Monday, December 26, 2016

Book Review: "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order" by Samuel R. Huntington

   Huntington's book is the antithesis of another political theory, which believed we had reached the end of history with Western ideals of liberalism and democracy reigning triumphant over the entire globe. Thus, to understand Huntington, it is helpful to first obtain some understanding of the thesis which he argued against.

The End Of History?

     The thesis--that liberal democracy was victorious--was most ably summarized by Francis Fukuyama in his highly influential 1989 article, "The End of History," published in The National Interest. Fukuyama began his seminal article by observing:
In watching the flow of events over the past decade or so, it is hard to avoid the feeling that something very fundamental has happened in world history. The past year has seen a flood of articles commemorating the end of the Cold War, and the fact that "peace" seems to be breaking out in many regions of the world. Most of these analyses lack any larger conceptual framework for distinguishing between what is essential and what is contingent or accidental in world history, and are predictably superficial.
What was really happening, he argued  was that "the century that began full of self-confidence in the ultimate triumph of Western liberal democracy seems at its close to be returning full circle to where it started: ... to an unabashed victory of economic and political liberalism." Noting the pervasiveness of artifacts of Western culture to be found around the world--technology, art, fashion--he argued:
What we may be witnessing in not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government. This is not to say that there will no longer be events to fill the pages of Foreign Affairs's yearly summaries of international relations, for the victory of liberalism has occurred primarily in the realm of ideas or consciousness and is as yet incomplete in the real or material world. But there are powerful reasons for believing that it is the ideal that will govern the material world in the long run.
     Fukuyama viewed history, and progress, as being linear, and thus his essay references historical theories advanced by Hagel, Kojève and Marx.  Per Hagel's writings, "[t]he state that emerges at the end of history is liberal insofar as it recognize and protects through a system of law man's universal right to freedom, and democratic insofar as it exists only with the consent of the governed." The primary ideological contenders to Western liberalism, Fukuyama maintained, were fascism and communism. Fascism had died in World War II with the defeat of German, Italy, and Japan. Communism was dying as Fukuyama wrote his article. The only remaining competitors, as Fukuyama saw it, was, possibly, religion and nationalism.

     Fukuyama quickly dismisses religion as a competitor. As he explains it, liberal democracy arose because of the inability of Christianity to provide the necessary peace and prosperity people desired. In any event, he believed that any religious impulses could be satisfied within the framework offered by liberal democracy. And as for Islamic theocracy, he believed its popularity would be limited to Muslims, "and it is hard to believe that the movement will take on any universal significance."

     Fukuyama also rejected nationalism as a possible competitor, writing:
The vast majority of the world's nationalist movements do not have a political program beyond the negative desire of independence from some other group or people, and do not offer anything like a comprehensive agenda for socio-economic organization. ... While they may constitute a source of conflict for liberal societies, this conflict does not arise from liberalism itself so much as from the fact that the liberalism in question is incomplete. Certainly a great deal of the world's ethnic and nationalist tension can be explained in terms of peoples who are forced to live in unrepresentative political systems that they have not chosen.
In other words, while Fukuyama does not see the immediate cessation of terrorism, guerrilla movements, or even war between nations--since there are many regions that are not yet "post-history"--"[b]ut large-scale conflict must involve large states still caught in the grip of history, and they are what appear to be passing form the scene."

     To Fukuyama, "[t]he end of history will be a very sad time" because ideological struggle will be replaced by purely technical and administrative problems: "economic calculation, the endless solving of technical problems, environmental concerns, and the satisfaction of sophisticated consumer demands." Moreover, "[i]n the post historical period there will be neither art nor philosophy, just
the perpetual care taking of the museum of human history."

     It is important to realize that Fukuyama's paper was not the mere thought-experiment of an acadamian. At the time of its publication, Fukuyama was the deputy director of the State Department's policy planning staff and a former analyst for RAND Corporation. His ideas were influential among both liberal progressives and neo-conservatives; and you can see his thoughts behind much of our foreign policy over the last several decades, including our failed attempts to export democracy to the tribal states of the Middle-East. In fact, I believe that Fukuyama's theory underlay much of the foreign policy of the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, as well as informing Hillary Clinton's naive views toward Africa and the Middle-East. Obama is a special case: I believe that he subscribed to Huntington's thesis, but is working against the West.

The Clash Of Civilizations?

      Huntington first published his antitheses, "The Clash of Civilizations?" in Foreign Affairs in 1993, and later expanded it to the book that is the subject of this review. As the title of his article and book suggest, Huntington does not subscribe to the theory that history is linear, but that history is made by the interactions of various meta-national groups related by language, custom, religion, and so forth, into civilizations. In reading his book, you will come across references to familiar names, including Arnold Toynbee, Carrol Quigley, and Oswald Spengler.

     Huntington begins his book by noting that Fukuyama's thesis arose during a period of euphoria at the end of the Cold War (although Fukuyama would reject that, pointing out Hegel was his original inspiration). But it was an illusion. Huntington observes that while change is inevitable, progress is not.

