I finished Samuel Huntingdon’s Clash of Civilizations. It was truly the work of a genius. The longer review is coming later. Huntingdon is too pro-D.C. and very naive concerning the purity of NATO’s motives, but other than that he is prescient on about every major issue (He wrote this book in 1996). Here is the skeleton of the review, along with some tentative conclusions of my own:
- Civilizations assume the reality of objective cultures, but they are not identical to culture(s). I can’t remember exactly how SH defines civilization. There is an extended discussion on pp. 40-44. Frankly, I don’t think his definition, if any, is really that important. His book deals more with the empirical identity and clash of civilizations, rather than objectively defining them.
- Civilizations have core states: states that have at least de facto leadership over smaller states in the civilization. For example, Russia is the core state of the Orthodox civilization (which includes Ukraine, Belarus, and the Balkans, though the latter are compromised by their membership in NATO; likewise, China is the core st ate of the East Asian civilization, excluding Japan).
- Wars between actual core states of civilizations are quite rare. However, fault line wars are quite common. These are wars/battles/century-long skirmishes between two smaller states of two different civilizations that border each other. The obvious example is the Balkans: Orthodox Serbia fought Muslim Bosnia, both of whom were at war with Catholic Croatia
- While ideologies (Marxism, democratic capitalism) are nice and make academics and news pundits feel good, civilization/culture has a more primal claim upon people groups/ethnicities/states and in the absence of one ideology (say, Marxism) a nation will more likely identify with prior civilizational loyalties rather than the opposing ideology. For example, an old joke in former Soviet Union: our leaders lied to us about communism, but they told us the truth about capitalism.
Pros of the book:
His analysis is top-notch. We are reading a world-class scholar. Unlike 99% of elites in America, he knows that simply waving the magic wand of democratic capitalism will not make the nations swoon and willing become colonies of New York–and Huntingdon was actually attacked for making this obvious point!
He calls the Islamic threat for what it is. He is notorious for his famous “The borders of Islam are bloody.” I don’t really know how people can objectively respond to this claim. Yeah, it might be mean and bigoted, but look at the major hot spots of the world today–what religion is causing most of the trouble? In 1996 (at the time of the writing) 49 of the world’s 58 current conflicts had Islam involved. If it looks like a duck…
He gives an accurate (though extremely dated) analysis of the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. Of course, a lot of his musings are moot considering NATO’s bombing of civilians in Belgrade in 1999. Still, per his thesis on civilizational clash on fault lines, he does a stellar performance. Catholic Germany supported Croatia, the entire Muslim world–along with Hillary Clinton and Sean Hannity–supported the Muslim Bosniaks, and Russia supported Serbia. (he also documents American double-standards and calls them for what they are: when Muslims massacre a village and kidnap teenage girls it is because they are noble freedom fighters w. When Serbs execute 8,000 men in the 28th Bosnian Muslim infantry, it is because they are evil and genocidal. Even more strange, American conservatives who are almost 100% anti-Islam never challenge this fact and actually support Muslims).
Along similar lines is the Turko-Armenian-Azeri wars of the 1990s. Armenia was an Orthodox state who was beset by Muslim Turkey and Muslim Azeribaijan. During the Cold War the Soviet leadership had Armenians serving in high-rank positions and being trained by elite special forces. When the USSR fell, the Armenian military, keeping the Motorized Rifle divisions of that region, had a fairly impressive, if small, military. Russian intervention in the 1990s kept her smaller sister Armenia from being overrun by Muslims.
And these are just two examples. Huntingdon ends with a fairly interesting scenario on what WW3 will look like and how it will start. A few qualms with the book: he actually thinks NATO is preserving Western civilization and evidently he ignores the fact that his best friend, Zbignew Brzezinski advocates using the War on Terror as a way to surround Russia with missiles and bases. Ironically, Huntingdon had argued that doing so would actually make America lose the next world war, which will be a clash between a Chinese or Islamic (or both) civilization.
Huntingdon didn’t write many more books after this. He had a high standard of writing and actually threw away many top-notch manuscripts because they weren’t good enough. Too bad, for he is definitely worth reading.