The decline of the West is still in the first slow phase, but at some point it might speed up dramatically. — Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations & the Remaking of World Order
In 1993, academic and White House strategist Samuel P. Huntington wrote a piece for the American geopolitical journal Foreign Affairs entitled “The Clash of Civilizations?” Three years later, Huntington dropped the “generally ignored question mark” and expanded his work into a book. (Yes, I know that makes the book 26 years old, and I have called this piece “Huntington at 25,” but I started it last year, plus we live in a post-truth society in which mathematical precision is racist.)
Geopolitics is hardly my area of expertise, but the book gained attention after 9/11 and I duly read it, largely due to its prognostications concerning Islam. Huntington obviously didn’t predict the 9/11 attacks, but two decades on it is possible to assess what he did predict, and what he may have got wrong. Huntington was writing The Clash of Civilizations (henceforth CC) while the dust was still settling from the fall of Communism, and the book’s guiding principle is that once the central global battle of ideologies had been defused, future division and conflict would be caused by the reemergence of identitarian civilizations and the difference between cultures, defining “cultural identity [as] what is most meaningful to most people.”
In Spenglerian fashion, Huntington sees civilizations as cyclical, and there is no doubt about where we were on his graph in 1996:
The West is and will remain for years to come the most powerful civilization. Yet its power relative to that of other civilizations is declining.
Rejecting Francis Fukuyama’s thesis of the end of history, the one in which liberal democracy lives happily ever after, Huntington is forthright in declaiming that not only is there plenty more history to come, but it might not be too pleasant. There is a tension about the global map in terms of power relations:
The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion (to which few members of other civilizations were converted) but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact; non-Westerners never do.
After an introduction to the idea of civilization, culture, and the impetus provided by their historical affiliations and differences, Huntington goes on to consider something very much in the air a quarter of a century later, the creation — or even coercion — of a universal civilization, and the marque for that being Western. As Huntington makes clear, the desire of non-Western civilizations to modernize is primarily technological and thus economic; they have no interest in Westernization or Western value systems. Quite the reverse, as we shall see.
Huntington notes the ephemeral results of civilizations mixing together, and it is not that charming new South American restaurant on your street:
Somewhere in the Middle East a half-dozen young men could well be dressed in jeans, drinking Coke, listening to rap, and, between their bows to Mecca, putting together a bomb to blow up an American airliner.
This raises the issue of whether the mixing of civilizations is a thing to be desired. If culture is the talisman of civilization, what becomes of the cultures of two civilizations which are blended? With Huntington’s example above, you get the worst of both worlds. More seriously, if one of the blended cultures is weakened, the other one becomes dominant. This is, of course, the position we are beginning to find ourselves in, particularly in Europe, where the elites are trying to ride the Islamic tiger. Entire ethnic cultures are put at hazard to make way not necessarily for one dominant global culture such as Islam, but one created by the elites to homogenize global behavior; designer civilization rather than the old, organic model. Although Huntington does not dwell on this, he does quote Ronald Dore, who “makes an impressive case for the emergence of a global intellectual culture among diplomats and public officials.” Monoculturism is not for nation-states, and is reserved for self-elected global commanders. Reading this into the present, it could be argued that the rise of elitist cabals such as the World Economic Forum was made possible by the weakening of individual Western cultures and civilizations.
The World Economic Forum may not exactly fit Dore’s template, but what we have come to call the “global elites” have made the destruction of individual nations’ culture in the West a priority, and this is nothing less than an attack on identity. Huntington stresses the importance of identity, and the fact that CC triggered a vehement response from other academics may be explained by the fact that Huntington was wise to the rise of identitarian ideas, first on the Left and now retroactively on the Dissident Right. The Left approve of the championing of all separate identities except, of course, that of the white man.
The gravitational pull of civilization and belonging to a definable culture has increased over the last century, and Huntington pinpoints a crucial moment after which the West’s control declined over a key element of global politics: the allocation of territorial sovereignty. Huntington writes,
In 1919 Woodrow Wilson, Lloyd George, and Georges Clemenceau together virtually controlled the world. Sitting in Paris, they determined what countries would exist and which would not . . . A hundred years later, no small group of statesmen will be able to exercise comparable power; to the extent that any group does it will not consist of three Westerners but leaders of the core states of the world’s seven or eight major civilizations.