    Huntington rejects attempts to view the world as bi-polar, as many are wont to do. He recognizes the usefulness of viewing the world at a national level--after all, it is at that level where armies are maintained, diplomacy is conducted and treaties negotiated. But this view likewise has some limitations in that it assumes that all states perceive their interests in the same way and act in the same way. Instead, he notes, states respond primarily to perceived threats to their interests, and these interests are defined by reference to the values, cultures, and institutions. Significantly, "[t]he interests of states are ... shaped not only by their domestic values and institutions but by international norms and institutions," and "States with similar cultures and institutions will see common interest." In short, as he expresses it, "civilizations are the ultimate human tribe, and the clash of civilizations is tribal conflict on a global scale."

     Huntington's premises his book on the concept that, in the post-Cold War era, "states increasingly define their interests in civilizational terms."
They cooperate with and ally themselves with states with similar or common culture and are more often in conflict with countries of different culture. States define threats in terms of the intentions of other states, and those intentions and how they are perceived are powerfully shaped by cultural considerations. Publics and statesmen are less likely to see threats emerging from people they feel they understand and can trust because of shared language, religion, values, institutions, and culture. They are much more likely to see threats coming from states whose societies have different cultures and hence which they do not understand and feel they cannot trust.
Huntington convincingly argues that many of the seemingly contradictory or unpredictable actions of states can be resolved by viewing states are part of larger civilizations, and that a model based on civilizations can yield accurate predictions of possible conflicts and a model for resolving some of these conflicts. For instance, Huntington accurately predicted the break up of the Ukraine based on his civilizational model.

      Huntington uses civilization and culture as related terms: "Civilization and culture both refer to the overall way of life of a people, and a civilization is a culture writ large." That is, a civilization is the broadest cultural grouping of a people and "the broadest level of cultural identity people have short of that which distinguishes humans from other species." For instance, he notes that "[b]lood, language, religion, way of life, were what the [Ancient] Greeks had in common and what distinguished them from the Persian and other non-Greeks." However, in Huntington's view, the most important objective element that defines a civilization is usually religion.

     Huntington discusses at length various characteristics of civilizations, as well as the life-cycle of civilizations. Long time readers of this blog are probably familiar with Spengler's basic concept that civilizations follow an organic life-cycle, which he compared to the seasons and respective sprouting, growth, maturity and decay of a plant. Other comparative historians have developed more detailed models. For instance, Huntington notes that "Quigley sees civilizations moving through seven stages: mixture, gestation, expansion, age of conflict, universal empire, decay, and invasion"; while "Toynbee sees a civilization arising as a response to challenges and then going through a period of growth involving increasing control over its environment produced by a creative minority, followed by a time of troubles, the rise of a universal state, and then disintegration."

     However, all of this is useless without attempting to identify the civilizations that will be interacting. Unfortunately, historians vary as to the number and identification of civilizations: from Spengler's rather identification of eight major cultures, to Toynbee's numbering of over 20 historical and current civilizations. Huntington decided to follow Matthew Melko who identified "twelve major civilizations, seven of which no longer exist (Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Cretan, Classical, Byzantine, Middle American, Andean) and five which do (Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Islamic, and Western)," but "[t]o these five civilizations it is useful in the contemporary world to add Orthodox Latin American, and, possibly, African civilizations."

     The issues of Africa is rather straightforward, in that there has never been a pan-African civilization. Huntington suggests that there is some movement toward a unified African meta-culture civilization, that might arise around South Africa. My belief is that Africa is too tribalized to produce a civilization, in the sense the term is used by Huntington, and African civilization exists only in the imaginations of African-American nationalists. However, this is not to say that Africa will not play a disruptive role and, for that reason, may be viewed as a whole in that sense.

     Latin America is another special case. Huntington argues that Latin America should be considered part of the West because of a shared European background, European language, and religion (Catholicism). However, he also acknowledges that there is a certain disunity that would suggest that Latin America be considered a separate civilization due to the large incorporation and intermixing of native and European cultures that was absent in North America, and certain cultural traits toward authoritarianism and corporatism that is largely absent from the Western nations. He notes that Mexico has traditionally rejected inclusion with the rest of North America, seeing itself as, at root, an American-Indian state. I would note that Carrol Quigley rejected the notion that Latin America was part of the West, notwithstanding its language, religion, and history of European colonization. Quigley instead included Latin America as part of what he termed the Peruvian-Indonesian axis of Islam, noting that, culturally, Latin America had more in common with Moorish Spain than it did with England, France or Germany. Frankly, I have to agree with Quigley, and although I would not include Latin America as part of Islamic civilization, it differs sufficiently from the Western Christian nations that I believe it should be considered a different civilization.

     Another important point for understanding civilizational clashes is the structure of civilizations. Huntington posits that civilizations generally form around certain "core" states, with weaker states within that civilization forming the periphery or fringe. (In a couple instances, the civilization may be co-extensive with a single state: e.g., China and Japan). Where two civilizations geographically abut one another there exists what Huntington describes as fault lines along which armed conflict is more likely to arise. Moreover, as Huntington notes, fault line conflicts are intermittent but persistent absent genocide of one group or the other. Interestingly, Huntington notes that "[f]ault line conflicts are particularly prevalent between Muslims and non-Muslims"; and, historically, the majority have occurred along the Eurasian and African borders with Islam.

     Conflict is also likely in a state incorporating groups from one or more civilizations. One of the key examples the Huntington offers as to such a mixed state (he uses the term, "cleft state") is the Ukraine, split between a Russian Orthodox east and a Western Christian west. In this regard, Huntington explains:
Almost all countries are heterogeneous in that they include two or more ethnic, racial, and religious groups. Many countries are divided in that the differences and conflicts among these groups play an important role in the politics of the country. The depth of this division usually varies over time. Deep divisions within a country can lead to massive violence or threaten the country’s existence. This latter threat and movements for autonomy or separation are most likely to arise when cultural differences coincide with differences in geographic location. If culture and geography do not coincide, they may be made to coincide through either genocide or forced migration.
     Huntington contends (remembering that he wrote his book in the mid-1990's) that increasingly, international politics would center more around which civilization a nation belonged; this would factor more importantly in international relations than any other relationship. Not only would peripheral states look to the core state(s) of its civilization for leadership and protection, but that the core state(s) would act more protectively and supportive of states within its civilization than those lying outside. Huntington spends considerable time on this point, using numerous examples of differing concern, aid and military assistance offered by Russia and/or Europe or the United States in various conflicts in the 1990s.

     We can see this in operation. Russia has pulled its peripheral states back into the fold, while the United States and Western Europe have extended NATO membership to most of the Western Christian nations that were formally part of the Soviet Bloc. As Huntington predicted, the Ukraine has split along civilizational lines. The United States will strongly support Israel, which it views as a Western country, against most any of its Muslim neighbors notwithstanding indifference or opposition from Europe (which largely rejects Israel because it is not Christian).

     Increasingly, trade and commerce will also bend to the relationships between civilizations. It is as Huntington observes: businessmen will enter into agreements with people they know and trust; nations similarly will only enter into agreements (giving up certain elements of sovereignty) with nations that they know and trust.

The Limits Of Western Civilization And Lack Of A Universal Civilization.

     Huntington notes that, due to its superior technology and ability to engage in organized warfare, Western Civilization reached its the farthest limits of its expansion in 1910. This was followed by the two World Wars--the West's time of troubles--and he believed that the West was moving into its period of a universal state. I would point out that Spengler believed that a universal state would be obtained under either Britain or Germany. However, that didn't happen. Exhausted by the World Wars, that role has devolved on a somewhat unwilling United States of America and a rather dis-unified European Union, the two bound together by a complex array of treaties and international organizations.

     However, the withdrawing of Western power will unleash new forces into the international scene. Huntington writes:
The great political ideologies of the twentieth century include liberalism, socialism, anarchism, corporatism, Marxism, communism, social democracy, conservatism, nationalism, fascism, and Christian democracy. They all share one thing in common: they are products of Western civilization. No other civilization has generated a significant political ideology. The West, however, has never generated a major religion. The great religions of the world are all products of non-Western civilizations and, in most cases, antedate Western civilization. As the world moves out of its Western phase, the ideologies which typified late Western civilization decline, and their place is taken by religions and other culturally based forms of identity and commitment. The Westphalian separation of religion and international politics, an idiosyncratic product of Western civilization, is coming to an end, and religion, as Edward Mortimer suggests, is “increasingly likely to intrude into international affairs.” The intracivilizational clash of political ideas spawned by the West is being supplanted by an intercivilizational clash of culture and religion."
     There is one point I would raise in relation to what Huntington states in the foregoing quote. Many pundits have noted that socialism (and especially Cultural Marxism) and its offspring such as feminism and environmentalism bear the trappings of religion, including orthodoxy and excommunication. I would suggest that Huntington is incorrect in stating that the West has not spawned its own religion, but that it created a religion consisting of the worship of the State. The various ideologies are merely different interpretations on the proper worship of the State. Liberal democrats may not worship God, but they certainly worship themselves.

     Returning to the thread of Huntington's argument, however, he contends that there is not and has never been a universal civilization; and it is a conceit of the Western elite to believe that Western liberal democracy has become the universal civilization. And a dangerous conceit at that. Huntington explains:
... “universal civilization” may refer to the assumptions, values, and doctrines currently held by many people in Western civilization and by some people in other civilizations. This might be called the Davos Culture. Each year about a thousand businessmen, bankers, government officials, intellectuals, and journalists from scores of countries meet in the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Almost all these people hold university degrees in the physical sciences, social sciences, business, or law, work with words and/or numbers, are reasonably fluent in English, are employed by governments, corporations, and academic institutions with extensive international involvements, and travel frequently outside their own country. They generally share beliefs in individualism, market economies, and political democracy, which are also common among people in Western civilization. Davos people control virtually all international institutions, many of the world’s governments, and the bulk of the world’s economic and military capabilities. The Davos Culture hence is tremendously important. Worldwide, however, how many people share this culture? Outside the West, it is probably shared by less than 50 million people or 1 percent of the world’s population and perhaps by as few as one-tenth of 1 percent of the world’s population. It is far from a universal culture, and the leaders who share in the Davos Culture do not necessarily have a secure grip on power in their own societies. This “common intellectual culture exists,’ as Hedley Bull pointed out, “only at the elite level: its roots are shallow in many societies … [and] it is doubtful whether, even at the diplomatic level, it embraces what was called a common moral culture or set of common values, as distinct from a common intellectual culture.”
     Other elements of a common civilization are also lacking. For instance, there is nothing corresponding to a universal language or religion, nor is there anything to suggest that other cultures will rush to embrace Western secularism. International trade, as Huntington reminds us, does not result in greater peace let alone greater unity. In fact, he notes that economic interdependence fosters peace only when states expect that high trade levels will continue into the foreseeable future, and if that expectation fades, war is likely to result. Moreover, as Huntington reminds us, "People define their identity by what they are not. As increased communications, trade, and travel multiply the interactions among civilizations, people increasingly accord greater relevance to their civilizational identity." Thus:
...“in an increasingly globalized world—characterized by historically exceptional degrees of civilizational, societal and other modes of interdependence and widespread consciousness there of—there is an exacerbation of civilizational, societal and ethnic self-consciousness.” The global religious revival, “the return to the sacred,” is a response to people’s perception of the world as “a single place.”
Interestingly, for instance, although individualism is highly valued in Western nations (including Israel), the majority of peoples favor collectivism. Or as, one author Huntington cites has stated, "the values that are most important in the West are least important worldwide." Moreover, as Huntington contends, there is no reason to expect that modernization (i.e., the spread of science, technology, modes of transportation, communication, etc.) is synonymous with Westernization. In fact, attempts to replace a native culture with Western culture (such a attempted in Turkey after World War I) have generally been failures. Rather, any temporary success of Westernization can have the opposite effect of strengthening resistance to the influence of the West:
Democratization conflicts with Westernization, and democracy is inherently a parochializing not a cosmopolitanizing process. Politicians in non-Western societies do not win elections by demonstrating how Western they are. Electoral competition instead stimulates them to fashion what they believe will be the most popular appeals, and those are usually ethnic, nationalist, and religious in character.
Huntington explains that "[t]hese shifts in power among civilizations are leading and will lead to the revival and increased cultural assertiveness of non-Western societies and to their increasing rejection of Western culture." In this regard, he reminds the reader:
At various times before the nineteenth century, Byzantines, Arabs, Chinese, Ottomans, Moguls, and Russians were highly confident of their strength and achievements compared to those of the West. At these times they also were contemptuous of the cultural inferiority, institutional backwardness, corruption, and decadence of the West. As the success of the West fades relatively, such attitudes reappear.
     To discuss this point further, allow me a slight digression. Long time readers may remember my comments regarding the book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker, and that many of the factors that contributed to reduced violence in modern times were uniquely Western. One of these factors is what Pinker referred to as the Humanitarian Revolution. The Humanitarian revolution, however, sprang directly from the Reformation. And subsequent Western views of human rights flowed from the so-called Humanitarian Revolution. There is no guarantee that other civilizations or cultures will follow the same course. And, in fact, other cultures have not.

     Significant to any analysis of modern Islam is to understand that not only won't Islam soften or "moderate" due to a reformation similar to that of Western Christianity (which "moderation" is, in my opinion, itself a myth), but that Islam is going through its version of the reformation, but with drastically different consequences.

     You may remember from your history that the Protestant Reformation was initially an attempt to reform the Catholic Church to eliminate some of the corrupting practices that had crept into the Church's practices, such as the sale of indulgences. However, as the West continued through its period of reformation, more and more emphasis was placed on attempting to return to a more "genuine" or "authentic" version of Christianity consistent with what Christ had taught in the New Testament.  In essence, an attempt to return to the basics of Christianity without the layers of ritual and philosophy which, it was argued, overlay Catholicism.

     Islam has periodically gone through similar movements to "purify" the religion and return it to its historic roots as taught by Mohammed. It is currently treading through another such period, a desire to return to more "orthodox" Islam such as preached by Wahabbism and spread by Saudi Arabia, ISIS, and the Muslim Brotherhood. The current trend is not to modernize Islam, but, as Huntington puts it, "Islamize modernity."

     According to Huntington, this will not be limited to Islam, but we will also see a resurgent interest in religions among all cultures. He theorizes that the religious revival will be because of, rather in spite of, urbanization.
People move from the countryside into the city, become separated from their roots, and take new jobs or no job. They interact with large numbers of strangers and are exposed to new sets of relationships. They need new sources of identity, new forms of stable community, and new sets of moral precepts to provide them with a sense of meaning and purpose. Religion, both mainstream and fundamentalist, meets these needs.
The religious resurgence will also serve many of the same functions as served in the West by the Protestant Reformation; that is, "the religious resurgence throughout the world is a reaction against secularism, moral relativism, and self-indulgence, and a reaffirmation of the values of order, discipline, work, mutual help, and human solidarity." However, while Islam seems to fulfill the roles given to it, other religions may be less successful. Thus, as Huntington points out, the success of Protestant Christianity in places as diverse as Brazil and South Korea in replacing older religions.

