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VINE VOICEon 15 April 2007
This book was written as a prophecy about what the author felt would characterise the C21st. Now that we are nearly a decade into the C21st, we have the ability to look back and see if he was right. If yes, then this book was prophetic and its lessons should be learned. If not, then he is wrong, and the book is little more than an airport novel.

On one or two dimensions, Huntingdon has been extraordinarily accurate, predicting that Islamic extremism would become the number one security threat to the West in the C21st. Ominously, he predicted that the West would be driven to attack nations that possessed WMDs in the fear they would pass them on to terrorists. This is the Bush doctrine, written before Bush was even an elected official, never mind President. Equally ominous, he predicted that Islamic radicals would rally to the cause of any Muslim state attacked in such a way, and the influx of foreign insurgents into Iraq confirms this. Interestingly, the author predicts that the Taliban and Al Qaeda would be very prominent in the C21st, yet never actually names the organisations by name (in the case of Al Qaeda because it did not adopt its current name until several years after the book was written).

Huntingdon is slightly inaccurate in his prediction that China would become more bellicose and confrontational. At least so far, China has been warm towards the West, with trade deals and cultural exchanges flourishing. Another weakness of the book is his rather arbitrary definition of societies, and his notion that a "core state" would drive forward its respective civilisation. This is not the case, with supra-national agencies taking the place of "core states".

Overall, the book is highly recommended. However, given its relative age, it would be advisable to buy a more recent book on geopolitics as well, to top up the introduction that this book provides.
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on 24 August 1999
Huntington's central thesis is that major conflicts are now and have always been defined by clashes between fundamentally different civilisations rather than between similar nations, and that major conflicts occur on the boundaries between them. His theories apply not only to international conflict (so for example World War II can be seen as a conflict between Eastern and Western European civilisation and between Western and Japanese) but also to internal ones where countries lie on the "fault lines" between civilisations (so the troubles in Yugoslavia are viewed as conflicts between Eastern European and Islamic civilisations and so on). Huntington identifies the scope and causes of conflict, examines the politics of post-colonialism and national identity and surveys many other potential sources of conflict awaiting the civilisations currently competing for resources and prestige. Rather similar to Paul Kennedy's "The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers" in its breadth and scope, this book has much to say about the nature and causes of conflict. At times Huntington seems a little alarmist about the decline of Western civilisation, but his often strident tone can be ignored and the weight of evidence allowed to speak for itself.
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on 29 January 2003
Dividing the world into 7 major civilisations, in this book Huntington argues that in the post cold war era, countries tend to re-evaluate their position in the world in terms of identity. After the cold war, during which the division and conflict was between two ideologies, relations between countries in the post cold war era are increasingly shaped by cultural and civilizational factors, thus most countries tend to identify themselves in terms of civilisations.
The collapse of communism had been seen by many western scholars as an indication and a validation of the superiority of western thoughts. One example of this is Fukuyama who argues in his book The End Of History And The last Man that liberal democracy is the last stage of the evolution of the political and social systems through history. To add to this, due to its unchallenged military and its superiority since the fall of the communism, the west (mainly the US) has been able to defend its interests by defining those interests as the interests of the world community. Due to this the west is trying to impose its double standard rule on other nations using untrue terminology to describe this rule. For example, democracy is promoted but not if it brings Islamic parties to power, non-proliferation is preached for Iran but not for Israel, human rights are an issue with china but not with the US allies, aggression against oil-owning Kuwaitis is massively repulsed but not against non-oil-owning Bosnian. Huntington argues that the west won the world not by the superiority of its values, ideas or religion but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence, and as a reaction to the arrogant western approach the revival of non-western religions is the most powerful manifestation of anti-westernism.
A fault line war, war between two countries or groups from different civilisations, is the most dangerous war, as it will evolve to an international conflict involving other countries, each to support its civilizational-kin country. To avoid such clash he stresses the need to alter the Security Council to be a civilizational council, which means that every civilization should be represented by its core state. As well he stresses the need for the west to avoid interfering in such conflicts.
In his study Huntington is predicting two major conflicts with the west (represented by the US) in the twenty first century, the first one is with Islam, the second is the sinic civilisation (represented by China). These conflicts are likely to arise from the interaction of Western arrogance, Islamic intolerance, and Sinic assertiveness.
I think it is important to mention that Huntington's shallow interpretation of Islam is based on pre-conceived ideas, which lack the needed depth and objectiveness. Finally, I believe this book is a valuable piece of work for understanding how international affairs are shaped.
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on 21 March 2014
Samuel P Huntington's dark classic “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order”, first published in 1996, comes with positive blurbs from Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski, hardly lightweights on the darker side of things. The 2003 edition spouts a cover showing a Muslim flag alongside the star spangled banner, to boost sales, no doubt. Huntington's work is controversial, both among the official optimists á la Fukuyama, Clinton and Dubya who believe that America-with-a-capital-A will spread “liberal democracy” and “free market” economy all around the world, and those who prefer a dialogue between civilizations to a clash (or support one of the non-Western civilizations).

