December 28, 2008


Samuel Huntington, author, Harvard political scientist; at 81 (Adam J.V. Sell, December 28, 2008, Boston Globe)

Dr. Samuel Huntington's first book, "The Soldier and the State: the Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations," was such an influential book that it merited a 50th anniversary symposium at West Point last year, but when it was first published in 1957, reviewers weren't so kind.

"The first review he got, the reviewer compared him to Mussolini - and unfavorably," said James Perry, a former graduate student of Dr. Huntington's. The book endorsed the role of civilian authority over military institutions, and was inspired by President Truman's firing of General Douglas MacArthur, the popular Army leader who disagreed with Truman's handling of China's entry into the Korean War in 1951.

"He tended to have views that were unconventional and remarkably prescient. He would have a finger on the pulse of where events were headed," Perry added. [...]

Despite the brickbats that accompanied his first book, it was an article toward the end of his career that became his most cited, and most controversial, work. "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order" centered on how differences between cultures throughout the world would be the cause of most post-Cold War conflicts. It was this premise, said former student Todd Fine, that inspired Dr. Huntington's argument against the war in Iraq.

"Even though he didn't make a big to-do about it ahead of time, he was against the Iraq war. [It was] his belief that it was unnecessary to antagonize other cultures and civilizations," Fine said.

That his argument about the Clash of Civilizations was wrong is nicely illustrated by Iraq, which has hosted an intra-Islamic dispute with the eventual winner oriented towards the Western model. Indeed, the entire WoT basically consists of all of the civilizations he identified and nearly all of Islamic civilization against the last holdouts in the Long War, Sunni salafists. The one square peg is just being pounded into the round hole of the End of History.

Whether oddly or revealingly, but either way unfortunately, he followed up his work on the decline of nationalism and the importance of religious culture by arguing that Latino immigrants, who are part of our culture though not his "nation", are a threat to American values.

-ESSAY: The Clash of Civilizations? (Samuel P. Huntington, Summer 1993, Foreign Affairs)
-TORRENT: Samuel P Huntington: The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (MP3)
-EXCERPT: Chapter One of The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order By Samuel P. Huntington
-INTERVIEW: So, are civilisations at war?: Is this a war against terror, or the 'clash of civilisations' predicted in 1993 by Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington? Interviewed here by Michael Steinberger of the New York Times, he answers critics who fear that his generalisations fuel conflict (, Sunday 21 October 2001 )
-INTERVIEW: with Samuel Huntington (Charlie Rose: January 30, 1997)

-INTERVIEW: MANY WORLD ORDERS: David Gergen, editor at large of U.S. News & World Report, engages Samuel Huntington, professor of international relations at Harvard University, author of The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. (The NewsHour, January 9, 1997, PBS)
-INTERVIEW: Five Years After 9/11, The Clash of Civilizations Revisited (Featuring: Samuel Huntington, Albert J. Weatherhead III University Professor, Harvard. His books include Who Are We? The Challenges to America's National Identity (2004), The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (1996), Interviewer: Mark O'Keefe, Associate Director, Editorial, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life., 8/18/06, Pew Forum)
-INTERVIEW: The Clash of Civilizations Revisited (NPQ, Winter 2007)
-PROFILE: Looking the World in the Eye: Samuel Huntington is a mild-mannered man whose sharp opinions—about the collision of Islam and the West, about the role of the military in a liberal society, about what separates countries that work from countries that don't—have proved to be as prescient as they have been controversial. Huntington has been ridiculed and vilified, but in the decades ahead his view of the world will be the way it really looks (Robert D. Kaplan, December 2001, Atlantic Monthly)

The subject that Huntington has more recently put on the map is the "clash of civilizations" that is occurring as Western, Islamic, and Asian systems of thought and government collide. His argument is more subtle than it is usually given credit for, but some of the main points can be summarized.

• The fact that the world is modernizing does not mean that it is Westernizing. The impact of urbanization and mass communications, coupled with poverty and ethnic divisions, will not lead to peoples' everywhere thinking as we do.

• Asia, despite its ups and downs, is expanding militarily and economically. Islam is exploding demographically. The West may be declining in relative influence.

• Culture-consciousness is getting stronger, not weaker, and states or peoples may band together because of cultural similarities rather than because of ideological ones, as in the past.

