Clash of Civilizations - Samuel Term Paper

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" The book argues that the reality of history is a "ludicrously compressed and constricted warfare," Said continues; but indeed Huntington cannot grasp the notion that there are no strictly defined Muslim cultures but to make his book work he has to build a case that there is such a stereotypical, predictable Muslim culture.

Said goes so far as to say that Huntington's book attempted to give his original article a bit more "subtlety" along with "many, many more footnotes." But alas, Said believes that all Huntington did by putting out a whole book on the topic was to "confuse himself and demonstrate what a clumsy writer and inelegant thinker he was." Said has plenty more to say, albeit there is not space in this paper for all of his views; but several more of his themes will be presented. For example, Said compares the likes of Osama bin Laden and his band of violent Muslim extremists with the Rev. Jim Jones and the Branch Dividians, as opposed to seeing bin Laden as the cultural figurehead of Islam. But getting down to basics, Said complains that by using labels like "West" and "Islam" Huntington is simply confusing people's minds while people are honestly and earnestly seeking a way to understand "a disorderly reality."

Said ends his essay - after having blasted Huntington and other authors who take similar oversimplified positions vis-a-vis Islam - with the metaphorical thought that all members of the world's community are "swimming in the waters" of tradition and modernity. And since the waters he has alluded to are "part of the ocean of history," to attempt to plow or divide them "with barriers is futile." It is far better, Said concludes, for bright alert people to think "...in terms of powerful and powerless communities" and the "secular politics of reason and ignorance" along with the "universal principles of justice and injustice" rather than drifting off in search of "vast abstractions." And though those "vast abstractions" - this is clearly aimed at Huntington and his views - may provide "momentary satisfaction" but it offers very little "self-knowledge or informed analysis."

Indeed, Huntington's book is a "gimmick" not unlike "War of the Worlds," Said writes in his last paragraph. The Clash of Civilizations is better for "reinforcing defensive self-pride" than for actually, critically trying to grasp an understanding "of the bewildering interdependence of our time."

Meanwhile, in Chapter 9, the Huntington delves into what he calls "fault line conflicts" - again building the case that the Muslim culture (he doesn't say "Islam" as often as he uses "Muslim" which has perhaps a grittier tone) is prone to violence. "Fault line conflicts are particularly prevalent between Muslims and non-Muslims," he writes, promising to explain the "dynamics of these conflicts" in later chapters.

Huntington says that there are six issues that tend to give launch to fault line conflicts. One is the "relative influence" of the UN, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank (earlier he wrote about international organizations taking power away from states). The second of six reasons these fault line conflicts is "relative military power" which manifests itself in arms-race-related controversies; the third issue that foments these conflicts is "...economic power and welfare," which comes into play when trade deals and investments go sour; the fourth issue people from one civilization discriminating against people from another civilization; the fifth issues "values and culture" (when one state tries to impose its values on another); and the sixth issue is when states dispute who owns territory (differences over ownership of land).

Okay, Huntington is quick to admit, all of these sources of conflict can be traced way back into human history; he's not saying these are new following the Cold War, or to be blamed necessarily on Muslims. But he is saying that with the new emphasis on culture vs. culture, when states bordering one another have different cultures and civilizations and one is ready to challenge the other, that challenger rallies "their civilization cohorts." Why is this any different than past conflicts? Huntington on page 208 suggests that the fault line conflicts reflect certain strategies that are relatively new.

For example, for the sake of discussion one can put forth the possibility that a conflict has begun between a Muslim state and a non-Muslim state. The Muslim state, under Huntington's formula, will then get all the support it can from other Muslim states or individuals of Islamic heritage; he doesn't use this example, but it is clear that is what happened when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 when Muslim fighters came from around the world to join the fight against aggression by the Soviets. After rallying fellow Muslims and others from "third civilizations" (Huntington 208), the Muslim state in question then attempts to "promote division within and defections from opposing civilizations." Along with this effort the Muslim state would typically also use "an appropriate mix of diplomatic, political, economic and covert actions and propaganda inducements and coercions" to reach their objectives.

As to movements for "religious revival," on page 100 Huntington offers a brief history lesson; he claims that during the 19th Century "non-Western elites imbibed Western liberal values" and as a result these nations became nationalists with liberal values as a way of showing opposition to the West. But in the 20th Century, Huntington continues on page 100, Russian, Asian, Arab, African, and Latin American elites "...imported socialist and Marxist ideologies and combined them with nationalism," again, to oppose Western capitalism and "Western imperialism."

That having been said, when communism collapsed in the Soviet Union, and it became "modified" in China from what it was during Mao's reign, and when other socialist economies failed to deliver what they had promised, there was as a result of these events a "ideological vacuum." And so the groups rushing to fill this supposed vacuum, Huntington continues, were the likes of the IMF and the World Bank, those institutions he mentioned earlier as having usurped power from individual states. And the "doctrines" that the IMF and World Bank have offered in the meantime (those doctrines include "neo-orthodox economies" and "democratic politics") have, in Huntington's view, not amounted to anything of great substance within the people searching for an ideology (doctrine).

But religion, in the author's view, has provided a solid substitute for ideology; and "religious nationalism replaces secular nationalism." These religious replacements for ideology are "anti-Western" and of course this is another place in his book where Huntington sets readers up for the inevitable attack on the Muslim culture. On page 101, the author states that religion is used by Islamic fundamentalists have established strong followings in Iran, Algeria, Lebanon and Tunisia.

This religious revivalism among Muslims appeals to the young, urban sons and daughters of secular parents; and according to William McNeill (quoted by Huntington on page 101) the "reaffirmation of Islam, whatever its specific sectarian form, means the repudiation of European and American influence on local society, politics, and morals." With that, Huntington launches into another of his positions that all roads in Islam lead to a place to hate America and the West. The revival of "non-Western religions is the most powerful manifestation of anti-Westernism in non-Western societies," he insists.

And the revival does not just reject an approach to modernism, but rather it is a rejection of the West and the "secular, relativistic, degenerate culture associated with the West," according to Huntington. He goes on to emphasize that this religious revival he sees is a "declaration of cultural independence from the West" and a "proud statement" that "We will be modern but we won't be you.'"

Still on the subject of religion and Islam, the author on page 210 relates world history in his favor, quoting Bernard Lewis, who said that for "a thousand years...from the first Moorish landing in Spain to the second Turkish siege of Vienna, Europe was under constant threat from Islam." And he alludes to Christians having pushed the Moors out of Iberia by 1492, and the rest of the conquered territory being taken back from Islam in due time. But Western colonialism - which had put a number of Arab nations (Iran, India, et al.) under the thumb of greedy imperialists - retreated in the 1920s and 1930s from Arab lands that had been exploited. In fact Huntington (p. 210), who likes using numbers to illustrate his points, claims that between 1757 and 1919 "some ninety-two" Muslim territories were seized by "non-Muslim governments."

But by 1995, he continues, sixty-nine of those ninety-two territories had been reclaimed by Muslims. And these "shifting relationships" between colonizing nations and the colonized - described by Huntington as having a "violent nature" - can be remembered through the fact that "50% of wars involving pairs of states of different religions between 1820 and 1929 were wars between Muslims and Christians."

As to the reasons…

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