However, Huntington's work is actually *less* bellicose than I expected. Somewhat surprisingly, the author calls for a multi-polar world! Of course, it's a multi-polar world of a more “realist” kind than the harmonious co-existence most of us would have preferred. In Huntington's version, “fault line wars” between countries of different civilizations are never far away, and in a worst case scenario they may even lead to a new world war. The solution is a new balance of power between “core states” (the regional great powers of each civilization), the most important of which are the United States, Russia, China, India and Japan. The “core states” are also responsible for policing the rogues and rednecks of their respective civilizations, to make sure that “fault line wars” are kept to a minimum. Thus, the Russians should police the Serbs, India should police the Tamils, and (I suppose) the West should cool down the Croats or the Ukrainians. (Are we?) While this may sound like a constructive proposal, Huntington believes that the scheme will work only if Western civilization becomes less multi-culturalist and more centralized around the United States, the core state par excellence. Otherwise, the West will be eaten by its competitors. While talking about Western “democracy”, “individualism” and even “pluralism”, Huntington presumably wants less of each, i.e. a return to the good ol' days of the Cold War at its coldest. Huntington also sees Latin America as an appendage to Western civilization, which is – of course – ridiculous, until you realize that it's probably code for Latin America remaining within the U.S. sphere of influence (i.e. on its “back yard”).

One reason why Huntington considers Islam threatening, is that the Muslim world lacks a stabilizing core state, making it potentially more chaotic and dangerous than, say, Orthodox civilization (which is dominated by the stern hand of Mother Russia). The author discusses four possible claimants to the throne of a Muslim core state: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran and Turkey. He reaches the interesting conclusion that Turkey is the most serious contender for the role. Saudi Arabia, while economically strong, is militarily weak and too dependent on U.S. support for its national security. Egypt has an enormous population and the necessary religious clout (the Al-Azhar University, the closest thing the Sunni Muslim world has to a “general synod”, is situated in Cairo), but it's too dependent on both U.S. and Saudi economic aid. Iran is Shia Muslim, and hence a problematic choice of core state for the dominant Sunni Muslims. Thus, from the viewpoint of Realpolitik, the United States should presumably attempt to promote Turkey to a role similar to that of China, India, Russia or the U.S. itself. It's interesting to note that Huntington mentions Jewish civilization only in a footnote, and discusses the Israel-Palestine conflict mostly in passing…