• The Western belief that parliamentary democracy and free markets are suitable for everyone will bring the West into conflict with civilizations—notably, Islam and the Chinese—that think differently.

• In a multi-polar world based loosely on civilizations rather than on ideologies, Americans must reaffirm their Western identity.

The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon highlight the tragic relevance not just of Huntington's ideas about a clash of civilizations but of his entire life's work. Since the 1950s he has argued that American society requires military and intelligence services that think in the most tragic, pessimistic terms. He has worried for decades about how American security has mostly been the result of sheer luck—the luck of geography—and may one day have to be truly earned. He has written that liberalism thrives only when security can be taken for granted—and that in the future we may not have that luxury. And he has warned that the West may one day have to fight for its most cherished values and, indeed, physical survival against extremists from other cultures who despise our country and who will embroil us in a civilizational war that is real, even if political leaders and polite punditry must call it by another name. While others who hold such views have found both happiness and favor working among like-minded thinkers in the worlds of the corporation, the military, and the intelligence services, Huntington has deliberately remained in the liberal bastion of Ivy League academia, to fight for his ideas on that lonely but vital front.

The history of the intellectual battles surrounding American foreign policy since the early Cold War can be told, to an impressive degree, through Huntington's seventeen books and scores of articles. Kissinger and Brzezinski have also produced distinguished works of scholarship, but these men will be remembered principally for their service in government—Kissinger as National Security Advisor under Richard Nixon and Secretary of State under Nixon and Gerald Ford, and Brzezinski as National Security Advisor under Jimmy Carter. Huntington, though he served briefly in the Administrations of Lyndon Johnson and Carter, is a man of the academy to a far greater extent than his two friends. His ideas emerge from seminars and lectures, not from sudden epiphanies. If he couldn't teach, he probably couldn't write. And unlike many professors, he values his undergraduate students more than he does his graduate students. Graduate students, he told me, "are more reluctant to challenge this or that professor" and have often been "captured by the jargon and orthodoxy of the discipline."

One of his former undergraduates observes, "Other academics want to ram down your throat what they know, and then go on to the next victim. Huntington never dominates classroom discussions, and he listens intensely." Huntington disdains "rational-choice theory," the reigning fad in political science, which assumes that human behavior is predictable but which fails to take account of fear, envy, hatred, self-sacrifice, and other human passions that are essential to an understanding of politics. In an age of academic operators he is an old-fashioned teacher who speculates historically and philosophically on the human condition. His former students include Francis Fukuyama, the author of the famous post-Cold War anthem The End of History and the Last Man (1992), and Fareed Zakaria, the former managing editor of Foreign Affairs and the current editor of Newsweek International.

You aren't likely to see Huntington on C-SPAN, let alone on The McLaughlin Group. He is a worse than indifferent public speaker: hunched over, reading laboriously from a text. His status and reputation have come the hard way: through writing books that, though often publicly denounced, have had a pervasive influence among people who count. Although he is the classic insider (a former president of the American Political Science Association and a co-founder of Foreign Policy magazine), he writes as an outsider, someone willing to enrage the very experts who will ultimately judge him. "If a scholar has nothing new to say he should keep quiet," Huntington wrote in 1959. "The quest for truths is synonymous with intellectual controversy."

In many ways Samuel Huntington represents a dying breed: someone who combines liberal ideals with a deeply conservative understanding of history and foreign policy.

-ESSAY: Was Samuel Huntington right after all? (Fouad Ajami, January 4, 2008, IHT)
Nearly 15 years on, Huntington's thesis about a civilizational clash seems more compelling to me than the critique I provided at that time. In recent years, for example, the edifice of Kemalism has come under assault, and Turkey has now elected an Islamist to the presidency in open defiance of the military-bureaucratic elite. There has come that "redefinition" that Huntington prophesied. To be sure, the verdict may not be quite as straightforward as he foresaw. The Islamists have prevailed, but their desired destination, or so they tell us, is still Brussels: in that European shelter, the Islamists shrewdly hope they can find protection against the power of the military.

"I'll teach you differences," Kent says to Lear's servant. And Huntington had the integrity and the foresight to see the falseness of a borderless world, a world without differences. (He is one of two great intellectual figures who peered into the heart of things and were not taken in by globalism's conceit, Bernard Lewis being the other.)

