ESSAY/BOOK REVIEW

The Clash of Civilization by Samuel Huntington
by humanrightpolitics

Abstract

Book Review on “Clash of Civilizations”The book review on by Samuel Huntington will focus on the author’s main arguments that the West, specifically the United State has been declining post-Cold War, and that modernization and westernization of the rest is by no means the universalism of American values. I will argue in favor or against the premise of the book. Theoretical approaches such as realism and liberalism will be employed in the analysis where necessary to show clear understanding of the subject. A critical analysis approach will be taken in narrating some of the author’s prediction that is either in concord or in discordance with the global event that has taken place since the book was written.

Most importantly, the controversial claim of the “decline of western power” will be evaluated by explicating what the author meant by such claim. I will take a position on whether the book is a true reflection on the recent past and current global issues, from terrorism to global conflicts and Arab revolution. These events will be used to support or counteract the author’s argument on the clash of civilization and current events will be used to analyze the predictions presented in the book in order to establish the degree of accuracy in Huntington’s prediction.

THE CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS
(Review Written by Bertram Okeke)

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The “Clash of Civilization” by Samuel Huntington (1996) is one of the most thorough and realist prediction of cultural-economic and geopolitics in the international politics. The book centers on cultural identities and how they were supposedly mold the international relation. The cartography presented in the book shows a stark decline of western influence in the regions in the post-Cold War era compared to the peak of the proxy-war. The “realist” picture depicted by the author is a useful starting point for analysis of international affair in what he considers a multi-polar world. Huntington views international politics in the lens of realism and broadly analyzed his predictions in the narratives of multi-civilizational dimension. He argues furthermore on the decline of the western power and influence by making a clear distinction between westernization and modernization, and that neither is capable of producing a universal civilization (21).[1] This is largely due to the idiosyncrasies between different cultures and religions, which could be considered as the base of his argument and the cause of the clash between different civilizations. The realist prediction that the Nation states will remain the principal actors in the world affair is consistent with the current state of international politics. The leveled a lucid distinction that globalization’s effects cannot supersede the place of Nation states actors, nor proselytize other civilization into the western model (58).[2] He noted that, “only naïve arrogance can lead Westerners to assume that non-Westerner will become “Westernized” by acquiring Western goods”(58).[3] This is particularly relevant in the past decade of Western attempts to export democracy in the Arab world that is evident in the invasion of Iraq and cogent promotion of market liberalism across the world. The pervasiveness of western technology such as cell phones, Internet, computers and social networking has done little to change the paradigm of the Arab perception of western powers. They have instead become more aware of their right to self-determination as we can learn from the Arab revolution.

The decline of the west and the rise of the rest have been more often articulated authoritatively by most political scientist but it is quite remarkable that the prediction has been predicted more than a decade ago by Huntington. The emergence of the new economic block such as the BRICS, (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) represents the fulfillment of this prophetic prediction. The unambiguous explication given in the book about American decline right after the victory of Cold war is relevant in current events. The West’s victory in Cold War has not brought triumph but exhaustion due to the secondary importance given to the internal issues such as huge government deficit, social disintegration, unemployment, stagnating population, low saving rates, drugs and crime amongst many other issues (82). These prospective domestic problems accumulated over the period that primary-policy importance was focused on reining the Soviet Union added to the economic decline of the United States in particular. The U.S decline after Cold War is analogous to the swift economic decline that culminated as a result of the decade-long “War on Terror” campaign and the stymied effort in finding and killing Osama bin Laden. Economic power has tilted in the favour of the Asia continent as well as political influence (82).[4] Chinese economic developments continue to be the single most serious security threat to America’s hegemony in twenty-first century (232).[5] China is now the second economic power overtaking Japan with varied predictions to overtake America by 2020 or earlier.

As Asian states become increasingly assertive, Islamic resurgence became the latest adjustment to the global system. The break up of the Soviet Union led to wars and the rise of religious fundamentalism throughout the former territories and the resistance of Islamic states to Western pressure. Islamic resistance to western ideologies simultaneously embodied the acceptance of modernity and recommitment to Islam as the guide to life (110).[6] For example, Osama bin Laden’s fundamentalist jihadism was successful due to his embodiment of modernity and culture, but at the same time ferociously opposed to western ideology. This is consistent on the earlier proclamation that westernization or modernization is by no means the universalization of western civilization. States and tyrants such as Libya under Gadhafi and Saddam Hussein Iraq, both with significant oil reserve, became defiant to western influence and simultaneously interest in nuclear capabilities. These events were not similar to the one advocated by Francis Fukuyama in his book “End of History” where he promulgated Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government (31).[7]