Otherwise, Huntington's book is marred by an annoying Islamophobia (I don't usually use that term, but here is feels apt – see further below). In a section on “Islam's bloody borders”, the author claims that since 1928, the United States resorted to violence in only 17,9% of its conflicts, while Muslim states employed violence in 76,9% of the cases. This is, of course, pure poppycock. I wonder whether the Vietnam War and the Korean War are included in the 17,9% figure? Weren't those wars more important than, say, the Sand War between Algeria and Morocco in October 1963 or the Libyan-Egyptian War in July 1977? I also wonder whether the high Muslim percentage includes the Afghan resistance against the Soviet Armed Forces, the Somali invasion of Ethiopia or the Iraqi invasion of Iran, which were all aided and abetted by the United States? This brings me to my next point: as a superpower during the Cold War, the United States *didn't need* to respond by violence in most cases *since it had vassals who did it for them*. As an old Cold Warrior, Huntington constantly covers up the American tracks before 1989-91. Thus, the Indonesian attack on East Timor becomes a “Muslim” war against “Christians”, when in reality it was an American-supported attack on a leftist government. Huntington also cites a source which blames the war deaths in Bosnia on the Bosniak Muslims!

Huntington's take on the Balkan Wars is particularly galling. The Bosnian Muslims were probably the most secularized Muslims in the world. The remaining multi-ethnic communities in Bosnia supported the Muslim-dominated government in Sarajevo. Their Serb and Croat adversaries were essentially fascist. No multi-ethnic community supported Republika Srpska or Herzeg-Bosna. Despite this, Huntington complains about Bosnian Muslims buying arms from Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and clearly regards U.S. support for Sarajevo as a bizarre, “liberal” mistake. The Bosnian Muslims, after all, aren't part of “our” civilization. Essentially, he supports the Croats and (perhaps) even the Serbs! Here we see Islamophobia at its worst: apparently, not even secularized, Western-oriented Muslims have the right to defend themselves against genocide… To Huntington, Muslim Bosnia is really a new Iran in the middle of Europe! The Balkan Wars also *disprove* Huntington's main thesis about the post-Cold War reality being a clash of civilizations. He tries to cover up the salient fact that the Western powers originally preferred the *Serbs* to both Croats and Muslims, while his theory predicts the opposite (at least in the Croat case). (That the Western powers originally abetted the Serbs might sound counter-intuitive, but it's nevertheless true. However, a detailed discussion about this lay outside the scope of this review.)

Events after the book was published hasn't been very kind to Huntington's main thesis either. While a “clash of civilization” undoubtedly does exist, it's often trumped by fissiparous nationalism or purely Machiavellian considerations. Huntington himself mentions a number of anomalies: Orthodox Georgia being anti-Russian, Sinic or Confucian Vietnam being anti-Chinese, and U.S. support for the Bosnian Muslims. A few others relevant in 1996 would have been Catholic Slovakia's support for the Orthodox Serbs rather than the Catholic Croats, or Orthodox Romania and Bulgaria's support for NATO and the EU. Since then, we could mention: American support for Muslim Kosovo, American support for Muslim rebels in Libya and Syria, Iranian support for the secular regime of Syria (which is dominated backstage by a “Shia” sect even Iran considers heretical), Sunni Kurds and Shia Arabs cooperating with Western troops in Iraq against Sunni Arabs, and a closer alliance between the United States and Vietnam against China. There are even a few conflicts were ideology still play a certain role, such as the Latin American “pink tide” versus U.S. interests, and (of course) the Cuban-American stand off. Perhaps North versus South Korea could also be put in this category. Ironically, the more obvious “clashes of civilization” are usually other ones than those predicted by Huntington. He treats the Muslim world as one civilization, but today, it increasingly looks divided into two distinct civilizations: the Sunni and the Shia. A prediction: when the U.S. finally leaves Iraq, Iran will take over most of that Shia-dominated country. The worst gaffe is Huntington's firm belief that the Ukraine will remain a united country! Here, clearly, we are dealing with an almost paradigmatic case where the author's thesis is proven correct: a conflict exactly following the Orthodox-Western divide. Two other predictions: Catholic Europe will enter a period of more intense conflicts with secular/ex-Protestant Europe (creating problems for a Catholic West Ukraine); non-Arab Sunni Muslim states will react against Wahhabi “Arab cultural imperialism” (creating *openings* for the West to ally itself with the non-Arab Muslims).

Of course, it's uncharitable to expect a book written in 1996 to correctly predict every detail, so my main objection is really the one mentioned further above: it seems that the “clash of civilizations” haven't become the main trend, but is rather just one of several different trends, each about as strong as the other. To crack a joke: Huntington has been “mugged by Machiavelli”.

