Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Clash of Civilizations?
a Grand Compromise?

In a world where a dozen men can bring down two towers in the largest city in North America, our notion of national defence shifts. There are many suggestions about where defence policy should move next. The CASR (Canadian American Strategic Review) has created an extensive database of articles on the net.

It includes excerpts from "Clash of Civilizations?" by Samuel P. Huntington — Director of the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University. The article was written in 1993. I took some quotes from these excerpts.

With the end of the Cold War, international politics moved out of its Western phase, and its centerpiece became the interaction between the West and non-Western civilizations.

Civilizations are differentiated from each other by history, language, culture, tradition and, most important, religion. The people of different civilizations have different views on the relations between God and man, individual and group, citizen and state, parents and children, husband and wife, as well as differing views of the relative importance of rights and responsibilities, liberty and authority, equality and hierarchy.

These differences are the product of centuries. They will not soon disappear. They are far more fundamental than differences among political ideologies and political regimes. Differences do not necessarily mean conflict, and conflict does not necessarily mean violence. Over the centuries, however, differences among civilizations have generated the most prolonged and the most violent conflicts.

The processes of economic modernization and social change throughout the world...weaken the nation state as a source of identity. In much of the world, religion has moved in to fill this gap, often in the form of movements that are labeled "fundamentalist".

Most important, the efforts of the West to promote its values of democracy and liberalism as universal values, to maintain its military predominance and to advance its economic interests engender countering responses from other civilizations. Decreasingly able to mobilize support and form coalitions on the basis of ideology, governments and groups will increasingly attempt to mobilize support by appealing to common religion and civilization identity.

On both sides the interaction between Islam and the West is seen as a clash of civilizations. The West's "next confrontation," observes M. J. Akbar, an Indian Muslim author, "is definitely going to come from the Muslim world. It is in the sweep of the Islamic nations from the Maghreb to Pakistan that the struggle for a new world order will begin."

Bernard Lewis comes to a similar conclusion: "We are facing a mood and a movement far transcending the level of issues and policies and the governments that pursue them. This is no less than a clash of civilizations — the perhaps irrational but surely historic reaction of an ancient rival against our Judeo-Christian heritage, our secular present, and the worldwide expansion of both."

The West in now at an extraordinary peak of power in relation to other civilizations. Its superpower opponent has disappeared from the map. Military conflict among Western states is unthinkable, and Western military power is unrivaled. Apart from Japan, the West faces no economic challenge. It dominates international political and security institutions and, with Japan, international economic institutions.

The very phrase "the world community" has become the euphemistic collective noun (replacing "the Free World") to give global legitimacy to actions reflecting the interests of the United States and other Western powers.

Modern democratic government originated in the West. When it has developed in non-Western societies it has usually been the product of Western colonialism or imposition.

Conflict between civilizations will supplant ideological and other forms of conflict as the dominant global form of conflict. International relations, historically a game played out within Western civilization, will increasingly be de-Westernized and become a game in which non-Western civilizations are actors and not simply objects.

Western civilization is both Western and modern. Non-Western civilizations have attempted to become modern without becoming Western. Non-Western civilizations will continue to attempt to acquire the wealth, technology, skills, machines and weapons that are part of being modern. They will also attempt to reconcile this modernity with their traditional culture and values. Their economic and military strength relative to the West will increase.

Hence the West will increasingly have to accommodate these non-Western modern civilizations whose power approaches that of the West but whose values and interests differ significantly from those of the West. This will require the West to maintain the economic and military power necessary to protect its interests in relation to these civilizations. It will also, however, require the West to develop a more profound understanding of the basic religious and philosophical assumptions underlying other civilizations and the ways in which people in those civilizations see their interests.

On the same site is response to this article.

A theory of the democratic peace has been incorporated into a broader theory of social and political evolution by Gwynne Dyer, who has argued that the communications revolution, rising literacy worldwide, the erosion and disintegration of patriarchy, and the collapse of militarism and the war system are all intimately interconnected ...

Since the advent of urban civilization some five or six millennia ago, states have had to rule through terror and repression. Part of the mechanism for instituting centralized state control and viable armed communities was the almost universal subjugation of women. The communications revolution has changed all that. Nations of hundreds of millions can now make decisions collectively in ways that were physically impossible before the rise of literacy and the development of mass communication technologies. Accordingly, patriarchy is collapsing throughout the most educated countries.

From Dyer's point of view, it would be profoundly mistaken to assume that war and civilization confrontations are the inevitable, unavoidable prospect for the 21st century. Quite the contrary — [but only] if leadership, foresight, and a spirit of realistic accommodation can be fostered between North and South. What is ultimately needed is a "grand compromise" between the rich, demographically stable northern countries and the poor, demographically exploding southern states. The compromise will necessarily entail a severe cut to the material standard of living of people in the rich northern states. No aspect of life will be unscathed.

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