The West’s assumption that westernization and modernization of other civilizations is a global victory of liberalism is met with resistant in Muslim countries and China. The political loyalty among the Arab Muslims with respect to Palestinian occupation by Israel is a platform that rallies the Middle East against western ideology. The central problem in the relations between western civilization, particularly America and the rest, specifically Arabs and China, is the effort to promote a universal Western culture and its declining ability to do so. The United State invasion of Iraq in 2003 on the flawed argument of Saddam possession of Weapon of Mass Destruction economically exacerbated America’s international posture and influence.[8] The chauvinistic belief in American exceptionalism that led to Iraq war, the unsuccessful campaign of the war and the cost of the war further decimate the U.S economic prowess. The 9/11 attacks has a psychological message that the U.S is not impervious to attack. This ability demonstrated by Al-Qaeda has only made American targets more vulnerable which is a distraction from refocusing on their economic nemesis. Explicitly, the conflict between the West and Islam focuses less on territory than on broader inter-civilizational issues such as weapon of mass destruction, human rights, democracy, Islamic terrorism, and most importantly Western intervention in Arab states (212).[9]

The survival of the West depends on Americans reaffirming their Western identity and Westerners accepting their civilization as unique is evident in the President Obama’s inauguration speech when he addressed the Muslim world that “ we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect” and the when stated “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist”.[10] This is unprecedented for an American president to give the option of “willingness” to an undemocratic nation, signaling desire for cooperation based on willingness and mutual benefits. The U.S military involvement across Arab and South-East Asia regions contributed significantly to the neglect of important domestic policy which and simultaneously led to a swift economic decline and in relation to their influence. The point that was not given by the author was the precise response from the rest when the U.S initiates a paradigm shift by reaffirming their values as unique instead of universal. How would this be received among Islamic nations and other civilizations? What will the outcome the U.S foreign policy that is based on mutual respect and cooperation? The author did not give details in this respect. The economic recession of 2008 made this ever clearer that the western power is in a sharp decline beyond the chauvinist denial that American-exceptionalism is under ferocious challenge especially by the swift economic rise of Sino-civilization.

Muslim immigrants in America cannot become proselytized to fundamental Western values and ideology as they become westernized as much as the United States believes that universalism of western culture is the triumphalism of liberal democracy. The increase in homegrown terrorism in Europe and America is a typical example of this clash. The American born radical cleric Anwar Awlaki who motivated the Nigerian-under-wear bomber aboard the flight to Detroit on the Christmas day in 2011[11], and Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad who masterminded the failed New York square bombing are examples that westernization is not automatic conversion to western liberal democratic values.[12] The author’s foresight in predicting the trajectory of the U.S-Western decline more than a decade ago shows a clear understanding of International politics, American social and foreign policy and most importantly the unique element in every civilization. One can almost argue that the book was written post-September 11, 2001. The book is not utopian but the author’s main arguments were relatively consistent with the recent past and current event.

Bibliography

Huntington, Samuel. Clash of Civilization. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996. Print.

Johnson, Toni. “Threat of Homegrown Islamist Terrorism.” Council on Foreign Relations. (2011): n. page. Web. 2 Apr. 2012.

Martin, Patrick. “Al-Awlaki Killing is no end to battle with Al-Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula.” Globe and Mail 4 Nov 2011, n. pag. Web. 7 Apr. 2012.

“Barack Obama’s Inaugural Speech.” New York Times 21 Jan 2009, n. pag. Web. 7 Apr. 2012.

Trotta, Daniel. “Cost of war at least $3.7 trillion and Counting.” Reuters News 29 June 2011, n. pag. Web. 7 Apr. 2012.

[1] Huntington, Samuel. Clash of Civilization. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996. 21. Print.

[2] Huntington, Samuel. Clash of Civilization. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996. 58. Print.

[3] Huntington, Samuel. Clash of Civilization. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996. 58. Print.

[4] Huntington, Samuel. Clash of Civilization. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996. 82. Print.

[5] Huntington, Samuel. Clash of Civilization. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996. 232. Print.

[6] Huntington, Samuel. Clash of Civilization. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996. 110. Print.

[7] Huntington, Samuel. Clash of Civilization. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996. 31. Print.

[8]Trotta, Daniel. “Cost of war at least $3.7 trillion and Counting.” Reuters News 29 June 2011, n. pag. Web. 7 Apr. 2012.

[9] Huntington, Samuel. Clash of Civilization. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996. 212. Print.

[10] “Barack Obama’s Inaugural Speech.” NewYork Times 21 Jan 2009, n. pag. Web. 7 Apr. 2012.

[11] Martin, Patrick. “Al-Awlaki Killing is no end to battle with Al-Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula.” Globe and Mail 4 Nov 2011, n. pag. Web. 7 Apr. 2012.

[12] Johnson, Toni. “Threat of Homegrown Islamist Terrorism.” Council on Foreign Relations. (2011): n. page. Web. 2 Apr. 2012.

Review Written By Bertram Okeke Jr

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