonic powers, were succeeded by the United States and the Soviet Union – and, finally, by the U.S. alone.America's misadventure in Iraq, its exhaustion as a world power, and its unwillingness to maintain its previous level of commitment to the region have rendered the Sykes-Picot structure untenable, because no other external force for order is available.
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