If Hobbs was correct and international politics is nothing more than a state of war, then a state of war will exist between belligerent nations, whether in the form of a nationalist state or not, as long as they survive politically. The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 did not finally bring peace as many had hoped. It only directed the threat of war in other directions.

To understand that threat in the summer of 1993, Samuel P. Huntington, produced a paper published in Foreign Affairs entitled, “A Clash of Civilizations” Huntington argued, that now that the Cold War had ended, a shift would take place in the world order. Instead of belligerent states like the super powers of the Cold War facing off against each other, the world would divide off into civilizational groups, tied together by a string of “cultural identities”. Cultural identification with these groups would be the emphasis on which peoples would defend and maintain their own particular interests.

Huntington describes the debate over his paper as a furious collage of “impressed, intrigued, outraged, frightened, and perplexed” reactions. The tremendous interest in “The Clash of Civilizations” influenced Huntington to expand on his paper. He subsequently wrote and published a longer explanation contained in his 1996 book by the same name.

The Clash of Civilizations is a political science model for possible conflict during the twenty-first century. Huntington argues that conflicting national states no longer pose the greatest threat to global conflict. Huntington believes that it is the civilization, states with mutual identities and culture banding together to form a more formidable presence against other states of other civilizations which might threaten them.

The central theme of this book is that culture and cultural identities, which at the broadest level are civilization identities, are shaping the patterns of cohesion, disintegration, and conflict in the post-Cold war world.

Huntington identifies seven civilizations today, but admits that this figure is open to debate. The exact number of civilizations past and present range anywhere from five to twenty-three according to who is offering the opinion. However, for Huntington’s thesis the seven civilizations are Chinese, Japanese, Hindu, Islamic, Orthodox, Western and Latin American. These seven fit well into Huntington’s model of a possible global conflict chillingly discussed in the fifth and final section of this book.

Huntington basically sees the west declining and other civilizations like China and Islam rising in influence and power. Indeed, Huntington devotes an entire section to the shifting balance of these civilizations. For the West, especially the United States, this scenario is extremely serious. For a deteriorating West will be challenged at some point by the other rising civilizations.

Western civilization has as one of its conventions the spreading of western style democracy to as many countries as possible. Western governments believe the more democratic the world becomes the more safe and secure it will be. However, other cultures and societies do not see it the same way. And, as Huntington points out, “the West’s universalist pretensions increasingly bring it into conflict with other civilizations, most seriously with Islam and China.” That combined with the prospect of a declining West and a rising East, Huntington warns could bring about a global conflict with devastating consequences for all.

Although Huntington doesn’t specifically state it, the implication is clear enough. The state is no longer the main political implement of war as it has been for the last two hundred years or so. Civilizations now supersede states as the new device for making war.  States are relegated to a secondary role in Huntington’s thesis. However, it is essential to note, their importance is not diminished, only altered.

The position that “core states” are a focal point to each civilization is a crucial component to the civilizational theory. It is the “core state” of each primary civilization, which is taking the place of the superpower standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. For America this means several adversarial countries exist in the world, which can at any time rally or “bandwagon” with its other civilization entities to confront and possibly take the United States and its allies to war. In other words there are several Soviet Unions now as opposed to only one a few years ago.

But this ominous scenario is not left without hope for a different future. Huntington describes religion as a possible alleviating factor between belligerents in this civilizational world. Of course the irony here is that religion is one of Huntington’s essential components of cultural and societal unity in the civilizational theory.

Huntington’s book is well organized and well argued. Reading it many years after it was first published does present some out of date literature. But, these are minor references and really have to be considered anecdotal to the seriousness of the topic. As a political scientist he is targeting policy makers and thinkers with this book. It might be one of the more important books of our time, if any of Huntington theorizes come to pass. Of course, there are those that say that this type of conflict is inevitable especially after 9-11 which could give Huntington  the prophetic reliability of a clear reading of the twenty-first century global situation in the 1990s.

Twenty-two years after Huntington published his theories, at least part of what he theorized appears to be coming to pass. The Islamic civilization one of the two major concerns for the West according to Huntington, has been moving in that direction for the last two decades. A typical example are Muslim fighters who steal their way to Syria to join in the fight against the “infidel,” are from many different countries. Islam is what binds this movement together, not the nation state system.

This disturbing consequence of our modern world caps itself by drawing in hundreds of millions of Muslims who by their own beliefs cannot side with the nation state system. They are forced to side with extremists because they are only ones holding up to  culturally universal Muslim values about women, gays, Jews, Christians, marriage, divorce, and Sharia law as it applies to Islam.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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