This summer, American academia will celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Samuel Huntington’s most controversial article, later book, on the post-Cold War era. “Clash of Civilizations?” was published for the first time in the summer issue of the semi-scholarly journal Foreign Affairs, and was considered the manifesto of US foreign policy after the fall of the Soviet Union. With his publication, Huntington established the foundation of what would become the dominant and unchallenged narrative discourse in world politics during the 1990s and 2000s, especially after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington. Huntington created the discourse of “Islam is the enemy” and “Islam is the new bogeyman,” to use Stephen Walt’s analogy. Now, twenty-five years after its publication, this article evaluates whether Huntington’s assumption was correct. Does Islam really represent a global threat? And are Muslims the bogeymen of the twenty-first century? The answer, according to this article, is emphatically no!
This study seeks to engage with Samuel Huntington’s thesis of the “Clash of Civilizations” within the conceptual framework of international relations theory, specifically the debate on the nature, extent of change, and perception of threat in international politics. It also inspects the position of Islam and Muslims within this debate from a comparative perspective by discussing the theory presented by Huntington, particularly within the concept of structural realism. Huntington, it is presumed, represents an unequivocal example of the type of scholar known as “traditional theorists” for their belief that the aim and the function of domains of theory are to be “always for someone and for some purpose” (Cox 1981, 128).
The study seeks to demonstrate that Huntington’s theoretical development was not only couched in political, economic, and ideological contexts of the post-Cold War era, but also locked within the framework of rationalism and the positivist paradigm, including rational choice theory and utilitarianism principles, specific to the study of social phenomena in international relations.
It elucidates that Huntington’s thesis was not just “misleading,” “biased,” and “orientalist,” but promotes a “pseudo-science” argument, as the late Edward Said described in one of his famous lectures delivered against Huntington’s argument and its ontological and epistemological fallacies about political existence (Said 1998). Furthermore, Huntington’s thesis misreads the economic, social, and political history, conditions and the power of Islam as an actor and force in international politics in the post-Cold war and September 11 (“9/11”) international arena. Nevertheless, Huntington’s article it still essential in understanding current changes in world politics, and particularly in Western politics with the rise and expansion of transnational political Islamic movements and violent–radical Islamic groups over the last decade. Finally, the study argues that Islam (and particularly political Islam) did not, and still does not, represent a structural threat to the international community as Huntington forcefully tried to demonstrate. The author believes that the real clash is within Islam itself, and not with other civilizations. This article explores such idiosyncrasies by focusing on the concept of structural change in international politics, on the one hand, and the current developments happening in the Arab world and the greater Middle East since the outbreak of the “Arab Spring,” on the other. It demonstrates that Islamists and so-called political Islamic forces are concerned more about domestic changes in their own communities than changing the international sphere.
THE END OF THE COLD WAR AND THE REPRESENTATION OF ISLAM
With the end of the Cold War in 1989, global security underwent serious transformations, beginning with the emergence of a unipolar world order, the Gulf War of 1990, the disintegration of former Soviet republics, and the rise of transnational terrorism. These transformations have once again raised the debate about change in international politics. This debate seeks to answer the following questions:
Does any change that occurs in world politics have the same impact on global security issues, or are there differences between some impacts compared with others?
Was the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 more important than the destruction of the World Trade Centre in New York in 2001?
What are the elements and variables that can be used to measure and determine how important these changes are?
After the fall of the Soviet Union, writers such as Bernard Lewis (Lewis 1994) and Huntington (1993) began to talk about “The Islamic Threat” and “The Green Threat” to the West and the broader world order. In 1993, Martin Indyk, former US National Security Advisor for President Bill Clinton, warned in a speech at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) about the emerging threat of radical Islamic fundamentalism, stating that the United States should help the people and governments of the Middle East to confront this threat (Paris 1993). While Huntington, in his widely quoted article “Clash of Civilizations,” argued that the next clash would be between the West and Islam. He based this declaration on projections that Islam would soon represent the biggest threat and challenge to the world order because of its ideology and refusal to embrace the democracy and liberalism of the West (Huntington 1996). However, after almost twenty-five years since Huntington’s study was published, the clash never happened as hypothesized. According to Fuller (2002), the reason for this was that Western strategists and writers asked the wrong questions about Islam. Fuller argues that the right question, and the real issue, is not “What is Islam?” but “What do the Muslims want?”
It is important at this point to clear up the confusion surrounding the meaning of “Islamist.” Realistically, it would be wrong to consider or perceive “Islamist” as signifying a unified entity, since there are many types: some are very moderate and pro-democratic, while others are extremely radical and promote ultra-right and anti-Western components, which include violent, terrorist Takfiri or Jihadi groups. According to President George W. Bush (Bush 2001), the problem is not with Islam itself, but with terrorists and radical groups that try to promote violence and justify the killing of innocent people. Huntington, however, did not agree. He believed that “Fourteen hundred years of history demonstrate otherwise” (Huntington 1996, 209). His was a different, binary, Manichean perspective of world politics. For him, Islam was equivalent to terrorism, violence, and the antithesis of peace and convergence with the West.
Huntington’s approach was relentless and bordered on the obsessional in how he selectively made use of an isolated course of historical events to draw a correlation between Islam (as a religion) and Islam as terrorism or an extreme religious behavior. For him, political Islam and fundamentalism represent one component of “the much more extensive revival of Islamic ideas, practices, and rhetoric and the rededication to Islam by Muslim populations” (Huntington 1996, 110). He believed that the clash between Islam and the West was not a political struggle or economically competitive as it was with China, which Huntington feared would provoke the occurrence of a “major war” if Washington decided to challenge Beijing’s rise as Asia’s regional hegemon (Huntington 1996; Mearsheimer 2001).