Does this mean that “The Clash of Civilizations” is not worth reading? No, I wouldn't go that far. In fact, the book contains a lot of interesting material which is even more relevant today, in the aftermath of the Arab spring and its spectacular failure, than it was in 1996. Here, Huntington's observations are often prescient. Thus, he points out that fundamentalism and modernism are *related* phenomena in the Muslim world, with fundamentalism being a peculiar form of Muslim “modernization”. Democratization in the Muslim world leads to the strengthening of fundamentalism, just as democratization in other non-Western societies strengthen nationalism, not the pro-Western liberals. Modernization, democratization and Westernizations don't always go hand in hand. Usually, the opposite is the case, as non-Western civilizations feel less dependent on Western cultural models, after having successfully assimilated Western technology (China, Japan and Iran are good examples). There is more than one path to modernization, with the Western path (while desirable from Huntington's perspective) being only one of several possibilities. Changing the culture of a civilization, while possible, is nevertheless extremely difficult: witness the failure of Turkish secularism or Soviet Communism. The author is also right that political ideology (in the narrow Western sense of that term, at least) plays a far less significant role in today's conflicts than during the Cold War, which was cast as a conflict between American capitalism/democracy/liberalism and Soviet or Chinese Communism, itself a Western ideology. Instead, religious and cultural traditions come to the fore. (Of course, this could conceivably change in the future. Apart from the “pink tide”, I note that the main insurgent movement in India is Maoist, not Muslim! It's not small, either.)

“The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order” might be immensely problematic in many ways, and it's obviously written by a man whose political affinities I hardly share, but it's nevertheless interesting and well worth reading. OK, kids, don't use this review for your college exams…
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on 21 October 2015
A book I have meaning to read for years - one of the most controversial, interesting and thought provoking texts of its kind published over the last 50 years. For me a test of such work is that I find it fascinating and challenging even when I am not fully persuaded by its argument. Having said this, Huntington is looking more and more prescient as the years pass.
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on 21 February 2003
This is rightly regarded as a classic in its field. That is not to say that it should be taken as gospel, far from it but that the points that it raises are all of serious consideration. The sheer breadth of scholarship is quite remarkable over an astonishing range of subjects: Buddhist theology to ancient Islamic history; and makes his arguments seem all the more compelling.
Huntingdon argues that despite globalisation the world remains a hugely diverse place and that the perceived homogenisation and Americanisation of global culture is in fact fairly superficial. One does not imbibe American values with your Coca-Cola. The relative power of the west, even of the new Hyper Power: the USA, is in decline as new centres of power rise, essentially East Asia and Islam. This is a challenge to many received wisdoms in the globalisation debate and is to be welcomed for that alone. It also seems rather convincing.
Analysing the world in terms of warring civilisations yields rich results even if Huntingdon’s taxonomy seems a little too neat and too arbitrary at times. Seeing Orthodox Christian countries as comprising a civilisation in their own right is perhaps a bit forced but it can also be quite helpful. Why were Bulgaria and Romania excluded from the EU’s recent expansion? Civilisational ties clearly bind in a way that cross civilisational ties can be merely pragmatic. Genocide and terrorism are so much more emotive when their victims are ‘people like us.’
His analysis, after the likes of Toynbee, of the shape of civilisational development is also fascinating if of little practical use.
For those who seek to make sense of the post cold war world Huntingdon provides a useful model although it will not hold in every case: the world is simply too complex for that. Like all such analysis it becomes immediately less convincing when it comes to pointing the way forward. Yet the truly global scope of his book is as rare as it is to be applauded and it is packed full of little known information. A truly impressive book which even if it won’t convince everyone should at least be considered by them.
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on 8 September 2008
This is a book which has had wide currency among international opinion-formers. The egregious Tony Blair has cited it many times (typically enough, without actually crediting it as such, just using the words as if the product of his own thoughts). My problem with it rests on some inadequacies of expression and treatment. The role of race is virtually ignored for one: Islam only attracts those in or descended from certain racial or sub-racial groups, where Islam has been predominant for centuries. Yes, there are a few mavericks and cranks who take it up, but these are rare exceptions. So Islam is NOT (as Huntington claims) likely to somehow take over the "West" EXCEPT by conquest, destruction or (most crucially) by Europe and elsewhere accepting vast numbers of Muslims (who have, as he says, a far higher birth rate) into the European or European-founded societies. Unfortunately this IS the case as Europe is flooded with infiltrating millions.