I still harbor doubts about whether the radical Islamists knocking at the gates of Europe, or assaulting it from within, are the bearers of a whole civilization. They flee the burning grounds of Islam, but carry the fire with them. They are "nowhere men," children of the frontier between Islam and the West, belonging to neither. If anything, they are a testament to the failure of modern Islam to provide for its own and to hold the fidelities of the young.

More ominously perhaps, there ran through Huntington's pages an anxiety about the will and the coherence of the West - openly stated at times, made by allusions throughout. The ramparts of the West are not carefully monitored and defended, Huntington feared. Islam will remain Islam, he worried, but it is "dubious" whether the West will remain true to itself and its mission. Clearly, commerce has not delivered us out of history's passions, the World Wide Web has not cast aside blood and kin and faith. It is no fault of Samuel Huntington's that we have not heeded his darker, and possibly truer, vision.

-ESSAY: The west has won: Radical Islam can't beat democracy and capitalism. We're still at the end of history (Francis Fukuyama, 10/11/01,
[R]ather than psychologise the Muslim world, it makes more sense to ask whether radical Islam constitutes a serious alternative to western liberal democracy. (Radical Islam has virtually no appeal in the contemporary world apart from those who are culturally Islamic to begin with.) For Muslims themselves, political Islam has proved much more appealing in the abstract than in reality. After 23 years of rule by fundamentalist clerics, most Iranians, especially the young, would like to live in a far more liberal society. Afghans who have experienced Taliban rule feel much the same. Anti-American hatred does not translate into a viable political program for Muslim societies to follow.

We remain at the end of history because there is only one system that will continue to dominate world politics, that of the liberal-democratic west. This does not imply a world free from conflict, nor the disappearance of culture. But the struggle we face is not the clash of several distinct and equal cultures fighting amongst one another like the great powers of 19th-century Europe. The clash consists of a series of rearguard actions from societies whose traditional existence is indeed threatened by modernisation. The strength of the backlash reflects the severity of this threat. But time is on the side of modernity, and I see no lack of US will to prevail.

-ESSAY: The Future of "History": Francis Fukuyama and Samuel P. Huntington, post-September 11 (Stanley Kurtz, June-July 2002, Policy Review)
-Samuel Huntington, 81, political scientist, scholar: 'One of the most influential political scientists of the last 50 years' (Corydon Ireland, 12/26/08, Harvard News Office)
-Samuel Huntington, political scientist, dies at 81 (AP, 12/27/08)
-"Clash of Civilizations" author Samuel Huntington dies (Reuters, 12/27/08)
-Key political scientist dies at 81 (Stuart Rintoul, December 29, 2008, The Australian)
A few years ago in an influential article in Foreign Affairs, Samuel P. Huntington, the Harvard political scientist and foreign policy aide to President Jimmy Carter, and before that reputedly one of the architects of the ''strategic hamlets'' policy in Vietnam, proposed that the war of political systems, ideologies and interests was over and that the war of cultures had begun. The tectonic plates of the emerging world order were seven or eight civilizations -- Western, Eastern Orthodox, Latin American, Islamic, Japanese, Chinese, Hindu and (''possibly'') African.

Africa was listed as only a possible civilization because it was divided into Islamic and non-Islamic components, as well as Saharan and sub-Saharan. Jewish civilization was another possibility, though in the end Mr. Huntington lined the Jews up with the so-called Judeo-Christian heritage of the West. Given the interpenetration of civilizations, these boxes were bound to be a bit fuzzy at the edges. But this problem aside, the Huntington thesis did make the insightful claim that the real actors to watch on the international stage were no longer states or even resurgent ethnicities but the civilizational identities built on the religious empires of the past.

''Realist'' analysts of international affairs had neglected these deeply buried religious allegiances during the cold war. Now they were returning with a vengeance, and Mr. Huntington was among the first to argue that it was not resurgent ethnicity that was the cause of all the violence in the post-cold war world but the ancient civilizational antagonisms.

Thus American policy makers should not have been surprised by the savagery and longevity of Russia's difficulty in Chechnya; it was never just a secessionist conflict but a battle to the death between Orthodoxy and Islam on the fault line between the two civilizations. Similarly, the Yugoslav conflict was a civilizational war among Orthodoxy, Catholicism and Islam. Had the Bush Administration understood this, it might have tried to arrange a peaceful divorce instead of trying to keep the federation together.