Conversely, in this realistic assessment of the conflict with China and other great powers, Huntington supposed that the clash with Islam was infinite. Moreover, he believed that due to the “inhospitable nature of Islamic culture” for democracy, and Islamic tendencies, Islam would prevail over Christianity in the long run. Huntington’s worst nightmare was not nuclear Armageddon, but that “Mohammed wins out” (Huntington 1996, 65). “The underlying problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilization whose people is convinced of the superiority of their culture and is obsessed with the inferiority of their power. The problem for Islam is not the CIA or the U.S. Department of Defense. It is the West, a different civilization whose people is convinced of the universality of their culture and believes that their superior, if declining, power imposes on them the obligation to extend that culture throughout the world. These are the basic ingredients that fuel conflict and the West” (Huntington 1996, 217–18).
From the end of the Cold War to the present, many strategists have identified Islam as the new enemy of the West; however, their knowledge about Islam is minimal and fractional. Their lack of knowledge and understanding of Islam make Western scholars portray Islam as absurd and perceive it as incompatible with democracy and Western civilization (Fuller 2002; Salame 1993). In contrast, Islamists’ political agenda aims to “restore a heavily idealized old order of things” (Salame 1993, 22), which prevents them from not representing a threat to global security because they are currently focusing on their own internal issues. According to Ghassan Salame, until the Islamists succeed in establishing this order, they do not pose a threat to the West, and even if they do succeed, there are many other obstacles and difficulties posing a greater threat to global security.
Islam, in fact, had not been considered a problem for the West until 9/11. The reason behind this shift in perception was not solely caused by Islam and Muslims hating Western societies (Hoffman 2001), but rather as a result of misinformation and propaganda that saw the vast bulk of Muslims thinking that the United States and Western nations supported oppressive regimes that fostered an environment in which acts of terrorism became conceivable and, worse still, even gratifying in the eyes of the majority (Fuller 2002).
WHAT WENT WRONG WITH HUNTINGTON’S THESIS?
Following the collapse of the former Soviet Union, American policymakers were in anxious search of “the new enemy,” or, as Stephen Walt argued, “building up the new bogeymen” to justify the policies of American domination (Walt 1997). According to Huntington, the United States became “the lonely superpower” in the international system (Huntington 1999), and, in order to preserve and protect its global interests and position, it needed to justify its interventionist and neo-colonial policies in the Middle East. This formal discourse was legitimized, normalized, and institutionalized through theories and ideas such as Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations,” Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History (1992), Lewis’s “The Roots of Muslim Rage” (1990), and other imperialist, orientalist, and racist theses by neoconservatives and radical academics such as Daniel Pipes, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Bill Kristol, Douglas Feith, and others (Fukuyama 1992; Lewis 1990).
Furthermore, Huntington was affiliated with the positivist (utilitarianism) camp within the Anglo school of international relations, which believed that the ultimate purpose of any theory is to help US decision-makers initiate and execute the best policies and alternatives that preserve American interests and strengthen its power by promoting the White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) minority. American values and norms, as determined and formulated by the military–industrial complex, lobbies, and interest groups.
Huntington’s continuous argument reproduced a solid Orientalist oeuvre that concentrated on “others” such as Islam, as a holistic culture. He makes the same set of essentially reductive, negative generalizations about Islam and other rivals of Western and American values, power, and interests in the post-Cold War order (Said 1979, 296). This was not the first time that Huntington had been accused of invalidating his own conclusion by manipulating historical, mathematical, and statistical data. In 1986, Yale’s mathematics theorist, Serge Lang, accused Huntington of misusing mathematics and engaging in “pseudo-science,” “propagandis[m],” and “nonsense” by distorting the historical record and using pseudo-mathematics to make his conclusions seem convincing. Lang referred to Huntington’s famous and widely quoted Political Order in Changing Societies (1968), in which he argued that the apartheid regime of South Africa could be considered an example of what Huntington called a “satisfied society” based on some dubious statistical manipulations. However, Huntington completely ignored events such as the Sharpeville massacre (1960) and other extrajudicial killing activities (Urquhart 2002, 305).
By re-examining and investigating the data and the mathematic techniques Huntington uses, Lang suspected that these conclusions were simply “false,” “not valid,” and even fabricated. According to Lang (1998, 39, 47, 49), Huntington “was using false pseudo-mathematical argument to support the arguments he wanted to justify greater authority.” Lang found Huntington’s work pretentious pseudo-science and contained political opinions that he passed off as science, and used mathematics to support his personal theories, such as liberal nationalism known as “Cold War liberalism.” Lang labeled Huntington’s argument and analysis of political orders, especially the non-Western types of orders, as “a type of language which give[s] the illusion of science without any of its substance” (Lang 1998, 43). Other commentators described Huntington’s work as “surrounded by a veneer of science and gussied up with meaningless algebraic equations and statistical data given to two or three places of decimals” (Urquhart 2002, 305).
