Human history is a history of civilizations. It has been very difficult to ascertain the right kind if civilization that appeals to all people. Ideas and philosophies held by one culture as right may be held differently in another culture. The question of who therefore holds the right kind of civilization has eluded scholar for many centuries. If one says that his or her civilization is good, another one may view it differently. Does this therefore lead to an assertion that civilization clashes shall be the major course of conflicts?
In the struggle to look deeper into the questions asked above, debates emerge due to the presentation of one scholar, Samuel P. Huntington, suggesting that the clash of civilizations is and shall be the major cause of conflicts in communities. If one civilization feels that it is the most superior, does it mean that the value it cherishes is welcome by other nations. If this is the way of conflict resolution, what course does it take and what are the effects in the long term to the subjects that receives it?
In this case, culture may not only be the source clashes that lead to conflicts. This is what comes out when we closely examine the works of Samuel P. Huntington, who presents a thesis that civilization clashes are likely to be the source of conflicts in future. With regard to the September 11 attacks in the USA, were the attacks justified? Did the attack have an implication that those who carried out the attacks were Muslims, therefore painting Islam as an Extremist Religion?
Samuel Huntington presents “the clash of civilizations “by drawing examples from the fall of the Soviet union and generation of the world between 1932 to 1992, which marked the end of the Cold War era. He argues that the end of the Cold war witnessed significant changes in the identities and symbols of identities. This brought what he termed as “configuration “of world politics along cultural lines. He presents his thesis by making a reference to the period A.D 1500 as the era that gave birth to a dual nature of global conflicts (Huntington, S. 1996).
He also argues that ideological and economic factors are not the primary course of clashes in civilizations but global conflicts will occur between nations and groups comprising differences in civilizations (Fiedler, 2009).
He presents a world of global politics dividing the world into Western culture and the none-Western culture. He asserts that the Western world, which is characterized by a Western culture, with democratic and stable governments as opposed to the non- Western cultures which were characterized by undemocratic societies involving poorer Third world Nations.
In addition, he says in his argument that there will a movement away from Westernization by non-western countries due to what he termed as indigenization. The reference to the lack of influence of the twenty-first century Islamic world to the western world is presented in his view as a possible course of an emergent conflict.
He further counters this through his idea that the strategic location, large populations and/ or endowment of most Middle East countries with oil recourses has become a significant influence in future world affairs. He predicted a new world characterized a movement away from the politics of ethnicity to a new one whose politics are the politics of civilization.
The world that is posed by Samuel is presented as a world whose most dangerous and pervasive conflicts are not the result of differed between social classes but between people belonging to different cultural entities. There is also the mention of lack of escalation of tribal wars to broader interstate wars or to groups with a common and characteristic civilization.
He asserts that the barbaric clashes for instance that occurred in Rwanda and other nations with internal ethnic conflicts are not likely to cause as escalation of this wars to broader wars. He points out the existence of differences in civilizations as a result of philosophical assumptions, important underlying values of a certain civilization, social relations and outlooks in the general to life.
He clearly puts across an existence of changes, which are inevitable, whose impact on global politics having a varying trend from periods to period. He counters this on the basis of his argument that changes in the economics and politics of a civilization are anchored in the diverse culture of the concerned civilization.
On one hand Huntington asserts that culture is not an all unifying or divisive source in conflicts, but it exists as both. He draws an example based on religion that Christianity, which is characteristic of Western world has a great rift with the Muslim and orthodox civilizations. In conclusion, Huntington’s thesis is anchored on differences in civilizations that are more likely to cause inevitable conflicts than economic and ideological differences.
Clash of civilizations in my opinion
The idea of clash of civilizations as a likely cause to the conflicts due to culture does not clearly state whether there are other factors that are likely to replace this differences. It is largely agreed by both scholars and students that the history of humanity is a history of civilizations (Huntington, 1996).
The question that we need to address is that should these civilizations, as presented by Huntington, draw world politics to a point of peaceful existence of they should draw them apart.
Huntington implies that there is little interaction between the western culture, characterizing the Western World and the Middle East predominant Islam, characterizing the Middle East culture. In presentation of my thesis about the clash of civilizations, I will give it the following discussion lines: post cold war global politics, technological conflicts and conflict of interest.
Post Cold War global Politics
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992, many states which were under the Soviet Union gained independence to form federations (Huntington P S. 1996). This war was never fought by the United States and Russia (formally under USSR). However, there were smaller groups of fighters which were supplied with the weapons to fight against some target governments with promises of independence from their weapon suppliers.
Then came the collapse of the USSR, leading to the expectations from both sides the group being used to fight another state. This was for supremacy of the then two world powers: the US and the USSR. Therefore the people who are currently referred to as terrorists are the people created by these name givers. The point here is the definition of civilization (Perry et al. 2009).
The opposite word to it is barbaric. Therefore, is there are civilization which is barbaric? Uncivilization is characterized by the word “bad.” As a result, is there a civilization that can term as bad when civilization refers to some literacy? If these answers are true, then civilization is bad.
This is the view of Huntington. Just as the Soviet Union Was collapsing, it was struggling to hold on to its power by imparting its ideas through force to its subjects or to where it felt that it should still have a grip. Huntington in his thesis confirms that there is a decline in the power and influence of the western civilization. Realizing this, both the worlds are having a scramble to hold onto or gain power.
