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Was Huntington Right? Revisiting the Clash of Civilizations

This essay is an attempt to revisit Samuel Huntington’s controversial thesis about a clash of civilizations. Though the author has been an early critique of Huntington, he finds substantial evidence that corroborates Huntington’s central thesis when he analyzes the American policy toward the Middle East through the prism of the clash of civilizations paradigm. He suggests that the pattern of double standards that are witnessed in American foreign policy toward the Middle East is an integral part of a world where supposedly immutable differences based on civilizations form the primary source of conflict. In order to support his argument the author draws on examples from several cases, such as the American policies toward the Israel-Palestine issue, America’s position on Iran’s nuclear enrichment program, American reaction to the Israeli raid on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, as well as Turkey’s long-standing candidacy for membership in the European Union. In all, he finds startling double standards that fit Huntington’s paradigm, for as he pointed out double standards are an integral part of a mindset that sees conflict in terms of clashing civilizations.

Was Huntington Right Revisiting the Clash of Civilizations
Osbourne and Islam wave onstage during the "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" on the Washington Mall.

In this book Culture and Imperialism, Edward Said states “nations…are narratives.”1 Civilizations are also narratives because they are nations writ large. As in the case of nations so in the case of civilizations the way one tells “stories” about “us” and “them,” “heroes” and “villains” forms the basis on which the notion of civilizations colliding with each other is constructed. Even the term “dialogue of civilizations” denotes the need for inter-civilization conversation in order to avoid conflict. Conflict between civilizations is, therefore, a built in assumption that undergirds the concept of “dialogue of civilizations.” 

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Call for Paper | Politics of the Balkans and Future Perspectives