The Beginning of the End

In 1993, Professor Samuel P. Huntington of Harvard University published “The Clash of Civilizations,” an article that described the post-Cold War world as one composed of cultural delineations, rather than political or ideological ones. In a period that represents the peak of Western dominance in the world, he reiterated the “West Versus the Rest” theory. Leftist factions across both the national and international community greeted his argument with controversy and ridicule. Yet the events of 9/11 proved Mr. Huntington’s predictions of war between the West and Islam to be eerily true. Immediately after 9/11, the overwhelming popularity of Bush as a war president swamped leftist voices as a nation reacted in fury to the unprecedented attack. Those who had mocked Huntington in the past fell silent in the face of his prophecies ringing true. The theory of multiculturalism and the professor’s notion of the “clash of civilizations” are both grounded in the assumption that culture is an integral divide in contemporary global relations. However, whereas multiculturalism emphasizes peaceful coexistence, the latter proposes that the various civilizations will inevitably go to war. With the advent of the terrorist threat, America whole-heartedly embraced Mr. Huntington’s ideas. How can one label the deaths of three thousand civilians as “peaceful coexistence?” The American public, and indeed the international community, struggled to find rationale in the anti-American sentiments that echoed across the Middle East and culminated in 9/11. Before the Twin Towers fell, fundamentalists such as Osama bin Laden were supported – even hailed as heroes – in the Middle East and by liberals across the world as the only ones who could champion a cause against encroaching American dominance and Western hegemony. It is indeed tragic and puzzling that the hopes of ordinary civilians have stooped to relying only on extremist movements and madmen. With his overtly religious references and self-righteous analogies to the Crusades in his State of the Union address, President Bush has presented himself as a fundamentalist in his own right. Such an appearance lends credence to the argument that Bush endorses the “kill or be killed” notion. Irrationality and violence can be answered only with more. As world events mirror the words of Huntington, one who proposed not a war between leaders, but one between cultures, where is the ordinary citizen to turn to but this? European opposition is prevalent now, but one must wonder what Europe’s reaction would be if it had been the Berlin Wall or the Eiffel Tower, and not the World Trade Center, that fell to terrorist attacks. Anti-war protesters cannot convince a country to advocate peace when global signs seem to point in the opposite direction. Turning its attention to Iraq, the Bush administration has shown its ultimate belief in Huntington’s theory. An American invasion will shatter the delicate balance of politics in the Middle East, as well as that on the international level, and possibly lead to the formation of an anti-US coalition. Americans themselves have begun to turn pro-war, unable to be convinced by the standing arguments against military aggression. The crisis has moved beyond the semantics of weapons possession or possible connections with al-Qaeda. From its blatant military support of Israel over weaker Arab neighbors to its most recent campaign against Iraq, America has shown that it is indeed waging a war on Islam as a culture. Current pro-peace arguments flounder and die in the face of current facts, facts that seem only to further Huntington’s thesis. As a result of these battles between civilizations, Huntington argues that nations with more than one culture would only be torn apart, as in the case of Turkey and Russia. In his delineation of the six major world cultures, he did not label America as a melting pot or mixture of two, but one as firmly entrenched in the Western world. He proposed that in order to stay in power, it is imperative for the West to eliminate other competing cultures within itself. With his recent economic and domestic policies, President Bush is slowly silencing the voice of minorities within the nation. By waging a war against Afghanistan, Iraq, and, by extension, Islam, our government is agreeing completelywith the idea of conflicting cultures and the suppression of non-Western ideals within the US This idea violates the very precepts upon which this nation was founded. Yet what can we do? Why have fundamentalist movements become so prevalent among non-Western countries? Why does such a deep-seated hatred of the West exist among these nations? Arguments of the fallacies of the reasoning behind war, a lack of connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda, or the technical possession of weapons are not enough. It is imperative that we, if we are truly both patriots and world citizens, understand the contemporary world, find answers to those questions, and prevent a disastrous war.