     But this has an important implication for understanding the spread of militant Islam--one that is contrary to the typical view of militancy being limited to the poor and dispossessed. The religious revival that Huntington predicts will mostly be among relatively affluent urbanites. Thus:
The activists in Islamic fundamentalist groups are not, as Kepel points out, “aging conservatives or illiterate peasants.” With Muslims as with others, the religious revival is an urban phenomenon and appeals to people who are modern-oriented, well-educated, and pursue careers in the professions, government, and commerce. Among Muslims, the young are religious, their parents secular.
That is:
“More than anything else,” William McNeill observes, “reaffirmation of Islam, whatever its specific sectarian form, means the repudiation of European and American influence upon local society, politics, and morals.” In this sense, the revival of non-Western religions is the most powerful manifestation of anti-Westernism in non-Western societies. That revival is not a rejection of modernity; it is a rejection of the West and of the secular, relativistic, degenerate culture associated with the West. It is a rejection of what has been termed the “Westoxification” of non-Western societies. It is a declaration of cultural independence from the West, a proud statement that: “We will be modern but we won’t be you.”

Who Will Challenge The West?

     Another point of interest is what other civilizations can we expect to challenge the West, be it economically or militarily.

     One of the points asserted by not only Huntington, but also Toynbee, Spengler, and others, is that the West has reached a point of relative decline. Huntington describes the process:
     The decline of the West has three major characteristics. 
     First, it is a slow process. The rise of Western power took four hundred years. Its recession could take as long. In the 1980s the distinguished British scholar Hedley Bull argued that “European or Western dominance of the universal international society may be said to have reached its apogee about the year 1900.” Spengler’s first volume appeared in 1918 and the “decline of the West” has been a central theme in twentieth-century history. The process itself has stretched out through most of the century. Conceivably, however, it could accelerate. Economic growth and other increases in a country’s capabilities often proceed along an S curve: a slow start then rapid acceleration followed by reduced rates of expansion and leveling off. The decline of countries may also occur along a reverse S curve, as it did with the Soviet Union: moderate at first then rapidly accelerating before bottoming out. The decline of the West is still in the slow first phase, but at some point it might speed up dramatically. 
     Second, decline does not proceed in a straight line. It is highly irregular with pauses, reversals, and reassertions of Western power following manifestations of Western weakness. The open democratic societies of the West have great capacities for renewal. In addition, unlike many civilizations, the West has had two major centers of power. The decline which Bull saw starting about 1900 was essentially the decline of the European component of Western civilization. From 1910 to 1945 Europe was divided against itself and preoccupied with its internal economic, social, and political problems. In the 1940s, however, the American phase of Western domination began, and in 1945 the United States briefly dominated the world to an extent almost comparable to the combined Allied Powers in 1918. Postwar decolonization further reduced European influence but not that of the United States, which substituted a new transnational imperialism for the traditional territorial empire. During the Cold War, however, American military power was matched by that of the Soviets and American economic power declined relative to that of Japan. Yet periodic efforts at military and economic renewal did occur. In 1991, indeed, another distinguished British scholar, Barry Buzan, argued that “The deeper reality is that the centre is now more dominant, and the periphery more subordinate, than at any time since decolonization began.” The accuracy of that perception, however, fades as the military victory that gave rise to it also fades into history. 
     Third, power is the ability of one person or group to change the behavior of another person or group. Behavior may be changed through inducement, coercion, or exhortation, which require the power-wielder to have economic, military, institutional, demographic, political, technological, social, or other resources. The power of a state or group is hence normally estimated by measuring the resources it has at its disposal against those of the other states or groups it is trying to influence. The West’s share of most, but not all, of the important power resources peaked early in the twentieth century and then began to decline relative to those of other civilizations.
These power resources, according to Huntington, are (1) territory and population, including qualitative factors such as lifespan, health and literacy, (2) economic product (our advantage of which is being undercut by dissemination of Western manufacturing technology to other civilizations), and (3) military capability.
The West’s control of these resources peaked in the 1920s and has since been declining irregularly but significantly. In the 2020s, a hundred years after that peak, the West will probably control about 24 percent of the world’s territory (down from a peak of 49 percent), 10 percent of the total world population (down from 48 percent) and perhaps 15–20 percent of the socially mobilized population, about 30 percent of the world’s economic product (down from a peak of probably 70 percent), perhaps 25 percent of manufacturing output (down from a peak of 84 percent), and less than 10 percent of global military manpower (down from 45 percent).
Furthermore, because "soft power" rests on a foundation of "hard power," the decline of the West's hard power will reduce its ability to use "soft power" to persuade other civilizations and their nations. This will further fuel the rise of nativist impulses among these other cultures.

      Looking over the world's current civilizations, Huntington contends that "[t]he most significant increases in power are accruing and will accrue to Asian civilizations, with China gradually emerging as the society most likely to challenge the West for global influence." However, he also views Islam as a threat. Thus, "[t]he dangerous clashes of the future are likely to arise from the interaction of Western arrogance, Islamic intolerance, and Sinic assertiveness."

