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The Clash of Civilizations: And the Remaking of World Order

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This description may be from another edition of this product. The classic study of post-Cold War international relations, more relevant than ever in the post-9/11 world, with a new foreword by Zbigniew Brzezinski. Since its initial publication, The Clash of...

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infuriating generalizations; hurtful truths

In Huntington's model of international relations, there are several civilizations in the world: the West (Europe, USA), Sinic(China, Korea, Sinapore and Taiwan), and Islam. Other civilizations he mentions are Orthodox (Russia, Greece, Serbia, Romania, etc.), Latin America, Japan, Buddhism (mainland Southeast Asia), and Hindu (India). These civilizations relate to each other with varying degrees of hostility or cooperation. That's the thesis; it's pretty simple and really it probably shouldn't be so controversial. But there are several sources of controversy. In general, he infuriates liberals because he allows that race and religion are factors in politics, and he is a realist about the nature of politics and the fact of violence. He believes that the West is declining relative to Islam and Sinic civilizations. He is obviously correct, although it infuriates American patriots and many proud Europeans. The rise of China is creating huge changes in East Asia, as Chinese military and economic power becomes the dominant factor, replacing American power. Managing this transition is one of the great challenges of current US foreign policy. He was among the first to recognize this. He famously says that Muslim civilization has bloody borders, mentioning conflicts between Muslims and non-Muslims in the Balkans, Nigeria, Sudan, Kashmir, the Caucasus, Israel-Palestine, Lebanon, Chechnya, Xinjiang, the Philippines, and perhaps a few other examples. This infuriates many liberals, including especially liberal Muslims. However, he evidently believes that these conflicts stem primarily from a demographic youth bulge. He also believes that if there were a clear leader of Islam, as Russia is the clear leader of the Orthodox, that its borders would be far more peaceful. So, contrary to some of his critics, he does not believe that Islam is inherently violent. In fact, he explicity recognizes that Christianity has been as militaristic as Islam has ever been. (So he manages to aggravate many Europeans and Christians as well.) But for whatever reasons, Islamdom and Christendom are obviously generally in conflict. Huntington was among the first to recognize that this conflict is one of the principal issues of international relations today. The conflict is complex, however, and Huntington's treatment of it here is quite brief and simplistic, and few people interested in it will be satisfied. In particular, his description of the Balkan conflict will upset most people who have not considered a Serbian perspective. He does not believe the West should try to push its values on the rest of the world, including the concept of human rights. Internationally, he is a multi-culturalist, believing that the West should not bother trying to spread its culture: it just creates unnecessary conflict. Other cultures will not accept Western principles anyway, and they have their own principles which are just as good. This infuriates many liberals. He seems to think the United

Lucid and revelatory

Published in 1996, Huntington's book is stunningly prescient given the events of 9-11. He begins by mapping and describing his paradigm of the world's eight current major civilizations: Sinic, Islamic, Hindu, Western, Latin American, African, Orthodox, and Japanese. Much of the book is dedicated to an exposition of the relative rise and fall in fortunes of each. His well-argued thesis is that Western Civilization, led by its core state--the U.S., has been and continues to be in a period of relative decline versus other civilizations. These civilizations, namely Sinic (Chinese) and Islamic, perceive themselves superior and dominating over the long run. The demographic and economic forces propelling these civilizations are lucidly discussed and backed with statistical evidence which is compelling if not disturbing. His analysis of the threatening potential of Sinic and Islamic civilizations to the West is sobering without being xenophobic. His discussion of the role of the West and U.S. in the Soviet-Afghanistan war and the Bosnian-Serb-Croatian conflict provides valuable insight into the causes for the circumstances in which we now find ourselves. Make no mistake, this is a challenging albeit accessible work that requires some intellectual digestion. However, if you're looking a meaningful read about today's world---and the root causes of terrorism and wars that go beyond the usual trite and politically correct explanations of 'poverty and ignorance'---then read this book. It will be much more meaningful than the current flood of books on Afghanistan which either focus on either travel anecdotes or second-hand information (much of it probably wrong) on Osama bin Laden.Also recommended: 'Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil & Fundamentalism in Central Asia' by Ahmed Rashid

Too big a chunk of reality?

I remember noticing the essay on which this book was based, in an international newspaper several years ago. Though I knew nothing of the author at the time, I don't think it took me more than a paragraph or two to realize, first, "This is a major argument," second, "It has some validity," and third, "This is going to make a lot of people mad." The book is, of course, far more nuanced and detailed than the article. I do not agree with every point Professor Huntington makes, but it certainly carries through on the promise of those first few paragraphs. This book is one strong and rather iconoclastic model by which to understand international relations in the coming years. Even if you disagree with it, or find it offensive, this is definitely a book worth reading, or if you're a teaching, assigning your students to read and attack or defend. I do not think some attacks below (not all really arguments) on Huntington's approach to Islam were quite fair. I didn't see anything "pathological" or "paranoid" about his arguments, and he explicitly stated, time and time again, that Islam was not at all "monolithic." Actually, I think he is sometimes overly cautious and understated on the subject, in effect making all kinds of excuses for the militant character of Islam, and holding out the hope that it will mellow. Anyone who knows how Islam is perceived by non-Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa, India, or China, or is aware of the military career of Mohammed, can only be amazed how prevalent p.c. attempts to deny the obvious seem to be. (A phenomena we have seen with other absolutist idealogies.) Instead of trying to browbeat anyone who tells the truth about Islamic militarism and lack of freedom, why don't Muslim intellectuals change the realities? (If they can.) It is true, Huntington did not clearly define what he meant by "civilization." It seems odd to designate countries that have been taught atheism for eighty years, "Orthodox," for example. But I think the basic categories are sound, however we quibble about semantics. I see the relationship between China and the West as more ambivalent, though, in other words more potentially positive, than Huntington. (I wrote a book, True Son of Heaven, which describes common links between Chinese and Christian thought.) While Huntington discusses other variables, one of the main assumptions of this book is that powers clash. He generally seems to avoid dogmatism on the nature or intensity of the clash. So I agree that some tension in the relationships he describes is fairly inevitable, though I by no means ascribe to Real Politic or any deterministic or cynical view of human relations. Agree or disagree, Huntington's is a thesis that deserves careful consideration. It contains some hard truths, but as the Preacher said, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy." author, Jesus and the Religions of Man / d.marshall@sun.ac.jp
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