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Samuel Huntington's "clash of civilizations".

By SkyLynx Nov 12, 2002 1149 Words
Samuel P. Huntington's paper "The clash of civilizations" defines the shifting of causes for friction between nations. He describes the changing of the guard, between secular ideological friction, such as democracy versus communism, to cultural and religious reasoning. Huntington's hypothesis is based heavily on examples of recent struggles between civilizations all over the world. I agree with Huntington's hypothesis because it is evident that since the fall of the "Iron curtain" culture and religion have replaced ideas as the fundamental instigators of conflict. This is also evident citing specific examples from the middle-east, the surrounding areas and from citing examples of conflict between the western world and various other regions around the world.

"The Velvet Curtain of culture has replaced the Iron Curtain of ideology as the most significant dividing line in Europe". It is obvious that since the fall of the soviet union there has been a shift away from ideological conflict, mostly because most nations are democratic, and a shift toward cultural and religious conflict. Since the end of world war 2 and up until 1989 with the fall of the Berlin wall, the world has been divided along the ideological line of democracy versus communism. It's simple, either you allied yourself with the east which made you a communist sympathizer, or you allied yourself the west. Many struggles and wars were fought along this political divide, an example of this would the Vietnam war. The two super powers used this country as a macro-chessboard. Either side had absolutely no reason to be there, however since one was, then the other had to be. What would happen is that the struggle between the Soviets and the Americans would a cause a civil war. The sparking of this war was when the Vietcong, a socialist rebel organization in Vietnam, started waging war on the south. The Soviets and the Chinese then started backing the Vietcong in the north by sending munitions and other means of war. The Americans saw this as an expansion of Communism and entered the war by backing the Vietnamese in the south. The result was a war fought, not because of any land or resources or even an event, but rather over ideas. After the fall of the Soviet union and the "democratization" of Russia and her newly independent nations, there remains only one super power in the world - The United States of America. Thus, there is no one strong enough to counter the ideas of the United States, therefore the shift for struggle and conflict has shifted from ideas to identity. This shift is cultural and religion, it pits people of the same nation but of different ethnic groups against each other. Or it can unite several nations of the same ethnic group in a struggle against another nation of a different ethnic group. Such is the case of the gulf war. A war fought over natural resources for some and for others it was a war of Islam against the encroachment of the United States onto Arab soil.

"This warfare between Arabs and the West culminated in 1990, when the United States sent a massive army to the Persian Gulf to defend some Arab countries against aggression by another". It is evident that United States went to fight this war to preserve its self interests. Most predominately were the Kuwaiti oil reserves that the United States depends on. On the other side of the issue, Saddam Hussein turned the conflict into a call to arms for the nation of Islam to rise against the American invaders. In other words, he changed the war from one of resource acquisition to a cultural and religious one. It is quite obvious that the United States only wanted to protect the oil, they had no desire to fight another crusade. Saddam Hussein knew that he was fighting a losing battle, so with some clever marketing, he painted a picture to his Arab neighbors showing the nation of Islam rising against the Americans. They bought it and if not officially, then unofficially supported Hussein. "This centuries-old military interaction between the West and Islam is unlikely to decline. It could become more virulent. The Gulf War left some Arabs feeling proud that Saddam Hussein had attacked Israel and stood up to the West. It also left many feeling humiliated and resentful of the West's military presence in the Persian Gulf, the West's overwhelming military dominance, and their apparent inability to shape their own destiny". So, it would appear that ethnic pride and religious righteousness can play a major role as a global force for either peace or war. Most likely though, the latter.

Cultural and religious divides also occur in economics, Huntington points out. "Americans react far more negatively to Japanese investment than to larger investment from Canada and European countries". The case here is that Americans identify more with Canadians and Europeans on a cultural and religious level. Where as, the Japanese are alien to Americans. They have a different religion, they have a different culture and language. So it seems that Americans are friendlier towards an investment from their Canadian neighbors to the North because it doesn't seem like a take-over if you're the same people. To them, it seems far more hostile when an "alien" is trying to buy up even a little bit of your country. The United States and Canada were both founded by the same people, Christian Europeans. Therefore, we and they feel a kinship for one another and naturally would prefer to do business with one another. "As the post-Cold War world evolves, civilization commonality, what H.D. S. Greenway has termed the "kin-country" syndrome, is replacing political ideology and traditional balance of power considerations as the principal basis for cooperation and coalitions". What this is saying is that countries now are allying themselves along different schemas. No longer is it which political ideology does your country belong to, but rather, what is the cultural and religious identity of your people. Therefore, countries will ally themselves with similar cultural or religious counterparts when forming treaties, pacts or even economic agreements.

It is safe to say that as long as the world is divided and not united as one single nation, there will always be a clash of one sort or another. The point that Huntington is making is that the reasoning behind these clashes is evolving from ideas to identities. No one can predict what the next evolution of conflict will be, but for now it is over culture and religion. "The clash of civilizations thus occurs at two levels. At the micro-level, adjacent groups, along the fault lines between civilizations struggle, often violently, over the control of territory and each other. At the macro-level, states from different civilizations compete for relative military and economic power, struggle over the control of international institutions and third parties, and competitively promote their particular political and religious values".

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