     Per Huntington, Chinese ideas of civilization are race centric. He explains:
The Chinese government sees mainland China as the core state of a Chinese civilization toward which all other Chinese communities should orient themselves. Having long since abandoned its efforts to promote its interests abroad through local communist parties, the government has sought “to position itself as the worldwide representative of Chineseness.” To the Chinese government, people of Chinese descent, even if citizens of another country, are members of the Chinese community and hence in some measure subject to the authority of the Chinese government. Chinese identity comes to be defined in racial terms. Chinese are those of the same “race, blood, and culture,” as one PRC scholar put it. In the mid-1990s, this theme was increasingly heard from governmental and private Chinese sources. For Chinese and those of Chinese descent living in non-Chinese societies, the “mirror test” thus becomes the test of who they are: “Go look in the mirror,” is the admonition of Beijing-oriented Chinese to those of Chinese descent trying to assimilate into foreign societies. Chinese of the diaspora, that is, huaren or people of Chinese origin, as distinguished from zhongguoren or people of the Chinese state, have increasingly articulated the concept of “cultural China” as a manifestation of their gonshi or common awareness. Chinese identity, subject to so many onslaughts from the West in the twentieth century, is now being reformulated in terms of the continuing elements of Chinese culture.
      Huntington also sees Islamic Civilization, because of its burgeoning population and the Islamic resurgence, as threat to the West. About the latter, he writes:
     While Asians became increasingly assertive as a result of economic development, Muslims in massive numbers were simultaneously turning toward Islam as a source of identity, meaning, stability, legitimacy, development, power, and hope, hope epitomized in the slogan “Islam is the solution.” This Islamic Resurgence in its extent and profundity is the latest phase in the adjustment of Islamic civilization to the West, an effort to find the “solution” not in Western ideologies but in Islam. It embodies acceptance of modernity, rejection of Western culture, and recommitment to Islam as the guide to life in the modern world. As a top Saudi official explained in 1994, “ ‘Foreign imports’ are nice as shiny or high-tech ‘things.’ But intangible social and political institutions imported from elsewhere can be deadly —ask the Shah of Iran. … Islam for us is not just a religion but a way of life. We Saudis want to modernize, but not necessarily Westernize.”  
     The Islamic Resurgence is the effort by Muslims to achieve this goal. It is a broad intellectual, cultural, social, and political movement prevalent throughout the Islamic world. Islamic “fundamentalism,” commonly conceived as political Islam, is only one component in the much more extensive revival of Islamic ideas, practices, and rhetoric and the rededication to Islam by Muslim populations. The Resurgence is mainstream not extremist, pervasive not isolated.  
     The Resurgence has affected Muslims in every country and most aspects of society and politics in most Muslim countries.
Huntington also explains:
The Islamic revival, it has been argued, was also “a product of the West’s declining power and prestige. … As the West relinquished total ascendance, its ideals and institutions lost luster.” More specifically, the Resurgence was stimulated and fueled by the oil boom of the 1970s, which greatly increased the wealth and power of many Muslim nations and enabled them to reverse the relations of domination and subordination that had existed with the West. As John B. Kelly observed at the time, “For the Saudis, there is undoubtedly a double satisfaction to be gained from the infliction of humiliating punishments upon Westerners; for not only are they an expression of the power and independence of Saudi Arabia but they also demonstrate, as they are intended to demonstrate, contempt for Christianity and the pre-eminence of Islam.” The actions of the oil-rich Muslim states “if placed in their historical, religious, racial and cultural setting, amount to nothing less than a bold attempt to lay the Christian West under tribute to the Muslim East.”
Consequently, and as something that will have important consequences as the West frees itself from Middle-Eastern oil, "[j]ust as Western wealth had previously been seen as the evidence of the superiority of Western culture, oil wealth was seen as evidence of the superiority of Islam." (Underline added).

     To Huntington, however, it is the combination of the Islamic resurgence with explosive population growth that poses the greater risk to the West:
... For years to come Muslim populations will be disproportionately young populations, with a notable demographic bulge of teenagers and people in their twenties. In addition, the people in this age cohort will be overwhelmingly urban and have at least a secondary education. This combination of size and social mobilization has three signifcant [sic] political consequences. 
     First, young people are the protagonists of protest, instability, reform, and revolution. Historically, the existence of large cohorts of young people has tended to coincide with such movements. ... 
     The youth of Islam have been making their mark in the Islamic Resurgence. As the Resurgence got under way in the 1970s and picked up steam in the 1980s, the proportion of youth (that is, those fifteen to twenty-four years of age) in major Muslim countries rose significantly and began to exceed 20 percent of the total population. In many Muslim countries the youth bulge peaked in the 1970s and 1980s; in others it will peak early in the next century. The actual or projected peaks in all these countries, with one exception, are above 20 percent; the estimated Saudi Arabian peak in the first decade of the twenty-first century falls just short of that. These youth provide the recruits for Islamist organizations and political movements. ... According to these projections, that threat will persist well into the twenty-first century.
The reason, in particular, that this is a threat is that cultures with young, dense populations tend to be expansionist:
Larger populations need more resources, and hence people from societies with dense and/or rapidly growing populations tend to push outward, occupy territory, and exert pressure on other less demographically dynamic peoples. Islamic population growth is thus a major contributing factor to the conflicts along the borders of the Islamic world between Muslims and other peoples. Population pressure combined with economic stagnation promotes Muslim migration to Western and other non-Muslim societies, elevating immigration as an issue in those societies.
The natural result of this is increased immigration from Muslim countries (as we are now seeing). Whether Europe can weather this is moot, for just as Muslim immigration begins to drop off, sub-Saharan Africa will be following with a second invasion. As Pierre Lellouche noted in 1991: “History, proximity and poverty insure that France and Europe are destined to be overwhelmed by people from the failed societies of the south. Europe’s past was white and Judeo-Christian. The future is not.” Whether Europe, in the case of Islam, or Hispanics in the case of the United States, can avoid becoming cleft states depends on the willingness to stop immigration and accept the consequences of the lack of demographic growth. (Russia, too, faces illegal immigration problems--primarily from Chinese moving into Siberia).

