Of the six conflicts (within the fifty mentioned) that resulted in 200,000 or more deaths, three were between Muslims and non-Muslims, two were between Muslim cultures, and just one involved non-Muslims on both sides. The author references a New York Times investigative piece in which fifty-nine ethnic conflicts were reported in forty-eight locations in 1993. In "half these places Muslims were clashing with other Muslims or with non-Muslims"; in thirty-nine of the conflicts groups from different civilizations were engaged, and two-thirds of those were between "Muslims and others" (Huntington, 257).
Keeping in mind this book was published in 1996 -- and updated data employing Huntington's Muslim-violence theme is not immediately available -- it is worthy of note that of the twenty-nine wars (that involved 1,000 or more deaths in a year's time) in 1992, twelve were intercivilizational, and of those dozen, nine were between Muslims and non-Muslims (257). Huntington raised a lot of eyebrows -- and encountered a blistering serious of public criticisms -- for the following quote he published on page 258 of his book: "Islam's borders are bloody, and so are its innards." In a footnote to that quote, Huntington admits that he also used that quote in a Foreign Affairs article he published, and it "attracted more critical comment" than any other passage in his narrative. His response to the outrage by readers and scholars? "Quantitative evidence from every disinterested source conclusively demonstrates [the] validity" of that assertion, he insists (258).
Moreover, Huntington was far from finished with his shellacking of Islam; on page 258 the author claims that Muslim societies had "force ratios" that were "significantly higher" than other countries. The average force ratios and military effort ratios of Muslim countries (in the 1980s) were "…roughly twice those of Christian countries," Huntington goes on. "There is a connection between Islam and militarism," (the quote is from James Payne on page 258).
When it comes to international crises, Muslim states have employed violence to resolve 76 crises out of a total of 142 in which Muslims were involved (this is reportedly between the years 1928 and 1979), Huntington continues (258). And when they did resort to violence, Muslim states used "high-intensity violence, resorting to full-scale war in 41% of the cases," the author writes (258). Another tactic in Huntington uses in his arguments against Muslims is to compare Muslim vs. Christian dynamics. While Muslim societies were using violence in 53.5% of their conflicts (between 1928 and 1979), the United Kingdom only resorted to violence in 11.5 of their crises and the U.S. only resorted to violence in 17.9% of their international crises (Huntington, 258).
Challenging Huntington's Assumptions and Assertions
Did Huntington go out of his way to paint a picture of Muslims as violence-prone? Is he biased against Islam and digging up out-dated statistics to prove his points? If Muslim societies are as violence-prone and as hateful towards the West as Huntington's book indicates, the future will be blood-soaked and grim. But political science professor Kunihiko Imai believes first of all that Muslim nations don't despise and eschew democracy because democracy is related to Christianity. Imai reminds readers in the International Journal On World Peace that Islam and democracy are in some ways not compatible for the following reasons: a) the Islamic concept of the "absolute sovereignty of God" and hence God's law, the Shari'a, cannot be "altered by elected parliaments"; and b) the very concept of elected officials in parliaments creating laws for Muslims has been seen in many Islamic cultures as "blasphemous" since only Allah (God) can make laws (Imai, 2006, p. 11).
Secondly, Kunihiko believes that the "…empirical data does not render support for Huntington's apocalyptic view of the violent conflicts between the west and the Islamic-Confucian states" (26). Hence, rather than accept Huntington's policy recommendations ("maintain military superiority… [and] exploit differences and conflicts among & #8230;Islamic states") the West would be better off "promoting economic and political liberalization of developing countries" in order to make it a "more cooperative, if not completely peaceful, world" (Kunihiko, 26).
Meanwhile, professors Nanda Shrestha and Kenneth Gray -- also writing in the International Journal on World Peace -- posit that what Huntington is in fact advancing in his Foreign Affairs article and indeed in his book, is "not a hypothesis to be statistically tested" (Shrestha, et al., 2006, p. 34). Rather, the authors assert, Huntington is advancing "…an agenda, a worldview to be globally implemented by the U.S. against its invented enemies, all in the name of global domination" (34).