However welcome the Huntington emphasis on tradition, culture and religion, after the grindingly narrow emphasis among ''realists'' on state interests, there were problems with the idea that most modern conflict is civilizational. Some of the worst wars in human history have occurred not between civilizations but within them. Common civilizational ties did not prevent Europeans from slaughtering one another between 1914 and 1945. Moreover, in a place like the former Yugoslavia, civilizational differences over religion were more a pretext for war than a cause. Religious quarrels were fading away until nationalist elites fanned them into flames.

In expanding the Foreign Affairs article into ''The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order,'' Mr. Huntington has thickened out his argument, but it remains controversial. If there are seven or eight world civilizations, he says, the West had better shed the hubristic notion that its civilization is destined to spread its values across the globe. The West is ''unique'' -- but its values are not universal.

The Clash of Ignorance (Edward W. Said, October 22, 2001, The Nation)
In a remarkable series of three articles published between January and March 1999 in Dawn, Pakistan's most respected weekly, the late Eqbal Ahmad, writing for a Muslim audience, analyzed what he called the roots of the religious right, coming down very harshly on the mutilations of Islam by absolutists and fanatical tyrants whose obsession with regulating personal behavior promotes "an Islamic order reduced to a penal code, stripped of its humanism, aesthetics, intellectual quests, and spiritual devotion." And this "entails an absolute assertion of one, generally de-contextualized, aspect of religion and a total disregard of another. The phenomenon distorts religion, debases tradition, and twists the political process wherever it unfolds." As a timely instance of this debasement, Ahmad proceeds first to present the rich, complex, pluralist meaning of the word jihad and then goes on to show that in the word's current confinement to indiscriminate war against presumed enemies, it is impossible "to recognize the Islamic--religion, society, culture, history or politics--as lived and experienced by Muslims through the ages." The modern Islamists, Ahmad concludes, are "concerned with power, not with the soul; with the mobilization of people for political purposes rather than with sharing and alleviating their sufferings and aspirations. Theirs is a very limited and time-bound political agenda."

-REVIEW: of Clash of Civilizations (Michael Elliott, Washington Post)
-ESSAY: The Engines That Run the World (Richard John Neuhaus, February 22, 2008, First Things)
-ESSAY: Re-clash of civilizations: A decade after its debut, Samuel Huntington's famous thesis still draws fire from liberal intellectuals in the US. . . (Matthew Price , February 15, 2004, Boston Globe)
-ARCHIVES: samuel huntington (Find Articles)

-TRIBUTE: The Clash Of Huntingtons: What the late political scientist taught us about democracy, culture and the American future. (Reihan Salam, 12.29.08, Forbes)

Between 1981, when he published American Politics: The Promise of Disharmony, and 2004, when he published Who Are We? The Challenges to American National Identity, Huntington came to view America's prospects through a darker lens. The first book emphasized the American creed of liberty, democracy, and equality which he saw as the essence of American identity. But by the second, he became convinced, rightly in my view, that American identity was less about an ideological creed and more about America's highly idiosyncratic Afro-Anglo-Protestant ethnic heritage.

Instead of emphasizing the extraordinarily malleable and absorptive quality of this quirky creole culture, however, Huntington maintained that the days of the melting pot were drawing to a close. More specifically, he worried that the mass influx of Mexican immigrants would turn America into a bilingual and bicultural society, one that would steadily grow less stable and more conflict-prone, not unlike divided societies elsewhere in the world.

My own guess, and it's only a guess, is that America's ethnic mix will be a source of strength. I say this not because I'm a Pollyanna. Diverse societies really are conflict-prone, as Huntington's colleague and occasional critic Robert Putnam has recently found. I'm basing this mainly on the notion that a more open and interconnected world will need a society that serves as a template and as a hub--a cultural and institutional lingua franca, or an Operating System for Earth.

In a memorable essay in Foreign Affairs, Huntington worried that America was no longer an agent but an arena in which different diasporas and interest groups duked it out for influence. I think that's probably right. But I also think that being the world's arena is not a bad thing to be.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at December 28, 2008 9:12 AM
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