Technological conflicts here shall entirely refer to the use of sensitive technology like atomic energy either for military purposes of industrial growth. To begin with, are some countries, specifically Iran, “an axis of evil” as they are called? Nuclear technology which is used restrictively causes a state that I would call “technological clash “than civilization clash. It is through these lines of thought that the use some technology restrictively shall cause conflicts.
The conflicts in this manner have a broader potential of escalating to large wars as experienced during the recent attack on Iraq with the allegation that it had weapons of mass destruction. It has been along, the search is still continuing, occupation of this Middle East countries is still on but there are Weapons of mass destruction as alleged.
The result to this shall be retaliation from sympathizers sharing the same cultural commonalities and civilization levels. To them that retaliate, they have a justification. If superpower countries join hands to attack a nation for instance Afghanistan, then a group from Afghanistan or Iraq or Iran will definitely retaliate. Some other non-Middle East Islamic Countries have harnessed technology which has long been thought to be sensitive in a very peaceful way.
The difference posed here is that, one nation is using technology by developing weapons of mass destruction while restricting another to do the same. This has a future implication that conflicts in future shall not be due differences in civilization but differences in technological use and harnessing. This will shape the course of global politics in the Middle East region.
As technology grows, states in this region will form alliances against the “oppression”. They will go to the extent of trading skills in technology. This shall result to attacks from superpowers and the allied blocs. The consequence will be that each side shall not have an upper hand in world or global conflicts shall seek an equal proportion.
Lack of agreements shall result to states of tension between the West and its allies, and the Muslim Middle East and its allies as well. The acts of “terrorism” are Just experienced in the Middle East predominated by Muslims is simply a message of “leave us alone”.
Conflict of interest
The conflict of interest will dominate the occurrence and solution of conflicts. This will actually have a potential to escalate to wars of greater damage than it has been ever experienced in history. It is evident that there is even today a conflict of interest in the Middle East region involving Western powers and emerging powers like Iran.
Taking the case say the solution of the Israel-Palestine conflict, a country like Iran wants its influence to be felt (Mansbach. & Rafferty, 2008). The conflict has attracted an international attention, to a level of drawing in other players in the name of negotiating an end to the unrest. This unrest on one hand is causes by ideologies but not Cultures. The Jews hold onto the idea that the land belonged to their ancestors and therefore belongs to them. This has earned them a name of Zionists.
Zionism is not a civilization but an idea. This idea is what led to the occupation by Israel on land that the Palestinians claim to be rightfully theirs. Ideas led to conflict that has lasted for decades. At present, we have seen this conflict causing a rift between other nations; nations from the west that support Israel and nations from the Middle East region that supports an Islamic Palestine. There is no clash of culture but clash of interest.
Another form of clash of interest is the fact that most nations in the Muslim predominant Middle East is that most of these nations are endowed with rich wells of oil. Oil to most of these nations is their economic powerhouse. In the interest of ownership and perhaps equitable use of the returns from oil, these people feel like they have been marginalized through foreign companies holding much of the mining rights in their own homeland.
The question of ownership remains to be answered as the governments in the regions are closer allies of the west. The governments represent a minority that supports the west. However, the larger segment of the population does not support the idea. Therefore, the result is protesting, taking diverse forms. The oil resource does not only draw an interest from the locals or the citizens inhabiting this region but also other country’ s interested in mining and use of petroleum(Milton-Edwards & Hinchcliffe, 2008).
To substantiate this, it is not only in the Middle East that clash of interest can be seen. A reference can also be made to some African nations which mine petroleum. The countries are characterized by constant conflicts leading to mass killings in those regions. An example is Nigeria in the Niger Delta Fighting in the democratic Republic of Congo and Darfur region of Sudan. Rebel groups emerge. In most cases they take their governments by surprise by being heavily armed.
At this point, the question is still not answered as who supplies the rebels with the weapons? In the same tone, who supplies the Muslims with the weapons that they use in their terrorism activities? Does this not provide enough prove that there is always another party involved indirectly in a conflict? Then is this a clash of civilizations or a clash of interests?
There is no substantial evidence that civilization clashes may cause major unrest in nations in future. There are differences in culture around the world, defining the beliefs, tastes, philosophies and political backgrounds on a people bearing commonalities in cultures. One culture may fail to totally interact with the other but this should not lead to a conclusion that it is bad or good.
However, terrorism should not be used as a means of rejecting a culture that does not interact with what one community is used to. Diversity in culture should not be seen as a threat and therefore potential course of conflicts among the subjects involved. In the case of the Middle East, it is not religion that has brought about many activities of terrorism but extremism of the people who feel that someone else is interfering with their livelihood.
Fiedler, R. (2009). Is the clash of civilization as predicted by Samuel Huntington, inescapable? Verlag: Norderstedt. Retrieved 4 June 2011.
Huntington, P.S. (1996). Clash of civilizations and the making of the world order. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks. Retrieved 4 June 2011.
Mansbach W.R. & Rafferty K.L. (2008). Introduction to global politics. New York: Madison. Retrieved 4 June 2011.
Milton-Edwards B. & Hinchcliffe P. 2008). Conflicts in the Middle East since 1945. New York: Madison. Retrieved 4 June 2011.
Perry, M. et al. (2009).western civilization: Ideas, Politics and society. New York: Houghton Maffling. Retrieved 4 June 2011.