These select civilizations constitute the framework around which Huntington builds his theory. They are Sinic, Japanese, Orthodox, Islam, Western, sub-Saharan, Latin American, and Hindu. Some of these cultures have a “core state,” such as the United States for the West and China for the Sinic world, and some don’t, such as Islam and Latin America. But what they all have is a common cultural identity, something which is currently being used as stakes in a globalist game.
Samuel Huntington is not a writer “we” would naturally place on “our side,” but Guillaume Faye is, and The Clash of Civilizations actually makes quite a good companion piece to Faye’s Convergence of Catastrophes. Faye cites Huntington and even calls his second chapter “Toward the Clash of Civilisations.”
Faye sees the West’s weakness in identitarian terms, for identarianism has as its main supporting wall the fact that identitarians must fight to defend their cultural identity. Europe and four of the main civilizations selected by Huntington differ in one major respect for Faye:
India, China, Black Africa, the Muslim world, whether Arab or Turkish, and so on, are affirming their identities and do not tolerate either a colonising immigration or cultural mixing on their own soil. Only the European pseudo-elites are defending the dogma of a ‘multicultural world’, which is a chimera.
And, where America’s core immigration problem is Hispanic, Europe’s arrivistes are Muslim. It’s all acceptable reconquista as long as it is whites who are ceding the land.
Huntington considers Muslim migration to only be a problem in the near future (in 1996), but it might have required a close reading of Jean Raspail’s The Camp of the Saints for him to realize just how serious the demographic relocation would become:
Population pressure combined with economic stagnation promotes Muslim migration to Western and other non-Muslim societies, elevating immigration as an issue in those societies.
However, Huntington sees Muslim relocation as a trend which will come to an end:
[T]he Islamic Resurgence will subside and fade into history. That is most likely to happen when the demographic impulse powering it weakens in the second and third decades of the twenty-first century.
This unfortunately fails to take into account that the demographic engine-room is no longer solely in the Arabic world but is in the process of being transferred –imported — to Europe, which is still on track to become Bat Ye’or’s Eurabia. It’s just a question of when. As Huntington writes, “If demography is destiny, population movements are the motor of history.”
After a history of civilization and civilizations, Huntington devotes sections of CC to the balance, emerging order, and inevitable future clashes between civilizations. His varying angles on the return or continuing adherence to cultural identity expressed as civilization present a kinetic picture, one of combat and change in status. There is a constant subtext haunting the main one: the decline of the West, and specifically its “core state,” the United States.
In the final section, “The Future of Civilizations,” Huntington addresses a stress fracture in the West which turned out to be far more serious — particularly for the US — for Western confidence. “Americans cannot avoid the issue,” he writes. “Are we a Western people, or are we something else?” America’s foremost civilizational problem is not the threat of other civilizations, it is that it is at war with itself.
China and Russia seem, if anything, rather perplexed at America’s current cultural, political, and metapolitical internal strife, all of which is self-inflicted. The civilizations which vault over America may well be the ones who celebrate their own culture, not denigrate and demonize it. When Vladimir Putin was asked by a reporter from Russia Today what he thought about cancel culture, gender issues, and J. K. Rowling, the Russian President looked puzzled and said quietly: “If someone thinks that women and men are the same thing, then be my guest. But there is common sense . . . I stick to the traditional approach.”
In one sentence, a supposed enemy leader has done what the Western Left cannot do: invited someone who disagrees with him over gender to “be my guest.” Russia is not a home to LGBTQ and the rest of the woke carnival. Nor is Africa, the Asian sub-continent, Latin America, or China, incidentally. Especially China.
China and Russia — a pact between which must genuinely frighten Americans of whatever stripe — are finding their global importance flattered by the US’ self-dismantling. America has styled itself as the cultural core state of the West and, having mentioned Faye, we should remind ourselves that he was extremely anti-American and against “Americanization.” But if the core is rotten, if the center cannot hold, then China, Russia, and India are all waiting next in line, and as Huntington points out, some nations move with history, realigning themselves with a changing territorial center of gravity. Huntington also reminds us of the Chinese values — ingrained like facial features — of thrift, hard work, family. All of these are subject to sustained and deliberate attack across the West. Conservatives must always remember just how conservative other civilizations are and remain.
