Huge in scope, but lacking in depth,
This review is from: The Clash of Civilizations: And the Remaking of World Order (Paperback)
No doubt Huntington's rather blunt rebuttal to those who believed the post-Cold war world heralded 'peace for our time' brought him many critics, but his book is not the rambling of some bellicose hawk charting an inexorable path to the 'mother of all battles.' What he does present is a civilizational model that identifies culture and cultural identities to be the prime determinants of cohesion, disintegration, and conflict among peoples and nations in the post-Cold war world. His structure of civilizations in terms of member states, core states, lone, cleft and torn countries, clearly defines the geopolitical landscape of his model, which I found compelling when used to interpret economic relations and the growth of Chinese economies, and for predicting the accomodation of China as the hegemonic power in East Asia. His observations of intra-civilizational Islamic relations and conflict are brief, though important, as are those that associate the Islamic Resurgence (a product of social, cultural, and economic factors) with extra-Islamic conflict. However, despite giving an extensive list of references and bibliography, Huntington often fails to draw from multiple sources to support his beliefs and so underline the validity of his model for interpreting current events. Furthermore his identification of the major civilizations also required a more detailed synopsis that described their religion, values, and customs. This would have clearly illustrated their cultural commonalities and differences and provided a stronger foundation for developing his model. The shortcomings here are later revealed when despite his assertion that Japanese is a unique civilization, he never describes what distinguishes it from Sinic civilization, so I am left wondering what these differences are and how might they shape Japanese policy with respect to accomodating China or acknowledging Chinese hegemony in East Asia.
Recent history has seen the replacement of military regimes and personal dictatorships with Islamic regimes in Islamic societies, the intensified battle between Islamic nations and groups for leadership of the ummah, the protracted conflict on the borders of Islamic civilization, and the reorientation of Turkey toward its Islamic heritage, that certainly attests to the validity and usefulness of Huntington's model with respect to predicting events regarding Islamic civilization. However relations between North and South Korea remain hostile, the political integration of Taiwan with the PRC remains doubtful, Orthodox Romania and Bulgaria are now members of the EU, and Catholic Venezuela has developed close ties with Islamist Iran. Clearly there are key determinants other than culture at work here, that I would venture to say involve ideological, economic, and security interests. Furthermore in light of Orthodox Romanian and Bulgarian integration into the EU, conflict between Orthodox Russia and the West is far more likely to be driven by economic and security factors than cultural factors. Finally, given the fact that the hi-tech economies of the modern world are oil dependant, and that over half the world's oil reserves are in the Middle East, it seems that the Middle East, not East Asia as Huntington believes, identifies the primary turf of international relations in the post-Cold War world.
Given the global diffusion of power between civilizations the validity of this model for interpreting current events cannot be denied. But for policymakers to view the world through the lens of this model is likely to produce serious errors in foreign policy. The increasingly multipolar modern world requires a more complex model that incorporates cultural as well as ideological, economic and security factors.