Shrestha goes on to insist that Huntington is actually creating a "new geography" in order to serve "overlapping geopolitical and geoeconomic interests of the United States: one world under one nation" (35). Moreover, while Huntington advocates a position that is ideologically "rooted in the Cold War mentality," his worldview is based on his "selective read of the post-Cold War landscape… which has been dominated by the West, at lease since 1600 C.E…." (Shrestha, 35).
Other Potential Prescriptions for Peace between the West and Islam
Is detente possible between the West and Muslim nations? What will be the motivating factor? How and who will provide the pivotal spark that reduces the anxiety between the two cultures? Author Kenneth Neal Waltz explains that although people's instincts may be good -- and it can be assumed that the great majority of Muslim citizens, and American citizens, have good basic instincts -- their tendency to be gullible "may prompt them to follow false leaders" (Waltz, 2001, p. 17). This is of course true in the West and its true in the Middle East. Could it be that good-hearted, God-fearing Muslims followed a leader like the Ayatollah Khomeini -- even though in hindsight his hatred for the West caused him to be irrational and make false statements -- because they were gullible? When Khomeini ordered the assassination of author Salmon Rushdie (offering a million dollars if a Muslim would kill Rushdie), was that using good judgment? Certainly not.
Professor Waltz goes on to reference iconic thinker Bertrand Russell who believed that when society's "possessive instincts" are on the decline peace can be achieved (17). Could there ever be a time in the tensions between the West and the Middle East when governments and citizens are less possessive of their ideologies and political / religious / ethical machinations? One has to doubt that time will ever come.
Waltz also references philosopher William James, who posited that war is "rooted in man's bellicose nature" which cannot be changed; however, James also believed the drive to go to battle "can be diverted" (18). The view of renowned theologian Reinhold Niebuhr -- which applies to the Muslim world as well as the West -- is also presented in Waltz's book. Man is a "pigmy who thinks himself a giant," Waltz writes on page 21, paraphrasing Rev. Niebuhr. Purely out of "self-interest" man creates "economic and political theories and attempts to pass them off as universal systems"; Western man and the Islamic men are born and raised "in insecurity and seek to make [themselves] absolutely secure," Waltz continues (21). Man is nothing more than a man but "thinks himself a god," the author asserts, again paraphrasing Niebuhr.
Do those somewhat cynical descriptions help define Americans and Muslims alike? The answer has to be a qualified yes, based on the terrible wastefulness that Americans have visited on other countries: a) Vietnam (defoliating huge portions of the country with Agent Orange, indiscriminately bombing civilian populations ); and b) Iraq (111,937 civilians killed in a war that was supposed to be based on locating "weapons of mass destruction" -- weapons that were never found; brutal torturing of prisoners) (Iraq Body Count, 2011). Some Muslims (in this case, fanatical Muslims like those loyal to the terrorist policies of al Queda) believe that they have God on their side by killing Americans and other Westerners (9/11, the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, suicide bombers in London subways, etc.). "Men are led not by the precepts of pure reason but by their passions," Waltz points out, paraphrasing Spinoza.
"Men, led by passion, are drawn into conflict" and rather than being "mutually helpful" to other humans "they behave in a manner that is mutually destructive" (Waltz, 24) (paraphrasing Spinoza). Moreover, Waltz references Spinoza's belief states that are "natural enemies" (like the West and several Middle Eastern countries) must "constantly be on guard, one against the other" (25). This is not because states are "never honorable and peaceful," but because states "…may at any moment become dishonorable and belligerent" because passion has a tendency to "obscure the true interests of state as of men" (Waltz, 25).
As was mentioned in the Thesis for this paper, without a more thoughtful perspective from both the U.S. And Middle Eastern nations the international world will continue to be disrupted by wars and acts of terrorism. According to Eric Hoffer, the most "accessible and comprehensive of all unifying agents" is hate. It will take years,…