Cause of War Term Paper

Pages: 13 (4147 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 13  ·  Level: College Sophomore  ·  Topic: Drama - World

Clash of Civilizations - Samuel Huntington

In his book the Clash of Civilizations, Samuel Huntington explains that the end of the cold war also brought to a conclusion the way wars are fought based on ideology. Huntington asserts that the absence of the international image of two superpowers dominating world politics has opened the door to regional cultural and religious wars. He makes his points by combining statistics to prove his oversimplified theory of world demographics as an "indispensable guide to international politics." His arguments in that regard seem valid, lucid and convincing, but there are those who take issue with his positions. In fact much of what Huntington asserts can be objectively (based on history and the world today) challenged and indeed morally challenged as well. This paper will review Huntington's points and theories, and provide alternative viewpoints as well.

One reason in particular that Huntington's book was so widely discussed post-9/11 is because of Huntington's pre-9/11 contention (page 28) that the wars of the future (as mentioned above) will not be "between social classes, rich and poor, or other economically defined groups, but between peoples belonging to different cultural entities." Further, he wrote, "In the post-Cold War world, culture is both a divisive and a unifying force. People separated by ideology but united by culture come together..."

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Looking at his argument in more specific terms is helpful when examining Huntington's book and trying to be objective about his positions. On page 35 for example, Huntington alludes to the fact that while there are threats emerging from societies that are quite different in terms of their cultures, those and other states are increasingly losing their "sovereignty and power" because increasingly "international institutions" are pushing their power and their right to judge on states. Huntington presses forward with the notion that especially in Europe individual states have given up some of their important functions; he doesn't say specifically what entity has taken away individual state powers but it can be assumed he is talking about the European Union.

The borders of individual states are becoming "increasingly permeable," Huntington explains (p. 35). He believes that state governments no longer have the power to control the flow of money in and out of their states, nor the flow of "ideas, technology, goods, and people." He alludes to the ongoing weakening of states as "failed states" in a section of page 35 he calls "Sheer Chaos." And with this breakdown of states' authority, Huntington sees the "intensification of tribal, ethnic, and religious conflict" along with the growth of organized crime on an international basis. It would be hard to imagine a world in as much chaos as Huntington insists there was in 1996, when he published this book, so a reader has to wonder if the author was using exaggeration for emphasis and to get the attention of scholars and critics.

Still, he goes on to say that the end of the Cold War has opened the door to all this chaos, including the growth (by tens of millions) of refugees, the "proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, the explosive growth of terrorism, and the hideous specter of "ethnic cleansing" and massacres. He tries to give data in almost every case to back up his contentions; for example, he writes (p. 35) that since the end of the Cold War there have been "...an estimated 48 ethnic wars" and "164 'territorial-ethnic claims and conflicts concerning borders'...in the former Soviet Union..." (and thirty of those conflicts had become armed conflict of some degree, according to the author).

A few pages earlier, page 32, Huntington builds a case for "two worlds" ("us and them") which he claims has been the case throughout "human history." That two worlds concept fits the picture that Huntington is painting of the good guys and bad guys - but then he brings in the Muslim concepts, who have "traditionally divided the world into 'Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb' (the "abode of peace and the abode of war"). He doesn't say where that Muslim division of worlds will lead, but he adds that after the Cold War, the abode of peace and the abode of war were "reversed" by American scholars. The new division was said to be "zones of peace" (including the West and Japan, about 15% of the world's population) and "zones of turmoil" (everywhere and everyone else; 85% of the world's population).

What Huntington is getting at with his post-Cold War two worlds idea is that traditional definitions of "us and them" have changed; no longer is it a conflict on the international stage with rich nations bullying and colonizing poor, developing nations. Rather, the author posits, rich states may well battle over trade issues and poorer states may fight bloody wars with each other (as is commonplace in Africa, for example). But an international war like WWI or WWII is unlikely - "almost as far from reality as one happy harmonious world," he writes on page 33.

By pointing to the new battle lines that are drawn in this post-Cold War world Huntington is setting the stage for the most controversial thesis in his book, which is that Muslim cultures are more involved in wars and conflict than any other culture. As mentioned earlier, this book was published five years prior to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and at that time it stirred the wrath of Islamic scholars as well as firing up the radical islamists like bin laden, who were already in a full-court press of hatred toward Americans and the West.

Indeed, the various sub-cultures that make up the "culture" of Islam receive viciously condemning criticism in his book. Notably, on pages 256-258, Huntington asserts "...wherever one looks along the perimeter of Islam, Muslims have problems living peaceably with their neighbors." He goes on: "The question naturally rises as to whether this pattern of late-twentieth-century conflict between Muslim and non-Muslim groups is equally true of relations between groups from other civilizations. In fact, it is not."

Huntington continues: "Muslims make up one-fifth of the world's population but in the 1990s they have far more involved in intergroup violence than the people of any other civilization. The evidence is overwhelming."

He cites facts and dates; of the fifty "ethno-political conflicts in 1993-1994," Muslims participated in "twenty-six." He uses New York Times' figures when he points out that of the "forty-eight locations in which some fifty-nine ethnic conflicts" occurred in 1993, "...half [of] these places Muslims were clashing with other Muslims or with non-Muslims." And he cites data from Ruth Leger Sivard: in 1992, nine of twelve intracivilizational conflicts "were between Muslims and non-Muslims..." On page 258, he wrote: "Muslim states also have had a high propensity to resort to violence in international crises, employing it to resolve 76 crises out of a total of 142 in which they were involved between 1928 and 1979."

The book by Huntington was preceded by an article in the Summer 1993 issue of Foreign Affairs; responding to that article and to Huntington's book, Edward W. Said calls Huntington's approach "...a belligerent kind of thought" (Said, 2001). In an article (the Nation, October 22, 2001) published six weeks after the terrorist attacks on the United States Said insists that Huntington's greatly oversimplifies the issue.

By boiling things down to "the West" and "Islam" - which is "reckless" in Said's opinion - Huntington is taking "hugely complicated matters like identity and culture" and placing them in a "cartoon-like world where Popeye and Bluto bash each other mercilessly." And in that cartoon world of make-believe violence one of the two challengers is "...always more virtuous" than the other, and hence gets the upper hand.

Moreover, by boiling this cultural clash down to "the West" and "Islam" (or "Muslims" as Huntington uses often) Huntington is showing his ignorance of the fact that within every civilization there are "internal dynamics and plurality" - according to Said. Going a step or two farther in his attack on Huntington, Said asserts that by defining the two cultures the way he has done - basically by presuming to speak for a "whole region or civilization" - Huntington is using "a great deal of demagogy and downright ignorance."

And a big part of Huntington's wrong-headed theme throughout his book, Said continues, is that the West must continue to get stronger to "fend off" Islam. If Huntington believes his perspective is the correct one - which he clearly does or he wouldn't have gone to the trouble to publish articles and write a book on the topic - then, Said writes, his view is as though he is surveying the whole world "from a perch outside all ordinary attachments and hidden loyalties." Huntington's view is taken (Said offers) "...as if everyone else were scurrying around looking for answers that he has already found."

Those "civilizations" and "cultures" that Huntington takes liberties with in terms of his oversimplifications are… [END OF PREVIEW]

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