Huntington’s fabrication included manipulating the data to prove his pretext and biased assumptions regarding the supremacy and perfection of Western political orders. He achieved this by claiming that the so-called Third World countries (i.e., in Latin America, Africa, and Asia) in their quest for economic modernization had struggled to stabilize their politics and incorporate new groups with new demands, and ended up not with political development but with what he called “political decay” (Huntington 1965). Instead of examining the reasons behind that “decay” by investigating the structural (political, economical, and social) roots that created this underdeveloped condition, Huntington restores this degeneration to what he called “the dominance of unstable personality leaders.” “With a few notable exceptions, the political evolution of these countries after World War II was characterized by increasing ethnic and class conflict, recurring rioting and mob violence, frequent military coups d’état, the dominance of unstable personalistic leaders who often pursued disastrous economic and social policies, widespread and blatant corruption among cabinet ministers and civil servants, arbitrary infringement of the rights and liberties of citizens, declining standards of bureaucratic efficiency and performance” (Huntington 1968a, 3).
For Huntington, these non-Western regions are unclassifiable, which facilitates the attempts to segregate, dehumanize, and demonize them in order to justify the use of coercion (military intervention) to “modernize” them. “They [the Third World] are unclassifiable in terms of any particular governmental form because their distinguished characteristic is the fragility and fleetingness of all forms of authority. Charismatic leader, military junta, parliamentary regime, populistic dictators follow each other in seemingly unpredictable and bewildering array” (82).
Huntington did not question the consequences and the heavy burden of colonialism, the role of the Cold War, and the extensive rivalry between Western/American power and the Soviet Union against the less developed countries of the postcolonial era. Intentionally, he overlooked critical issues such as political independence, economic development, and social emancipation of European imperialism and colonial repression and exploitation for the benefits of US overseas interests and its competition with the former Soviet Union during the Cold War.
From his early academic career, Huntington was pro-military and imperialistic interventionist towards foreign policy. As a result of his attitude, he was labeled as one of the intellectuals who “glorified the military profession.” During the Vietnam War, Huntington was described as a “hawk” (Zakaria 2011) and because of this stand “he earned the nickname ‘Mad Dog’ among his students and was branded a war criminal” (Gawthorpe 2018, 301, 302). Although Huntington is not classified as a “Vietnam expert,” he was, according to The Harvard Crimson (1967) magazine, considered be “an authority on the development of political institutions.” In mid-1967, he travelled to South Vietnam as “a consultant to the State Department,” where he spent six weeks “carry[ing] out research for a 100-page report on the Vietnam War to the [Lynden] Johnson administration entitled ‘Political Stability and Security in South Vietnam’ at the request of the Policy Planning Council of the State Department.” Here he appeared to suggest “the forceful depopulation of the South Vietnamese countryside might be the key to victory in the conflict” (Gawthorpe 2018, 305, 306).
In 1968, he wrote an article in Foreign Affairs magazine that caused “a tremendous furore” (Kaplan 2001). Huntington argued that, “the most dramatic and far-reaching impact of the war in South Vietnam has been the tremendous shift in population from the countryside to the cities” (Huntington 1968b). He argued that the number of people in Vietnamese cities increased to almost forty percent of the total population, which foolishly led him to claim that “South Vietnam [was] more urban than Sweden, Canada, the Soviet Union, Poland, Austria, Switzerland and Italy.” Furthermore, he also based his arguments on “statistics on kill rates, infiltration rates, Chieu Hoi (defection) rates, hamlet pacification categories and voting turnouts” (Huntington 1968b). Unluckily, these figures may be reasonably accurate, but they are also often irrelevant to the conclusions they are adduced to support.
Instead of criticizing the cruelty and overwhelming bombing of civilians, Huntington discussed the increasing numbers of the voter turnout in the 1967 presidential election compared with the 1966, and maliciously claimed that: “[T]hese changes were undoubtedly the result of the strong pacification efforts made in those provinces” (Huntington 1968b). Finally, instead of admitting that the invasion of Vietnam and bombing civilians were terrible mistakes and urging the US administration to end its shameful military campaign, Huntington argued that achieving triumph in the war could be through what he called “forced-draft urbanization and modernization,” which considers a continuation of imperialistic and interventionist policy by other means. “In an absent-minded way the United States in Vietnam may well have stumbled upon the answer to “wars of national liberation.” The effective response lies neither in the quest for conventional military victory nor in the esoteric doctrines and gimmicks of counter-insurgency warfare. It is instead forced-draft urbanization and modernization which rapidly brings the country in question out of the phase in which a rural revolutionary movement can hope to generate sufficient strength to come to power” (Huntington 1968b).
A few decades later, Huntington (1996, 312) departed from his critical support for the US in the Vietnam War, writing: “Western intervention in the affairs of other civilizations is probably the single most dangerous source of instability and potential global conflict in a multi-civilizational world.” Nevertheless, when it comes to Islam and Muslims, the old “Mad Dog” Huntington seems to be still believing in his old imperialist and interventionist perspectives (Hodgson 2009). Therefore, Clash of Civilizations is not the only crucial example of Huntington’s falsification and perversion, as Said and others demonstrate. His argument about Islam and Muslims was just “old wine in a new bottle.” Lang’s criticism of Huntington’s approach in Political Order in Changing Society, where he “distorted the historical record and to have used ill-defined concepts with spurious numerical values in meaningless equations,” can also be used to describe his work on Islam and the clash of civilizations and other Huntington works.
In Clash of Civilizations, Huntington assembled an array of circumstantial observations as proof of the impending confrontation with Islam and Muslims. For instance, and instead of seeking to question or re-examine the privilege and dominant discourse about Muslim behavior through historical and sociological investigation or social history exploration, in an attempt to understand the nature and structure of Muslim societies, Huntington chose the easiest (positivist) path to do that. Simply, he labeled and dehumanized all opposition to the interests of the American ruling elites, as terrorists, underdeveloped, and violent. In his article “The Age of Muslim Wars” Huntington (2001) insisted on his former idea that “Islam’s borders are bloody and so are its innards” (Huntington 1996, 258). He argued that contemporary Muslims (like their predecessors) were “barbaric and terrorists” without investigation or rigorously examining such statements and generalizations. Ingenuously, he stated that: “Violence also occurs between Muslims, on the one hand, and Orthodox Serbs in the Balkans, Jews in Israel, Hindus in India, Buddhists in Burma and Catholics in the Philippines. Islam has bloody borders” (35).
Outrageously, Huntington presented Muslims and Arabs as basically murderers, and violence and deceit are carried in their genes (Said 1979, 287). The Orientalist manifestation in the Clash of Civilizations refers to Islam and the Muslim world as a “culture area” and aims to eradicate the plurality or differences among the Muslims, in the interest of one difference; one that sets Muslims off from everyone else, whoever they may be, instead of giving prominence to Islam’s rich, multicultural, ethnic, and nationalistic variations. Purposely, Huntington was aiming to target Muslims as a subject matter for study and analysis in order to legitimate and facilitate Western and American control over the Islamic world (309).
Huntington represented a symbol of power and authority in political life. He had always been a controversial public intellectual, policy consultant, and academic who worked incidentally as a consultant for the State Department, the National Security Council, and the CIA and other agencies under the Johnson and Jimmy Carter administrations. In academia, he had been a distinguished professor of political science at Harvard University since the late 1950s, and had never left Harvard. Huntington was also director of Harvard’s Center for International Affairs and, in 1986–87, elected president of the American Political Science Association (APSA), where he had the power of control over the appropriations of grants, fellowships, and funding projects. On political and policymaking files since the 1960s, Huntington served as a member of the National Security Council and adviser to Democratic Vice-President Hubert Humphrey during his unsuccessful 1968 presidential campaign against Richard Nixon. He also served as chairman of the Democratic Party’s Foreign Policy Advisory Committee in the mid-1970s, and coordinator of security planning in the National Security Council (1977–79) during the administration of President Carter (Encyclopedia Britannica 2009, 137). Therefore, when Huntington wrote about Islam and Muslims, it was with authority and with power, but not towards Arabs only, but also towards all non-Western and non-Christians and with “unquestioning certainty of absolute truth backed by absolute force” (Said 1979, 307). “The hold these instruments have on the mind is increased by the institutions built around them. For every Orientalist, quite literally, there is a support system of staggering power, considering the ethereality of the myths that Orientalism propagates. This system now culminated in the very institutions of the state” (307).
In order to achieve certain unilaterally designed political ends, Huntington used terrorism to stigmatize and denigrate Muslims without providing any solid evidence or rigorous analysis. For instance, he did not question that argument by investigating whether these wars and conflict were offensive or defensive ones. Were Muslims aggressors or victims? Illegally, he claimed to have the monopolized right of representation for Islam and Muslims. In his Clash of Civilizations thesis, he presents Islam in a medieval, ahistorical, and monolithically constructed dehumanized image, in the manner of any ultra-right-wing commentator on Fox News and not in the manner of one of the brilliant American social scientists of the second half of the twentieth century.
Huntington interpreted terrorism as a phenomenon that concentrates on “a subset of political violence, used by a range of actors to attack other actors, but with the intention of spreading fear beyond its immediate target” (Horgan and Boyle 2008, 57). In other words, for Huntington and others (such as Fukuyama, Lewis, and Pipes), terrorism is the continuation of politics by other means (Horgan and Boyle 2008; Schmid 2004, 202). By defining terrorism with this conventional actor-based classification is stenographic, and politically biased, he failed to acknowledge the empirical evidence of the extent and nature of state terrorism (Jackson 2008, 377). Traditionally, the study of terrorism has been employed and exaggerated by politicians and affiliated scholars such as Huntington and others to achieve certain political purposes. By relying mainly on the study of it as a violent phenomenon while neglecting its wider social, historical, and economic aspects, turns it into a negative reflection of Western identity, and renders self-reflective, and probing research difficult (Smyth et al. 2008, 2).
By describing Muslims as enemies and as a threat to international order (and as terrorists later), Huntington’s thesis suffers from major ontological and epistemological flaws. By stigmatizing Muslims in these qualities, he focused on the causes of terrorism, the evolution of terrorist groups, and how states should fight it. Through his selective approach (as Said described it), Huntington portrayed a phenomenon such as terrorism as socially constructed, and culturally specific, to the nature and characteristics of Islam as a religion and as a society. Such arguments had been proven to be weakly conceptualized, built on prescriptive and speculative methods, and lacking rigorous critique, non-academic, non-theoretical, methodological foundations, and “could not meet minimum research standards in the more established branches of conflict and policy analysis” (Gurr 1988, 143).
As a point of fact, based on the critical school of international relations argument, this kind of literature suffers from serious shortcomings as it needs to be further developed theoretically and methodologically to avoid the lack of definition and rigorous analysis, the incapability to build a cohesive theory and other flaws. The main criticism levied against the Clash of Civilizations thesis is that its definitions are profoundly politically biased, fail to study terrorism in a systematic way, and are unvoiced about both terrorist states and non-state groups that allied with Western powers. Furthermore, this thesis had frequently been used to legitimize military intervention in the Global South against movements and groups that opposed Western interests and hegemonic projects (Jackson, Smyth, and Gunning 2009, 5–6; Raphael 2009).