Huntington's view of "The West" is very Americo-centric. Instead of seeing our Age (I.E. the 2,100 years after 1415) as a whole as Anglo-American-German, as Rudolf Steiner did (he called it the "5th Post-Atlantean"), or as "the age of the white northern European", Huntington really thinks of America as the heartland of Western Civilization (and not, as some might, one of its graveyards!) and thinks that if America ceases to be "Western" by giving up individualism, the Christian church(es) etc, then America itself will be "de-Westernized" and the West would be "reduced to Europe and a few lightly populated overseas European settler countries [and] becomes a miniscule and declining part of the world's population on a small and inconsequential peninsula at the extremity of the Eurasian land mass" (paperback edition p.307).

This above viewpoint must be seen as absurdly misconceived and "little American". For one thing, even Western Europe has a population at least equivalent to that of the United States and its Canadian appendage. And some of the overseas offshoots of the European Empires (especially the British) have large populations which are still mostly of European descent, such as Australia, which is now counted as having about 20 million. And what is the obsession with mere numbers? The British ruled most of India and Africa and elsewhere with tiny groups of British/European civil servants and officers disposing of modest numbers of European police and soldiers.

To my way of thinking, the book is important because it does raise the subject, but apart from the above criticisms, it fails to note that in advanced sections of European (or, as Huntington would put it, "Western") humanity, there is a continuing evolution of consciousness which might lead to a quantum leap in civilization, particularly if Europe joins with a fully independent Russia, that is a Russia which is run by Russians and not "rootless cosmopolitans" with Russian passports. That Europe + Russia could be at least the foundation of a a REAL New Order over time!
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VINE VOICEon 12 January 2002
Much of the problem in having a good understanding of this book is that due to it's fame/notoriety, most people approach it with a preconcieved notion on the concepts that the authour it attempting to illuminate upon. Undoubtebly, Samuel Huntington is an expert in the field of international relations and writes this book in a fluid and clear style which is engaging to read. He is capable of explaining his views and backing them up with apropriate evidence as well. I have many subtle problems with the book but i'll limit my discussion to two in this review. Firstly, his downplaying of the unipolar view of America controlling the world and two, his decidely islamophobic streak. Many have intrepreted his book to be call to arms against islam in general. I'm a muslim and i'll admit his book is far deeper than that. Finally in the light of 11/9, many including Huntington will feel his theory has borne fruit with the clear clash of Islam and the west. But i would recommend reading the book and making up your own mind
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Professor Huntington wrote this book 15 years ago, as an expansion of his thesis on the importance of culture in determining allegiances and identity. His original thesis was first published in "Foreign Affairs" in 1993, not that long after the Soviet Union collapsed, and with it communism as an ideology that provided a structure for the economic relationships within a society. It was an attempt to answer the simply question raised by many a policy wonk and think tank habitué: Now what? (after 50 years of "Cold War"). The book has been widely influential; a minor "Bible" of sorts, and there is enough in it that, like the Bible itself, you can quote a certain passage to support your point of view. The title is a bit provocative, misleading, and even inappropriate, since it has been seized upon by those who which to promote endless war; those who President Eisenhower warned Americans against, the famous military-industrial complex, who have a vested interest in promoting the "clash" aspect. How much better if it had been entitled as the subject to this review, which is indeed the title that Huntington gave to the last section in his book.

