October 29, 2004
International Herald Tribune

War of Civilizations?

by Jonathan Power

STOCKHOLM -- Violence-prone Muslims living out the inheritance of their prophet, Mohammed, who, in marked contrast to Jesus Christ, established his creed on earth by vigorous use of the sword? It's all there in the new book, "From Babel to Dragomans" by Bernard Lewis of Princeton University. "The Lewis doctrine has become U.S. policy," says the Wall Street Journal in an editorial.

. . . Samuel Huntington, the Harvard professor who is author of the seminal "The Clash of Civilizations" (whose title he borrowed from Lewis), wrote in the book's latest edition, "In the 1990s Muslims have been far more involved in intergroup violence than the people of any other civilization."

Since 9/11 this school of thought has had a field day. . . .

But what about the largest Muslim state of all, Indonesia, which has just conducted an extraordinarily peaceful general election and where serious violence is now reduced to tiny Aceh? What about Turkey, where the military is losing political strength by the day? Despite the fact that Turks, who are mostly Muslim, are by far the largest Islamic grouping already living inside the European Union, there hasn't been one arrest of a Turk as a suspected Islamic terrorist. And what about Bangladesh, Nigeria and India? In none of them (Kashmir apart) are Muslims at arms. It is these five countries that have the largest concentrations of the world's Muslims.

Now with a new report of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute we have well-researched evidence to back up the argument. With its 14-year rolling study of major armed conflicts, the institute tells us that for each of those years the number of civil wars (the overwhelming majority of current conflicts are not interstate) in the world has been declining and that of those that still exist most are Marxist-led or are conflicts over territory, of which only a handful has an Islamic ingredient. . . .


Robert D. Crane, "The New Pagan Empire: An Ideological Challenge To America and the World," The American Muslim, March-April 2003

M. Shahid Alam, Bernard Lewis and the New Orientalism ," The Wisdom Fund, June 29, 2003

M. Shahid Alam, "Is There An Islamic Problem? Essays on Islamicate Societies, the US and Israel," The Other Press (2004)

Enver Masud, "A Clash Between Justice and Greed," The Wisdom Fund, October 26, 2004

David Ray Griffin, "The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions About the Bush Administration and 9/11," Interlink (2004)

"Bin Laden: 'Your security is in your own hands',", October 29, 2004

Sidney Blumenthal, " Pentagon experts have made a discovery: Muslims do not hate America's freedoms, but its policies," Guardian, December 2, 2004

Reza Aslan, "No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam," Random House (March 15, 2005)

[The idea that you are different from everyone else - more democratic, enterprising, moral, envied by everyone else in the world apart from 'evil' people who hate you for your 'freedom' (and of course those French 'cheese-eating surrender-monkeys') - cannot be healthy for any country, let alone a super-power: quite apart from its being obvious nonsense. Beyond this, however, a recognition that America is imperialist in the same way that other countries have been may suggest some useful lessons. A couple have been touched on already: the 'liberation of Baghdad' example; and the idea that you might need a special class in jodhpurs and pith helmets to run an empire. A third is this, illustrated by the British empire on countless occasions: the simple rule that benevolent intentions - if we can credit America with these - do not always have beneficent effects. This applies especially if you rely on excessive force to achieve them. A fourth may be the conclusion come to by a British imperialist (Sir Alfred Lyall) in 1882, in reference to Egypt: that there has been 'no instance in history of a nation being educated by another nation into self-government and independence; every nation has fought its [own] way up.' If true, that rather puts a spanner in the 'nation-building' works.

Then, of course, there is the ultimate lesson. Every previous empire in history has 'declined and fallen'. This seems to be an iron law of empires.--Bernard Porter, "We Don't Do Empire," History Today, March 2005]

[I believe that on November 2, 2004, the United States crossed its own Rubicon. Until last year's presidential election, ordinary citizens could claim that our foreign policy, including the invasion of Iraq, was George Bush's doing and that we had not voted for him. In 2000, Bush lost the popular vote and was appointed president by the Supreme Court. In 2004, he garnered 3.5 million more votes than John Kerry. The result is that Bush's war changed into America's war and his conduct of international relations became our own. . . .

First, the United States faces the imminent danger of bankruptcy, which, if it occurs, will render all further discussion of foreign policy moot. . . .

Second, our appalling international citizenship must be addressed. We routinely flout well-established norms upon which the reciprocity of other nations in their relations with us depends. . . .

Third, if we can overcome our imminent financial crisis and our penchant for boorish behavior abroad, we might then be able to reform our foreign policies. . . .