HUNTINGTON’S FALSIFICATION: FROM
CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS TO WHO ARE WE?
Another example of Huntington fabrication, exaggeration, and sophisticated methodological falsification is his last book Who Are We?The Challenges to America’s National Identity (2004). In it, Huntington abundantly mixed his ideological and chauvinistic (not patriotic) sentiments with false science and biased knowledge to exhibit his old arguments that can be summarized in Jean-Paul Sartre’s famous phrase “Hell is other people.” This attitude had been manifested in Huntington’s pre-death writings. Who Are We? exemplifies the extraction of his racist and prejudiced views, and even his imperialist and haughty position. The main conclusion of this book claimed that the most existential threats facing the United States is its “non-white” citizens, such as Latino, Chinese, Koreans, and, of course, Muslim “Americans,” and particularly the Hispanic immigrants, who outnumbered African-Americans as the largest minority in America (Huntington 2004a, 302).
Similar to Clash of Civilizations where Huntington designed the “good guys” in international politics being from Western–Christian civilization, in Who Are We? he defined what he called “American identity.” Moreover, this identity is merely a product of what he called “the Anglo-Protestant culture” components of which are the English language, Christian faith, work ethic, and values of individualism and dissent (Lozada 2017). “Americans, it is often said, are a people united by their commitment to the political principles of liberty, equality, democracy, individualism, human rights, the rule of law, and private property that are ‘embodied in the American creed’” (Huntington 2004a, 46). This WASP society is the core of the so-called “American Dream” (70). This “American” identity had been essentially fragmenting and threatened by what Huntingdon called “the rise of multiculturalism, and racial, ethnic, and gender consciousness” (13) or what he called “the Americano Dream.” He believes that Anglo-Protestant culture (and its religiosity) cannot prevail with the Spanish-speaking immigrant’s culture. He later argues, “[it] threatens to divide the United States into two peoples with two cultures (Anglo and Hispanic) and two languages (English and Spanish)” (Huntington 2004b, 32). “In the late twentieth century, developments occurred that, if continued, could change America into a culturally bifurcated Anglo-Hispanic society with two national languages. This trend was in part the result of the popularity of the doctrines of multiculturalism and diversity among intellectual and political elites” (Huntington 2004a, 221). This ideology had been created by the continuous flow of new waves of immigrants from Latin America, especially Mexico. According to Huntington, those immigrants are less able to assimilate than past immigrants; and the threat of the Spanish language Huntington conceives as a disease infecting the cultural and political integrity of the United States (Lozada 2017).
Huntington strictly opposed calling immigrants “Americans,” despite all the years of being de facto and de jure American citizens by birth, by being raised in the country and even by culture. According to him, this is because “those” immigrants encourage multiculturalism over American identity and values (Huntington 2004a, 221). For Huntington, it is the multicultural identity of “anti-European civilization” that is threatening “those qualities that have defined America since its founding” (365). Therefore, the only way to give immigrants (especially the Hispanics, who are perceived by him to be equal to Muslims in his clash of civilizations discourse and Third World’s revolutionaries and liberation movements in political orders), the accreditation and recognition of becoming a part of “this” Anglo-Protestant American dream is only by making “their dream in English” and claimed that the majority of American public opinion believe that “anyone who wants to stay in this country should have to learn English” (166). Selectively, even contradictorily, these “others” cannot emulate Huntington’s standards, and would be labeled as “demographic Reconquista” and an “illegal demographic invasion.” This is at a time when Mexicans, in particular, are trying to restore areas America took from Mexico by force in the 1830s and 1840s (221).
Repeatedly, Huntington contradicted himself and his own propositions. While in Who Are We? he undeniably declared that Hispanic and Mexican culture and identity was the most crucial threat to American identity, in Clash of Civilizations he tried to demonize and draw a cultural distinction between Islam and the West by proclaiming that Mexico was culturally more adjacent to American and Western civilization and identity and that accommodation between Anglo-American North America and Spanish-Indian Mexico should be considerably easier than that between Christian Europe and Muslim Turkey.
The crucial inter-civilizational issue of immigration highlights this difference. The fear of massive Turkish immigration generated resistance from both European elites and publics to bringing Turkey into Europe. In contrast, the fact of massive Mexican immigration, legal and illegal, into the United States was part of Salinas’s argument for NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement]: “Either you accept our goods or you accept our people.” In addition, the cultural distance between Mexico and the United States is far less than that between Turkey and Europe. Mexico’s religion is Catholicism, its language is Spanish, its elites were oriented historically to Europe (where they sent their children to be educated) and more recently to the United States (where they now send their children). (Huntington 1996, 150)
Over the years, it seems that Huntington never changed his Cold War mentality or his beliefs. Up to his death, the well-known “Mad Dog” civil strategist remained a true believer of anthropophobia, conspiracy theory, and addicted to the game of creating and manufacturing new illusionary bogeymen.
