Friday, January 11, 2008

Nerd Notes: Revisiting Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations" Thesis

Harvard nerds are taking another look at Huntington's thesis about clashing civilizations.

The nerd analysis this time touches on the role of Islamic violence in the Middle East.

Here's a piece of the nerdage:
The third key idea is that “Islam has bloody borders.” It was true then, and it is true now. Most violent clashes have an Islamic component: Sudan, Chechnya, Israel/Palestine, Iran. But look again: aren’t most of the clashes internal to Islam?

The worst post-World War Two war was fought between Iraq and Iran—for eight bloody years. One of the worst and longest civil wars erupted in Lebanon, where the Muslim-Maronite conflict was but one dimension, and where a whole slew of Islamic denominations battled against each other. Palestinians may want to eradicate Israel from the map, but their worst threat was directed against two fellow Muslim states: Jordan in 1970, and Lebanon until the early 1980s (when Israel decimated the PLO). More recently, it has been Syria which is killing Lebanese politicians in order to uphold dominance over its neighbor. Egypt has intervened in Yemen and skirmished repeatedly with Libya. Algeria is the arena of an endless civil war between a Muslim government and more rigorously faithful rebels. Wahhabis repress fellow Muslims in Saudi Arabia. Syria’s Alawites lord it over the rest of the country—and, when need be, raze much of a city, Hamah, that used to be the stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood. In Saddam’s days, a Sunni minority oppressed the Shia minority; now both are fighting for turf and control. Pakistan is an explosion waiting to happen, and Afghanistan is a hellhole of intra-civilizational strife, a battle that is barely contained by NATO forces.

Niall Ferguson has
made the point very succinctly by reversing Huntington: Islam is a civilization of clashes. The victims of Islamists have numbered in the hundreds in Europe (Madrid, London) and in the thousands in New York. But as horrifying as that slaughter was, it does not measure up to the murder and mayhem Muslims have inflicted on one another since decolonization. They hate the West, but they mainly kill each other.

No comments: