Samuel Huntington
February 4, 2007 12:09 AM   Subscribe

Samuel Huntington is interviewed by NPQ
posted by semmi (7 comments total)
You read the Communist Manifesto and you know what the core of it is. What we have, however, is a looser set of values and beliefs, which have remained fairly constant for two and a half centuries or so. And that’s really rather striking.... If one of the drafters of the Declaration of Independence came back today, he would not be surprised about what Americans are saying and believing and articulating in their public statements. It would all sound rather familiar.

That's interesting. One of the fascinating things about de Tocqueville's Democracy in America is how relevant so much of it still seems, especially when he talks about the American character.

In terms of stability, it is unclear which country will emerge, if any, as the dominant or hegemonic power in the Middle East. [Israel] is hardly in any position to become the leading power [among Muslim states].

Iran is a possibility, though it is Shiite [and majority non-Arab] while the bulk of the Arabs are Sunni....

Turkey ... is an important state, but again it’s not Arab....

So, what prospects are there for an Arab state serving a leading role comparable to the role that other states place in other regions? There is no obvious candidate. Saudi Arabia has the money but a relatively small population. Iraq was a great potential leader, as a sizable country with great oil resources and a highly educated population, but it went off in the wrong direction. Maybe Iraq will come back and become the dominant power among Arab countries. That seems conceivable.

I found it interesting he did not mention Egypt, but then again Egypt's relative strength largely draws on US military aid (set by treaty at 2/3 of what we give Israel). In any case, he seems to be proposing a pan-Arab or pan-Muslim bloc, and that's been tried before. The example of Libya is instructive -- Gaddafi was spurned by the Arab League, and turned his attention to Africa, where he is now regarded as the father of the African Union -- his continent's Jean Monnet. It's pretty clear that the rest of the Maghreb feels no great identification with Peninsular Arabs, either. And the Peninsula is dominated by the Saudis, set against all the sultanates and republican tribal entities on the outskirts that ibn Saud failed to conquer.

And Pakistan -- the only nuclear Muslim power -- was another omission. But they certainly aren't part of the Arab orbit. Most considerations for that country come second at best to the death embrace they have with India.

We're getting beyond the Middle East, but I think the overall point is salient -- there are clear and relatively obvious fracture points preventing the hegemony/simplicity that Huntington would like for his analysis. On the other hand, those tend to support his overall concept of cultural/ideological clash points. One may only conclude that the Arabs and the Middle East will remain fractious and weak. The long-term implications for American policy are that a hegemonic peace will not emerge.
posted by dhartung at 1:26 AM on February 4, 2007

He graduated from Yale and received his Ph.D. from Harvard.

So all his views on the Middle East are probably wrong.
posted by three blind mice at 3:01 AM on February 4, 2007

three blind mice: ding ding ding!

Clash of Civilizations is one of the silliest books I've ever read. It's jingoist propaganda for people fond of only-slightly-crypto-racist generalizations about massive groups of people, most of which fall apart upon closer examination. I was about to say the man is a joke, but sadly too many people seem to take him seriously for joke status.

A critique of his book:
Most of the argument in the pages that followed relied on a vague notion of something Huntington called "civilization identity" and "the interactions among seven or eight [sic] major civilizations," of which the conflict between two of them, Islam and the West, gets the lion's share of his attention. In this belligerent kind of thought, he relies heavily on a 1990 article by the veteran Orientalist Bernard Lewis, whose ideological colors are manifest in its title, "The Roots of Muslim Rage." In both articles, the personification of enormous entities called "the West" and "Islam" is recklessly affirmed, as if hugely complicated matters like identity and culture existed in a cartoonlike world where Popeye and Bluto bash each other mercilessly, with one always more virtuous pugilist getting the upper hand over his adversary. Certainly neither Huntington nor Lewis has much time to spare for the internal dynamics and plurality of every civilization, or for the fact that the major contest in most modern cultures concerns the definition or interpretation of each culture, or for the unattractive possibility that a great deal of demagogy and downright ignorance is involved in presuming to speak for a whole religion or civilization. No, the West is the West, and Islam Islam.
posted by winna at 8:09 AM on February 4, 2007

I don't think that he properly refuted Amartya Sen's criticism that he's reifying cultures. He seems to dismiss it out of hand by restating his weak theory of historical paradigm shift.

What about the crusades or the conquest of Islam across the Middle East? Were these struggles not both transnational and primarily ideological?
posted by The White Hat at 8:20 AM on February 4, 2007

Chalmers Johnson: Empire v. Democracy
posted by homunculus at 11:20 AM on February 4, 2007

this guy's still alive??
posted by zouhair at 2:33 PM on February 5, 2007

"The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion . . . but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence." -- Samuel Huntington

What the Middle East needs is not a hegemonic peace (a peace imposed by one powerful country) but rather economic integration with the rest of the world. The potential economic strengths of a relatively well-educated, well-fed, common-language-having bloc of 300m people spread over 2 major seas and in possession of a huge amount of natural resources is not hard to imagine. However it's also precisely because of that potential strength that make it so tempting to just plunder, divide, and conquer for everyone else.
posted by cell divide at 3:06 PM on February 5, 2007

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