Huntington's book was one of the first to elucidate the transition from the bi-polar world of the Cold War to the multi-polar world of today. The author identifies and characterizes the multi-polar areas: the West, Latin America, the Russian or Orthodox area, China, India and the Islamic world. With the rise of other power centers, the influence and dominance of the West has declined, much to the consternation of the supporters of implicit Empire. What is one of the true strengths of this book, and seems to have been missed by so many of the 1-star reviews is that Huntington does not have an exclusive parochial Western point of view; he has a global perspective. He knows that the pompous pundits of the West, who routinely lecture the non-Western areas with their message of: "You will be a better person if you become more like me" is strongly resented in those areas, and he says it again and again: `In addition to Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia and, to a lesser degree, Iran, have become modern societies without becoming Western" (p. 77). "It is a rejection of what has been termed the `Westoxification' of non-Western societies. It is a declaration of cultural independence from the West, a proud statement that: `We will be modern but we won't be you'" (p 101). He quotes Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir: "Asian values are universal values. European values are European values (p 109). Or, "What is universalism to the West is imperialism to the rest (p184).

There is much else, from his discussion of "cleft countries"; those that contain two strong cultural influences, such as the Ukraine, to the more provocative speculation about the United States becoming a cleft country, as the percentage of non-Hispanic whites falls below 50%. He presents a compilation of the world's conflicts; those that occur among cultures, and those within a given culture, and the latter predominate. Huntington is no Pollyanna. The essence of the problem of war is rooted in human nature: "...and finally is the ubiquity of conflict. It is human to hate. For self-definition and motivation people need enemies: competitors in business, rivals in achievement, opponents in politics" (p130). Although he does not say it, I'm sure he would concur that the same need for opponents is a dominant factor in academia. As to how that underlying need for conflict translates onto the global stage, consider: "The dangerous clashes of the future are likely to arise from the interaction of Western arrogance, Islamic intolerance and Sinic assertiveness" (p 183).

Nothing is inevitable in Huntington's analysis. He offers positive and prescient advise: "...and, most important, to recognize that Western intervention in the affairs of other civilizations is probably the single most dangerous source of instability and potential global conflict in a multicivilizational world (p 312). And: "This is a truth which some states, particularly the Untied States, will undoubtedly find difficult to accept. This abstention rule that core states abstain from intervention in conflicts in other civilizations is the first requirement of peace in a mulitcivilizational, multipolar world." From the Amen Corner: Amen.

On a personal note, I played the role of "the good American" in a Saudi sit-com, "Tash ma Tash." The episode concerned the impact of the events of 9-11 on Saudi nationals living in the United States. In one scene I was on a sofa, reading a book, as the events of 9-11 unfolded. I chose this book to underscore the cultural conflicts that would be enflamed by that event; I was instructed to cover the cross on the cover with my fingers so that the more conservative elements in Saudi society would not be offended (the cover was of an older edition.) I did, and they weren't. More such shows are needed to promote Huntington's concept of the commonalities of civilization, which we should all be striving for.

I do have reservations about parts of the book, like the map at the beginning that showed the colonies of Angola and Mozambique, as well as South Vietnam being part of the so-called "Free World" in the `60's. And I wish the title was different, but it is an essential book to read for how our thoughts are shaped. Furthermore, Huntington's unheeded advise, as the United States is still looking to "win" in Afghanistan, makes this a 5-star read.

(Note: Review first published at Amazon, USA, on July 05, 2010)
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on 11 July 2014
This is one of those books that everyone who thinks and cares about the future should read. You probably won't agree with everything in it, but Huntington's thesis is powerful and, I fear, has a lot of truth in it. I don't think this means that 'one world' liberals should give up, but it does show that the route to a future peaceful world will be a difficult one. (But what a grand challenge for bright, well-meaning people in the next generation!)

To me, the most interesting point is the continuing role of religions in defining supranational boundaries. Rather than getting fanatical at spreading our own faith, or going down the Dawkins route of rubbishing all religion, we need to get used to this basic fact.

It's a shame this wasn't on the bookshelves in the White House and Downing Street in 2003.
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