The global order is showing increasing signs of failure (Saleh 2018). At the present time, we are living in a “Fascist Moment,” to use Theo Horesh’s expression, or “Imperial Racism,” to use Michael Hardt’s expression, when oligarchic forces in the West not only have appointed themselves guardians over international law and security but also are the source of the most brutal actions in the world. The West tries to normalize and institutionalize practices and discourses of chauvinism, xenophobia, and racism through dehumanizing and labeling “foreigners [as] suspicious, refugees [as] greedy, poor people [as] dangerous, Arabs [as] unreliable, Muslims [as] the enemy, Africans [as] lazy, and so on” (Horesh 2018, quoted in Saleh 2018). Consequently, the world order has moved on from the continuity of the Foucauldian global “disciplinary society” to a more invasive society of control (Deleuze 1992). For example, Hardt characterized current times as a “global society of control” (Hardt 1998, 140), where “protection and oppression can be hard to tell apart” (Negri and Hardt 2000, 106).
For Jacques Deleuze, the differences between a disciplinary society and a society of control is that: “In the disciplinary societies one was always starting again (from school to the barracks, from the barracks to the factory), while in the societies of control one is never finished with anything—the corporation, the educational system, the armed services being metastable states coexisting in one and the same modulation, like a universal system of deformation” (Deleuze 1992, 5).
Hardt elaborates upon Deleuze’s simple image of “society of control,” describing society of control as “an intensification and generalization of discipline, when the boundaries of the institution have been breached, corrupted, so that there is no longer a distinction between inside and outside” (Hardt 1998, 150).
[T]he first is what we call the withering of civil society, which like the passage toward the society of control refers to the decline of the mediatory functions of the social institutions and the second is what we call the passage from imperialism, which was perfected primarily by the European nation-States in the quest for global domination, to Empire, today’s world order. In other words, when we speak of Empire we are referring to a juridical form and a form of power that is very different from the old European imperialisms. On one hand, according to the ancient Greco-Roman tradition, Empire is a notion of universal power, a notion of world order that has perhaps been realized for the first time today. On the other hand, Empire is the form of power that has as its object human nature, or rather nature in general—or in Foucault’s terms we might say that Empire is the fully realized regime of biopower. (140)
According to Hardt, the overwhelming social form of new empire is seeking to put an embargo on non-Westerners and non-white people and keep all “under surveillance, [so they] cannot enjoy freedom,” replacing and covering up inequality behind cultural differences (Saleh 2018). In this way, empires are able to implant and sustain the Western hegemony and keep the rest of the world’s population in servitude. These empires are still preventing the rest of the world’s population from emancipating themselves from the petrifying destiny that the West created hundreds of years ago, even if the consequences are global tension and a clash between the West and the rest, as Huntington believes.
POLITICAL ISLAM: FRIEND OR FOE?
When the Soviet threat vanished, the United States needed a new foe, and when the September 11, 2001, attacks occurred, Huntington declared, “Osama bin Laden ended America’s search” (Huntington 2004a, 264–65; Spanos 2008, 232–33). Obviously, bin Laden here, rather than representing or reflecting a sole individual, became a symbol and a recall of an entire religion, culture, and population called Islam, Muslims, and Arabs, exactly like Sherlock in William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. “Population growth in Muslim countries, and particularly the expansion of the fifteen- to twenty-four-year-old age cohort, provides recruits for fundamentalism, terrorism, insurgency, and migration” (Huntington 1996, 103).
In order to deal with and contain the threats of political Islamist groups, there are two main arguments about how to do so. The first calls to accommodate with political Islam; the devotees of this argument believe that political Islam does not represent a threat to the West but a healthy popular response to the failure of secular Arab governments and Western policy in the region that supports them (Paris 1993). Based on that, some scholars believe that the biggest challenge and conflict is within Islam itself not with the West or the global order (Esposito 1997; Hamid 2016).
According to this non-interventionist view, civil war within the Arab/Islamic societies should not be considered as a threat to the West for three main reasons. First, even if Islamists triumphed, they still do not share the modern approach that fosters innovation and technological success, especially in the military field (acquiring nuclear weapons, for example), where the major buttress of state power lies. Since Islamists lack these sources of power, they remain weak and are a marginal threat to global security. Second, if fundamentalist groups seized political power, they are likely to fragment at the top, as in Afghanistan, so the war will continue to be within Islam and not with the West or the rest of the world. Third, since Islamic unity is a mirage, the population in Islamic countries will tire of Islamic rigidity and will lose the zeal for militancy, such as post-Khomeini Iran; there is no threat to the West or to its allies such as Israel (Paris 1993).
Conversely, other scholars think that political Islam presents a danger and challenge to global security. These “confrontationists” argue that Arab society is not yet ready for democracy and that the Islamist alternative for undemocratic Arab authoritarian governments might be worst. If Islamists won the elections, it may result in non-democratic, ideological authoritarianism and maybe even anti-Western regimes (Paris 1993). Sham slogans such as “democracy is the solution” are not quite the right answer to the threat of political Islam (Salame 1993). Confrontationists argued that the fears about Islam (political Islam in particular) becoming a threat to international security structures stemmed from the idea that if one or more of the Islamist fundamentalist groups did manage to succeed, this might cause a revolutionary jihad to snowball, much like that of the Prophet Mohamed and his caliphs’ creation of a unified, conquering army of Islam in the seventh century. According to this assumption, the rise of a charismatic Sunni fundamental leader (Nasser with a beard) emerging in the next century with a messianic message would unite the fragmented protest groups and movements into a pan-Islamic political force against the West. In this case, Islamists would like to be viewed as an anti-imperialist force (Paris 1993; Salame 1993).