     Of course, nothing lasts forever, and Huntington expected (or expects) that Asia's economic growth will begin to slow in the second or third decades of this century (which appears to be the case based on the most recent economic data from China). Likewise, the Muslim youth bulge will peak in the second or third decade, according to Huntington, and may reduce tensions with the West.

     I am not, myself, as hopeful. David P. Goldman wrote in his book Why Civilizations Die that reverse demographic pressures can create a situation where the nation or society with a declining population may see its decline as an existential threat which requires drastic, perhaps even irrational, action. An example of this could be seen in the breakup of Yugoslavia as the Bosnian Muslims achieved numerical superiority over the Serbs, setting off a civil war. Goldman foresees an Iran with an aging population, and declining number of military age men, becoming more belligerent in order to consolidate its power before terminal decline sets in. Of course, the same could be said of Turkey.

     Huntington sees Islam and China as posing different threats. He sees Islam as the source of multiple fault line conflicts, but the rise of a China as a possible source of a conflict between core states. Worryingly, Muslims are responsible for the majority of wars, but China is the only state more likely than Muslim countries to resort to violence to resolve conflicts.

The Role Of The United States.

     However undesired the role, the United States now stands as the core state of Western Civilization. However, in order to protect and nurture the West, and perhaps lead it into a new resurgence of culture and power, the United States must make basic changes to its world outlook. As an initial matter, Huntington argues that the United States must come to terms with its efforts to promote a universal Western culture and its declining ability to do so. There is no universal Western culture and, according to Huntington, the United States must instead focus on its role as the leader of the West (not the world). He writes:
      The universal aspirations of Western civilization, the declining relative power of the West, and the increasing cultural assertiveness of other civilizations ensure generally difficult relations between the West and the rest. The nature of those relations and the extent to which they are antagonistic, however, vary considerably and fall into three categories. With the challenger civilizations, Islam and China, the West is likely to have consistently strained and often highly antagonistic relations. Its relations with Latin America and Africa, weaker civilizations which have in some measure been dependent on the West, will involve much lower levels of conflict, particularly with Latin America. The relations of Russia, Japan, and India to the West are likely to fall between those of the other two groups, involving elements of cooperation and conflict, as these three core states at times line up with the challenger civilizations and at times side with the West. They are the “swing” civilizations between the West, on the one hand, and Islamic and Sinic civilizations, on the other. 
     Islam and China embody great cultural traditions very different from and in their eyes infinitely superior to that of the West. The power and assertiveness of both in relation to the West are increasing, and the conflicts between their values and interests and those of the West are multiplying and becoming more intense.
     The issue is whether the West is up to preserving itself. Unfortunately, as Huntington notes, the West seems to be following the course of other civilizations toward decline. In Huntington's views, civilizations decline when they stop the “application of surplus to new ways of doing things. In modern terms we say that the rate of investment decreases.” He writes:
This happens because the social groups controlling the surplus have a vested interest in using it for “nonproductive but ego-satisfying purposes… which distribute the surpluses to consumption but do not provide more effective methods of production.” People live off their capital and the civilization moves from the stage of the universal state to the stage of decay.
I doubt that you could better summarize the current obsession with global warming, social justice, and organic foods. In any event, Huntington continues:
This is a period of"acute economic depression, declining standards of living, civil wars between the various vested interests, and growing illiteracy. The society grows weaker and weaker. Vain efforts are made to stop the wastage by legislation. But the decline continues. The religious, intellectual, social, and political levels of the society began to lose the allegiance of the masses of the people on a large scale. New religious movements begin to sweep over the society. There is a growing reluctance to fight for the society or even to support it by paying taxes. Decay then leads to the stage of invasion “when the civilization, no longer able to defend itself because it is no longer willing to defend itself, lies wide open to ’barbarian invaders,’ ” who often come from “another, younger, more powerful civilization.” The overriding lesson of the history of civilizations, however, is that many things are probable but nothing is inevitable. Civilizations can and have reformed and renewed themselves. The central issue for the West is whether, quite apart from any external challenges, it is capable of stopping and reversing the internal processes of decay. Can the West renew itself or will sustained internal rot simply accelerate its end and/or subordination to other economically and demographically more dynamic civilizations?
     Like many others, Huntington sees immigration as a possible strength; but only if (1) the immigrants bring skills and education with them and (2) if they can be assimilated. Absent these factors, a nation risks becoming a cleft society. He also sees abandonment of Christianity as a threat, particularly to Europe which has already mostly abandoned its native religion for the false god of secularism.

