Clash of Civilizations and the Georgia Conflict Research Proposal

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Clash of Civilizations and the Georgia Conflict

In the first line of his monumental article "The Clash of Civilizations," Samuel P. Huntington asserts that "world politics is entering a new phase."

That new phase is nothing simple, but is rather new method by which the international community will be organized. For centuries, the nation-states have been the primary actors in world politics, the entities between which war has been waged. Before this, the world was organized around feudal communities such as those that were primary during the Middle Ages. The treaty of Westphalia, which ultimately established the nation-states, was a defining moment in the organization of world politics until the modern era. However, Huntington's declaration suggests that culture will become a more important component in the conflicts of the future. Although he sides with the primacy of nation-states as the primary actors, he suggests that "the great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural." He also argues that "the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations."

For Huntington, then, the "fault lines," of civilizations become "battle lines," and evidence in the modern era may prove that Huntington's idea of the composition of the future international system may be correct.

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An examination of the recent conflict in Georgia and the U.S.'s intervention in that nation state can give credence to Huntington's ideas.

According to Huntington, the ideology-driven wars of the nineteenth century paved the way for the Cold War, which was as much of a conflict among civilizations as it was a conflict of ideologies. Huntington writes, "With the end of the Cold War, international politics moves out of its Western phase, and its center-piece becomes the interaction between the West and non-Western civilizations and among non-Western civilizations."

TOPIC: Research Proposal on Clash of Civilizations and the Georgia Conflict Assignment

Thus, with the Cold War began the clash of civilizations, and with the Cold War also began the Georgian conflict. According to the UK Times, the 2008 conflict in Georgia had to do primarily with culture -- the Ossetes living in South Ossetia wanted to unite with other Ossetes because of their shared cultural values, but because South Ossetia is legally Georgian land, the Georgian people -- who make up another culture and see South Ossetia as an important part of their history, do not want to see it given up.

Clearly, this situation fits Samuel Huntington's model quite well. The two groups are not fighting over an ideology, or are they seeking land specifically, but rather they are looking for the unification of people with certain cultural identities -- they are seeking land that is not important to them because of natural resources, political strategy, or trade avenues. They are both seeking the same piece of land because of its historical and cultural importance to the group. Huntington defines a civilization as the following: "A civilization is a cultural entity. Villages, regions, ethnic groups, nationalities, religious groups, all have distinct cultures at different levels of cultural heterogeneity." Huntington allows for the fact that civilizations can be composed of large groups or even small numbers who hare similar beliefs. However, he writes, "Civilizations are dynamic; they rise and fall; they divide and merge. and, as any student of history knows, civilizations disappear and are buried in the sands of time."

Thus, the Georgian and Ossetian civilizations do fit this description, and certainly the power struggle for the region of South Ossetia is as a result of their dynamic nature. However, it must be noted that this struggle does fall within Huntington's prescription of a nation-state -- Georgia -- as the primary actor.

However, what makes the conflict in Georgia so astonishingly similar to Huntington's ideas is the fact that it, too, has its roots in the Cold War. According to the UK Times, the battle has its roots in another clash of civilizations, the clash that occurred in 1989 with the impeding doom of the Soviet Union. At this time, thee cultures, that of the Georgians, Ossetes, and Russians vied for their interests in the post-Cold War world. At first, the Soviet Union called for a unification of South and North Ossetia. But just one year later, fueled by nationalism, the ruler of Georgia declared South Ossetia to be "their own republic separate from Georgia," and sent military forced into the area to back up these words.

Thus, it is clear that the long-standing conflict between the three civilizations in the area, contained within nation-states, were causing the conflict due to a desire to unite cultures. Although South Ossetia is not a legitimate state, Russia, a nation-state, has been its "de-facto defenders," for reasons that are more political than cultural. Still, Lieven writes, "Russia's policy is driven by a mixture of emotion and calculation," arguing that Russians feel called to defend the separating Ossetes because this group has served as a political ally for them. However, Lieven allows for a cultural component when he argues that Russians' negative feelings for Georgia are as a result of the nationalist Georgian sentiments and the fact that Georgia unites around anti-Russian feelings and unification with the West.

Thus, the conflict between the Georgians and the Osettes is a cultural war, a clash of civilizations, occurring on these nations' fault lines, while still using nation-states as the primary actors, the wagers of war. Indeed, it is because these nation states -- Russia, the U.S., and Georgia -- are involved that the world acknowledges this conflict. Further, it is clear that the conflict is as a result of old Cold War cultural sentiments.

An examination of the U.S.'s involvement in this clash of civilizations makes it even clearer that a clash of civilizations is, indeed, what the conflict in Georgia is all about. According to Antelava, the U.S. Army has been training the Georgian armed forces since 2002, and although they were set to pull out in 2004, a decision between U.S. And Georgian officials decided to extend the U.S. troops' stay so that the Western soldiers could continue to train Georgians in the art of war. According to Antelava, the Red Army had once dominated the Georgian Krtsanisi military base, but "now it is U.S. soldiers who are in charge."

Thus, the U.S. involvement in the region, and especially Antelava's comparison of the U.S. military to the Red Army, shows the clash of civilizations that has been going on between the Western and non-Western nations and their sympathizers that Huntington referred to in his piece. Although it could certainly be argued that the conflict between East and West is something of ideology rather than of culture, the mutual animosity that the Georgian's and Russian's share is based on the cultural view of nationalism rather than simply on the ideas of the West. However, it is clear that the U.S. involvement in the region caused further tension when the U.S. military training mission first took flight. Although Dixon writes that Russians found the idea acceptable, she suggests that "there was obvious tension between the Russian and Georgian leaders at a meeting of former Soviet states in Kazakhstan.

Thus, if one were to examine the case of Georgia alone, and the involvement of Russia and the U.S., credence for Samuel Huntington's ideas could quickly be gained. Certainly, Huntington is on to something -- a trend in foreign policy that will be shaping the future. However, it can still be argued that ideology plays at least a small role in these conflicts, perhaps because ideology plays a role in conflict itself. Further, forcing the Georgian example to fit Huntington's model minimized the importance of non-state actors, such as terrorists, NGOs, and entities such as the EU and UN in the events that unfolded and continue to unfold in this case. Thus, while Huntington's model seems to be, in… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Clash of Civilizations and the Georgia Conflict.  (2009, September 2).  Retrieved September 21, 2021, from

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