And if the center of gravity becomes Chinese, it will have been a victory won partly through its refusing to relinquish its past and ethnic culture, and partly because its greatest opponent has fallen into the hands of America’s sworn enemies. Unfortunately, they live there. China feels it has the right to world supremacy because it believes it deserves it and that it has the confidence to represent its own people. Huntington writes:
The Chinese government sees mainland China as the core state of a Chinese civilization toward which all other Chinese communities should orient themselves. Having long since abandoned its efforts to promote its interests abroad through local communist parties, the government has sought “to position itself as the worldwide representative of Chineseness.”
It bears pointing out that the Chinese Communist Party has no need to reach out to American Communist parties today given that the US is doing just fine in reaching Communism on its own. From caucus to school board, District Attorney to school principal, Chinese interests — as well as Communism in general — are being promoted across America, as they are increasingly in Europe, the United Kingdom, and the Commonwealth countries.
It is interesting to compare Huntington’s view of Chinese self-esteem and its ultimate aims with a recently declassified Pentagon report from 2013 showing the Obama government’s attitude toward the Great Dragon:
China sees itself as the center of the universe, all others are inferior, with varying degrees of inferiority. That is not an attractive model of winning allies and influence.
We shall see who is right, Huntington or the Pentagon. Two things are certain, however: When your greatest rival to becoming “the center of the universe” is destroying its own, you will win allies and influence despite your air of racial superiority. In fact — and this is the second point — whereas for the Americans racism is a bug, for China it’s a feature. From the same Obama administration’s Pentagon report — titled, incidentally, The Strategic Consequences of Chinese Racism: A Strategic Asymmetry for the United States: “The West confronted racism and developed a strong culture of anti-racism. China has not, nor is it likely to do so.”
The Chinese not only reject the new woke liberalism the West is trying to foist onto them, they openly satirize it. The Mandarin term baizuo apparently translates as “white Left.” According to Chinese writer Chenchen Zhang:
[B]aizuo is used generally to describe those who “only care about . . . immigration, minorities, LGBT and the environment” . . . hypocritical humanitarians who advocate for peace and equality only to “satisfy their own feeling of moral superiority”; they are “obsessed with political correctness” to the extent that they “tolerate backwards Islamic values for the sake of multiculturalism”; they believe in the welfare state that “benefits only the idle and the free riders”; they are the “ignorant and arrogant westerners” who “pity the rest of the world and think they are saviours”.
History will arbitrate as to which civilizations prosper: those who celebrate their history, culture, and identity, or those who despise it.
The Clash of Civilizations is well worth your time. It is a book of recent history you can zoom into for details of the post-Cold War world as nations were jostling for their new positions a quarter of a century ago, or zoom out of for a panorama which suggest that ethnic culture — and therefore the necessary cargo of genetic concerns, which Huntington avoids — is a far stronger cohesive, attractive force than ideologues such as those in Brussels have bargained for. In the end, this type of book will always be part futurology, and futurology is betting. In today’s infowars, we are all at the track, trying to pick a horse we like the sound of.
Huntington’s thesis is that the end of the Cold War was the beginning of another kind of conflict, and it certainly has been, albeit one which features cultural values both as weapons to be deployed by one civilization against another, and by the leading civilization against itself. Certainly no one could have predicted the last quarter century with much accuracy, but Huntington produced a mine of information with many rich seams. Perhaps chaos is the only thing we can be certain of, even if it is the leaders of the West who are willing that chaos on us all. Huntington talks of the “‘sheer chaos’ paradigm of world affairs,” in which we will see
a global breakdown of law and order, failed states and increasing anarchy in many parts of the world, a global crime wave, transnational mafias and drug cartels, increasing drug addiction in many societies, a general weakening of the family, a decline in trust and social solidarity in many countries, ethnic, religious, and civilizational violence and rule by the gun prevalent in much of the world.
And this can only accelerate. Faye echoes Huntington’s morbid prognosis in Convergence of Catastrophes:
It was during the Cold War that history seemed to be fixed, frozen. Now it has resumed its forward course, faster, madder and more uncontrolled than ever.
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 Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996).
 Guillaume Faye, Convergence of Catastrophes (London: Arktos Media, 2012).
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