     Notwithstanding the foreign threats poised by Islam and China, Huntington sees Cultural Marxists and multiculturalists as the gravest threat to America:
     A more immediate and dangerous challenge exists in the United States. Historically American national identity has been defined culturally by the heritage of Western civilization and politically by the principles of the American Creed on which Americans overwhelmingly agree: liberty, democracy, individualism, equality before the law, constitutionalism, private property. In the late twentieth century both components of American identity have come under concentrated and sustained onslaught from a small but influential number of intellectuals and publicists. In the name of multiculturalism they have attacked the identification of the United States with Western civilization, denied the existence of a common American culture, and promoted racial, ethnic, and other subnational cultural identities and groupings. They have denounced, in the words of one of their reports, the “systematic bias toward European culture and its derivatives” in education and “the dominance of the European-American monocultural perspective.” The multiculturalists are, as Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., said, “very often ethnocentric separatists who see little in the Western heritage other than Western crimes.” Their “mood is one of divesting Americans of the sinful European inheritance and seeking redemptive infusions from non-Western cultures.” 
     The multicultural trend was also manifested in a variety of legislation that followed the civil rights acts of the 1960s, and in the 1990s the Clinton administration made the encouragement of diversity one of its major goals. The contrast with the past is striking. The Founding Fathers saw diversity as a reality and as a problem: hence the national motto, e pluribus unum, chosen by a committee of the Continental Congress consisting of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams. Later political leaders who also were fearful of the dangers of racial, sectional, ethnic, economic, and cultural diversity (which, indeed, produced the largest war of the century between 1815 and 1914), responded to the call of “bring us together,” and made the promotion of national unity their central responsibility. “The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing as a nation at all,” warned Theodore Roosevelt, “would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities.” In the 1990s, however, the leaders of the United States have not only permitted that but assiduously promoted the diversity rather than the unity of the people they govern. 
     The leaders of other countries have, as we have seen, at times attempted to disavow their cultural heritage and shift the identity of their country from one civilization to another. In no case to date have they succeeded and they have instead created schizophrenic torn countries. The American multiculturalists similarly reject their country’s cultural heritage. Instead of attempting to identify the United States with another civilization, however, they wish to create a country of many civilizations, which is to say a country not belonging to any civilization and lacking a cultural core. History shows that no country so constituted can long endure as a coherent society. A multicivilizational United States will not be the United States; it will be the United Nations.
He goes on:
     Rejection of the Creed and of Western civilization means the end of the United States of America as we have known it. It also means effectively the end of Western civilization. If the United States is de-Westernized, the West is reduced to Europe and a few lightly populated overseas European settler countries. Without the United States the West becomes a minuscule and declining part of the world’s population on a small and inconsequential peninsula at the extremity of the Eurasian land mass. 
     The clash between the multiculturalists and the defenders of Western civilization and the American Creed is, in James Kurth’s phrase, “the real clash” within the American segment of Western civilization.11 Americans cannot avoid the issue: Are we a Western people or are we something else? The futures of the United States and of the West depend upon Americans reaffirming their commitment to Western civilization. Domestically this means rejecting the divisive siren calls of multiculturalism. Internationally it means rejecting the elusive and illusory calls to identify the United States with Asia. Whatever economic connections may exist between them, the fundamental cultural gap between Asian and American societies precludes their joining together in a common home. Americans are culturally part of the Western family; multiculturalists may damage and even destroy that relationship but they cannot replace it. When Americans look for their cultural roots, they find them in Europe.
 * * *
     If North America and Europe renew their moral life, build on their cultural commonality, and develop close forms of economic and political integration to supplement their security collaboration in NATO, they could generate a third Euroamerican phase of Western economic affluence and political influence. 
     Huntington warns that not only must the United States step back from multiculturalism, but also universalism (as discussed earlier, the idea that the trend of history is for universal adoption of Western liberal democracy). The U.S. and the West must recognize the uniqueness of Western civilization, and that its value lies in its uniqueness. The U.S. must also recognize the threats posed by intercivilizational war between core states, and avoid becoming involved in wars between or within other civilizations that might draw it into conflict with another core state. As he discusses in his book, Middle-Eastern and Asian nations have learned that you cannot beat the United States without having nuclear weapons, and that the United States will not attack you if you have nuclear weapons. Thus, the United States must prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapon technology. And finally, the U.S. must embrace the fact that it is a Western and Christian nation with special ties to Europe. As Huntington writes, "[i]n the clash of civilizations, Europe and America will hang together or hang separately."

     It is sobering to realize that Huntington wrote his book 20 years ago, and that the condition of the West is much worse now. Europe is currently being invaded by hordes of Muslims, even as the Middle-East is collapsing into chaos. Even after serious terrorist attacks, the West (speaking of the United States, Europe, and Australia) refuses to not only bar immigration from Muslim countries, but to even see a connection between Islam and terrorism. Multiculturalists run the asylum. And we are only just finishing 8 years under a President that not only seems to understand the clash of civilizations, but actively worked toward making sure that the West lost.

    While I've attempted to provide you with an overview of Huntington's book and ideas, this article cannot hope to do the concepts justice. I would recommend his book to anyone interested in understanding international relations and current events.


  1. Still one of the best blogs on the internet! Thanks for all your effort! (From Ben at Security and Self Reliance)

    1. Thank you. That means a lot coming from you. I appreciate it.


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