In 2004, the United States imported a record $617.7 billion more than it exported, a 24.4 percent increase over 2003. The annual deficit with China was $162 billion, the largest trade imbalance ever recorded by the United States with a single country. Equally important, as of March 9, 2005, the public debt of the United States was just over $7.7 trillion and climbing, making us easily the world's largest net debtor nation. Refusing to pay for its profligate consumption patterns and military expenditures through taxes on its own citizens, the United States is financing these outlays by going into debt to Japan, China, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and India. This situation has become increasingly unstable, as the United States requires capital imports of at least $2 billion per day to pay for its governmental expenditures.--Chalmers Johnson, "Wake Up! Washington's alarming foreign policy," In These Times, March 31, 2005]

[The recent rally of the United States dollar notwithstanding, the greenback has nowhere to go but down. But the Bush administration is betting that foreign investors will continue to invest huge sums in this depreciating currency. How huge? Last month, the government reported that the United States' deficit in international transactions, mainly trade, reached an unprecedented $666 billion in 2004, a 24 percent increase from the 2003 level and, at 5.7 percent of the economy, about two to three times what most economists consider sustainable.

Recently, financial markets have been unsettled by comments from Japan, South Korea, India and Russia about diversifying away from dollars. And this week, a tough-talking China vowed not to allow its economic decisions to be dictated by any other country, a statement that was a rebuff to the United States.

If the world's central bankers accumulate fewer dollars, the result would be an unrelenting American need to borrow in the face of an ever weaker dollar - a recipe for higher interest rates and higher prices. The economic repercussions could unfold gradually, resulting in a long, slow decline in living standards. Or there could be a quick unraveling, with the hallmarks of an uncontrolled fiscal crisis. Or the pain could fall somewhere in between.--EDITORIAL: "Before the Fall," New York Times, April 2, 2005]

Tariq Ali and David Barsamian, "Speaking of Empire and Resistance: Conversations with Tariq Ali," New Press (April 15, 2005)

[Humans clothe the act of vengeance in all sorts of other justifications. When we go to war, or then behave savagely in combat, we hardly ever explain the act by saying we simply must settle the score.--James Carroll, "America's mortal secret,", May 3, 2005]

Mark LeVine, "Why They Don't Hate Us: Lifting the Veil on the Axis of Evil," Oneworld Publications (August, 2005)

[For the muscular liberals so loudly and so emptily proclaiming their own superiority, it is anathema to suggest that the insights of Islam might have a bearing on many of these issues and could even contribute to a renaissance in western thought. But it's worth reminding them that it's done just that before.--Madeleine Bunting, "The muscular liberals are marching into a dead end: Those who sign up to a clash of civilisations pander to racism while engaged in a charade of moral grandstanding," Guardian, September 12, 2005]

Timothy Garton Ash, "What we call Islam is a mirror in which we see ourselves: Six views of the west's problems with the Muslim world reveal as much about those who hold them as the conflict itself," Guardian, September 15, 2005

Jason Burke, "France and the Muslim myth: The French riots have been a godsend for those who oppose integration and progress," Observer, November 13, 2005

[For the first time in history, in the twentieth century, America was able to tax the world indirectly, through inflation. It did not enforce the direct payment of taxes like all of its predecessor empires did, but distributed instead its own fiat currency, the U.S. Dollar, to other nations in exchange for goods with the intended consequence of inflating and devaluing those dollars and paying back later each dollar with less economic goods-the difference capturing the U.S. imperial tax.--Krassimir Petrov, "The Proposed Iranian Oil Bourse will Accelerate the Fall of the American Empire," Gold Eagle, January 15, 2006]

[Has the controversy over the Danish cartoons finally proved Samuel Huntington's theory of the "clash of civilizations" to be right? No, for civilizations are not players on the stage of world politics, nor do they wage wars; in many places, people of different cultures are living quite peacefully together.--Hans Kung, "How to prevent a clash of civilizations," International Herald Tribune, March 3, 2006]

[Muslims attributed the poor relations to everything from differing values to the media. But many pointed to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians as the main cause and accused the West of double standards on terrorism.--Meg Bortin, "For Muslims and the West, antipathy and mistrust," International Herald Tribune, June 22, 2006]

[It happens from time to time in the United States that somebody invents an empty but easily digested slogan, which then dominates the public discourse for some time. It seems that the more stupid the slogan is, the better its chances of becoming the guiding light for academia and the media - until another slogan appears and supersedes it. The latest example is the slogan "Clash of Civilizations", coined by Samuel P. Huntington in 1993 (taking over from the "End of History").--Uri Avnery, "America's Rottweiler,", August 26, 2006]

[A new BBC poll taken by Globescan suggests there is a significant middle ground which rejects the view that Islam and the West are doomed to clash.--Roger Hardy, "The middle ground on Islam and West," BBC News, February 19, 2007]

Jeremy Grant, "Learn from the fall of Rome, US warned," Financial Times, August 14, 2007

Hans Kung, "Islam: Past, Present and Future," Oneworld Publications (July 25, 2007)

Pepe Escobar, "Clash of civilizations, revisited,", July 17, 2020

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