“In the praetorian society the successful politician simply transfers his identity and loyalty from one social group to another. In the most extreme form, a popular demagogue may emerge, develop a widespread but poorly organized following, threaten the established interests of the rich and aristocrats, be voted into political office, and then be bought off by the very interests which he has attacked” (Huntington 1968a, 197).
The problem with this argument is that the twenty-first century is not the seventh century, where four-fifths of the world population that is not Muslim cannot tolerate the violent pursuit of jihad against them by the one-fifth represented by Muslims (Paris 1993). Even if Islamists came to power and expanded across state borders, they would only threaten their neighbors, but not global security.
ISLAM AND STRUCTURAL CHANGE IN INTERNATIONAL POLITICS
Since the creation of the international system in 1648, there have been a few transformative moments that changed the rules and the structure of international politics, that is, the transformation from the medieval to the modern world by establishing nation-states, the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte at the end of the eighteenth century, British hegemony in the nineteenth century, World War I (1914–18), World War II (1939–45), and, last but not least, the end of the Cold War and the non-violent disintegration of the former Soviet Union (1917–89). On the other hand, there have been many critical moments that changed the course and nature of events and interactions at the regional level, but they were not radical enough to be considered as “structural changes” of international politics because they did not have the same effects at a global level. These critical moments included the fall of the Spanish Empire, the rise of Prussia in the mid-nineteenth century, the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the terror attack on the United States on September 11, 2001, and the Arab Uprising.
What are the reasons that make one event be considered or perceived as a structural change rather than another? Is it perspective? Are there indicators that can show the differences? How have these events changed the rules and structures of international politics, and to what extent do they affect global security issues? The present study argues that the standards used to distinguish between structural changes and other changes in the international system are the scale of change, and the extent of threats that they cast on global security.
Neorealism tries to understand the rapidly changing world by focusing on great-power behavior, with categories of analysis that emphasize continuity and change (Katzenstein 1990). According to neorealist thinkers, structural (or systemic) change in international politics happens only when there are certain types of events happening in the international order; the most important factor in the process of international political change are the differences or uneven growth of power among states and the imbalance of capabilities between great powers in particular, which cause “structural changes” in the international system (Gilpin 1981; Waltz 1979).
Johnston (1990, 45) defines structural change in international politics as: “These developments that have an important bearing on issues such as the nature, prevalence, and intensity of conflict in international relations and specific topics like arms control and disarmaments … and questions the content and conduct of foreign policies on a wide range of factors, from the major western states and everywhere.” In order to measure and identify this kind of change, Johnston defines three decisive elements of structural change: (1) status of change in the contemporary distribution of powers among nation-states, which imposes a rough and ready framework of freedom and constraints, of dominance and dependence; (2) changes in the pattern of rules, understanding, and institutions in and through which relations are conducted; and (3) changes in the pattern of values, assumptions, and perceptions which states (and other actors) interpret the distribution of power and the pattern of rules and understandings.
Based on that definition, and by reviewing the recent political developments in the world since post-1989 and post-2001 in terms of the distribution of power, the framework of rules and pattern of values, we can figure out which type of developments are considered a structural change, and therefore has the greatest impact on the world order, and the other changes that did not have the same impacts on global security issues. Further, we can understand the position of Islam and Muslims (as an international actor) and how this position affects their status and the perception of them being a threat to world order, as it is put and represented on their behalf via theories such as the “clash of civilizations.”
THE END OF THE COLD WAR VERSUS THE SEPTEMBER 11, 2001, ATTACKS
According to the previous definition of structural change in international politics, only the end of the Cold War is considered a type of “great event” that changed the rules and structures of the international system. The end of the Cold War changed the rules and structure of the global security landscape. With the non-violent dismissal of the former Soviet Union, the bipolar international structure disappeared, the international system was transformed and became unipolar with one “lonely” superpower at the top (Huntington 1999), and the gap in terms of balance of capabilities between the United States and other great powers evidently expanded in favor of the former. On the other hand, there was a structural change in the pattern of values and norms that determined the relationship between great powers. There was no more capitalist–socialist conflict with the triumph of capitalism and the failure of socialism. The ideological global conflict had been transformed into an economic and technological conflict between Western and Northern developed nations and the nation of the developing Global South.
Instead of arguing which events are considered to be structural changes and which are not, this study discusses the implications of these two events on global security issues. First, it seeks to measure its impact on world security issues and verify if there are other effects from one to another. For example, while the destruction of the World Trade Centre twin towers had nothing to do with the rise of China, the re-emergence of Russia as a revisionist power, or the rise of the other emerging powers (i.e. Brazil, India, South Africa and others), it had a huge impact on regions such as the Middle East and the Islamic world, while the end of the Cold War had an uneven and mixed impact on almost all the world’s regions and conflicts.
Second, while the Cold War was between two giant nuclear superpowers, the “War on Terror” considered a defensive reaction from the United States against a foreign attack on its soil from a non-state actor, and despite the narrow impact of these attacks on the international order and global security issues in general, it led to the outbreak of a global “War on Terror,” especially in the greater Middle East, and against poor and weak countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen. Nevertheless, the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington had, and will continue to have, a huge impact on global security conditions in the coming years.
Third, while the end of the Cold War in 1989 ended the ideological conflict between the West and the Soviet Union, it did not settle or end conflicts in the Third World. On the contrary, the US policies of domination towards countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan created new enemies, not only against American policies but also against all Western societies (Rashid 2000). The transnational terrorist Islamic groups became the new threat to world order, peace, and security. This new kind of threat may be considered less dangerous than the Soviet or even the Sino-Russian threat to the West, but nowadays it is being held as the leading threat to global security.
This threat did not exist before the terrorist attacks against the United States. The defenders of the “clash of civilizations” discourse argue that while the end of the Cold War terminated the ideological foundations of global rivalry between West and East, the terrorist attacks re-created the ideological clashes on the global scale once again by declaring the war on Islam and Muslim people (or at least this is what Muslim people perceive the US-led War on Terror as being). This kind of ideological conflict can spark the beginning of a global religious war (Crusade or Holy War) between Christianity and Islam. Not necessarily as Huntington predicted three decades earlier, but as a political and nationalistic conflict that had been created by the aggressive and hostile imperialist policies of the United States and some Western powers towards Islamic countries across the world.
Last but not least, while the end of the Cold War had a massive impact on almost the whole global order, comparable with the narrow geographical and geostrategic impacts of the September 11 attacks, the growing scale of globalization and the increasing influence of technological tools, transnational movements and groups (non-states actor), the privatization of warfare, and the diffusion and transition of world power make these small impacts important. For example, the revolutions of the Arab Uprising, and perhaps earlier with the outbreak of the Green Movement in Iran 2009, have led to the spread of global protest movements against neoliberalism, authoritarian regimes, economic inequality, the unfair distribution of wealth, and the failure of national governments to provide economic and social security and satisfy the basic needs of its own citizens due to the corruption of political elites from Tunisia to Cairo, then through the Mediterranean to Athens, Rome, Madrid, Paris, London, and across the Atlantic into the headquarters of neoliberalism in Wall Street (New York) and to the capital of neo-imperialism (Washington). The proliferation of this culture and movement is considered the most recognizable evidence of how domestic changes can turn into a regional storm and then to a global tsunami that threatens the foundations, rules, values, and bases of the modern international order.
To sum up, there is no doubt that the end of the Cold War is considered the biggest and most important change that occurred in the international system since the end of World War II. It still has impacts on regions such as Europe, Asia, and Eurasia. Nevertheless, with the increasing effects of non-state actors, the diffusion of power among/within great powers, and the more world society becomes more complex and integrated (economically, technologically, and socially), the small or non-structural changes (such as the September terrorist attacks, the War on Terror, and the Arab Uprising) could have the same influence as big world changes such as the end of the Cold War, because it could create not only a conventional threat to global security conditions but also a new kind of global transformation and threat, as Henry Kissinger argued: “We have never had so many transformations occur at the same time in so many different parts of the world and made globally accessible via communications” (Kissinger 2009).
Huntington’s thesis on the Clash of Civilizations is not only controversial but also contradictory and even fictitious. By critically comparing three of his seminal works—Clash of Civilizations, Political Order in Changing Societies and Who Are We?—this study finds that Huntington’s propositions were biased and politically prejudiced against non-Western cultural, ethical, and religious societies. It argues that Huntington was predictable by not attempting to reveal the ideological, conceptual, and institutional foundations of the post-Cold War world. His approach was not intended for or interested in accumulating human knowledge in the field of social sciences with the objective of improving the understanding and awareness of the nature, dynamics, and transformations of international political conflict generally. Rather, it was interested in serving the interests of someone and for some specific purpose. This is exactly what Huntington did in Clash of Civilizations where he introduced Muslims as the imminent threat to the West and all humanity. Historical records show that this kind of cruelty, arrogance, and chauvinism is not reflected through a “clash of civilizations” but by “a crash of civilization” (Lozada 2017).
Huntington did not attempt either to uncover the ideological, conceptual, and institutional underpinnings of international conflict concepts or to examine and develop more genuine questions and hypotheses about the nature of politics and the role of conflict in political life in general. Concepts about individuals, groups, states, the effectiveness of violence, the role of economic structures and whose interests they serve were absent from his publications (Toros and Gunning 2009, 90).
It is evident that research on the correlations between culture and violence needs to be broadened to counter the application of all-encompassing politicization theories such as Huntington’s on culture and religious issues that restrict a better understanding of the phenomena. This also applies to the approaches that establish a connection between particular cultures, religions, and identities, and other non-coercive forms of violence. Sound research has been marginalized from the agenda of traditional international relations and conflict studies and needs to be given greater prominence.
Following the rise of Donald Trump, some writers have begun to compare Huntington’s “McCarthyist” perspectives on world politics and domestic issues with Trump’s views and they have found similarities between them. Both Joseph McCarthy and Trump wanted America to be “great” and symbolized a national longing for the restoration of American values and identity, which they believed would make the country not just great but a nation apart (Lozada 2017). Trump, like Huntington, believes that making America “great again” will not be possible unless it involves closing itself off, demonizing newcomers and demanding cultural fealty.
Fortunately, there are some people who still believe that such inhumane, arrogant, and racist attitudes will fail to make America great. This dystopian world Huntington portrayed has not been powerful since the 1930s. It would be realistic to describe the current McCarthyist and chauvinist atmosphere in America and the West as dogmatic and pretentious. Fortunately, history is proving nothing other than the rudeness, antithesis, and falsehood of Huntington’s argument.
For their support and comments on the first draft of this article, I thank Professor James Wyllie, Cassandra Humble, Hassan Baig, Kirsty Michel, and Nadia Giannelou from the School of Social Science, University of Aberdeen. I also thank Dr. Eid Mohammed, Doha Graduate Institute, and Dr. Eva Herschinger, The Peace Research Institute, Frankfurt, for their support.