This is not a parody of Prof. Samuel P. Huntington’s “The Clash of Civilizations” , however, there is a certain reason for naming this article as such. And it becomes obvious to the reader as he goes through the following lines. Readers are also encouraged to draw their own conclusions. Whether one agrees with the notion that current war on Afghanistan is a manifestation of clash between the Western & Islamic civilizations or not the fact remains that there are certain players who are at the forefront of this conflict.
Today when these lines are being written the Anglo-American war on Afghanistan has entered its ninth week. Right after the September 11 attacks the US government stated the following three objectives:
- Punish/Destroy the country, which harbors anti-American elements a.k.a. terrorists.
- Punish/Destroy such regimes.
- Bring OBL to justice either by capturing or killing him (whatever comes first). Later a tangent was added to this objective i.e. to finish off the terrorist network, identified as Al-Qaeda network as well.
By now the first two of the three stated objectives of this war have been met successfully. The third objective, which was supposed to be the main objective, has still to be met. A skepticism is growing around the globe in general and Muslim World in particular as to whether objective # 3 is/was really an objective. People are seeing it as a deja vu of the Gulf War and making of another Saddam Hussain. “After Sept. 11, the U.S. immediately targeted all of Afghanistan and added
to its “enemies” list any country or organization that didn’t fully support the U.S. government on terrorism. Afghanistan agreed to negotiate but asked for proof of the culpability of Osama bin Laden in the September 11 attack. The Bush administration responded that it wouldn’t negotiate and it refused to provide the evidence. Is it really because the U.S. wants to combat terrorism? Or is it because the U.S. has made a calculated decision to use the terrible Sept. 11 attack as
justification for a Pentagon move to expand its domination in the Middle East and South/Central Asia?”
“The real motive for the 1991 U.S. war on Iraq and continued sanctions against the Iraqi people is the maintenance of full control of the Persian/Arabian Gulf oil. Two-thirds of the world’s known oil reserves lie in that region. The U.S. Gulf War allowed the Pentagon to establish numerous military bases in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and elsewhere.”
“What is less known are the vast interests of U.S. oil, banking and military corporations in South and Central Asia as the next strategic region for oil and natural gas exploitation. The Caspian Region-made up of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan-has a potential value in oil and natural gas of more than $5 trillion. These former Soviet states share a border with Afghanistan and are precisely the countries that the U.S. military has now established bases and
troops. The U.S. militarization of the region began before September 11; now it is going full-scale ahead.”
“A Unocal Oil Corp. spokesperson, Vice President John J. Maresca, testified to the House of Representatives Committee on International Relations on February 12, 1998. He said, “the Caspian region contains tremendous untapped hydrocarbon reserves …proven natural gas reserves … equal more than 236 trillion cubic feet. … [Oil reserves] estimates are as high as 200 billion barrels.”
“In May 1998, Time magazine reported that the CIA “set up a secret task force to monitor the region’s politics and gauge its wealth. Covert CIA officers, some well-trained petroleum engineers had traveled through southern Russia and the Caspian region to sniff out potential oil reserves. When the policy makers heard the CIA report, [then Secretary of State] Madeleine Albright concluded that ‘working to mold the area’s future is one of the most exciting things we can do.'”
“The Pentagon has been seeking to bring the region’s governments into a military alliance connected to NATO’s so-called “Partnership for Peace.” These former states of the Soviet Union have become open to unbridled exploitation for their oil and gas resources by firms whose directors are ex-U.S. military and political leaders. Former Reagan, Bush and Clinton advisers like Gen. Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brezezinski, former White House Chief of Staff John N. Sununu; former
Defense Secretary Richard Cheney, Secretary of State James Baker, former Clinton treasury secretary, Lloyd Bentsen, all have become oil and gas company executives involved in the Caspian Region. (Washington Post, July 6, 1997)”
On the other hand when Osama and his network allegedly waged war on USA on September 11, they had some stated objectives as well. Please keep in mind that still neither Osama has taken credit for the 9/11 attacks nor US has been able to provide a credible proof against Osama to the community of nations. Anyway the objectives Osama or his network Al-Qaeda had stated were:
- To put an end to the inhuman sanctions on the people of Iraq.
- To find a peaceful and honorable solution to the Palestinian issue.
- To achieve a peaceful and honorable agreement between Arabs and Israelis.
- The evacuation of Western and US occupational forces from the Gulf and the Saudi Arabia
- To achieve a reasonable, peaceful, and honorable solution to the problems in Kashmir, Albania, Chechnya, East Timor, Philippines etc.
- To stop the Western support of despots and tyrannical regimes throughout the Muslim world.
These objectives have been reiterated by OBL several times in his interviews with the media. To date none of the objectives have been met. A brief analysis of these points portrays the following picture. “There is enormous anger in the Middle East that some 8,000 to 12,000 people-5,000 of them children under five-die in Iraq every month as a direct result of U.S. sanctions. This has gone on for 11 years. This crime of genocide has been hidden from the U.S. people but it is
well known among the people of the Middle East.”
“Over 1000 Palestinians have been killed and 16,000 seriously wounded since the second Intifada began in September 2000. Their homes are bulldozed as they try to defend themselves against the brutal and long-standing Israeli occupation of their land. Every bullet, every helicopter, every F-15 and F-16 comes from the United States. Every year, the U.S. continues to fund Israel by $4 billion.”
People in the regions like Kashmir are facing genocide level atrocities where 70-80 thousand Kashmiris have lost their lives, where countries like India are oppressing these people against their will and in complete and shameless defiance of UN resolutions.
It is unfortunate that almost all the trouble spots on this globe are either in the Muslims World or they involve Muslims. What is more unfortunate is that the rest of the world is not growing past its 19th century paradigm of looking at Muslims where Muslim has to be tyrannized at all costs.
It is absolutely imperative to understand that all six objectives listed above are at the heart of Muslim World. Not only that but an overwhelming number of non-Muslims around the globe who understand the nature of these issues agree that they are just causes. And now when Anglo-American Coalition needs support from Muslim World they are half-heartedly admitting that these issue must be resolved. One must also understand that the fault line between OBL and rest of Islamic world is
not over the issues, it is over the method on how to address these issues.
It is misleading to think and give an impression that these issues will just disappear if Osama is captured or killed today. The ball is in the court of the US and the West. Whether they want to deal with these issues head on with justice and fairness and “kill” Osama for good or as in past they keep on ignoring and downplaying the issues and turn them into “Osama-ism”, is their call.
Part II – Analysis of the conflict
Considering the September 11, acts as acts of war, the “collateral damage” has resulted in the loss of 3,900 lives on the American side; 450 companies located in WTC were shutdown with in a matter of minutes. The WTC tragedy is considered the 7th deadliest man made disaster in the history of the world. The monetary damage and financial loss has been astronomical. The Capitalist economy has literally been brought down to its knees. Only in the first week the American
airline & travel industry would have collapsed and gone bankrupt hadn’t US pumped an economic package of $34 bn. to revive the industry. The economy of whole country has gone into a recession, which has compelled US government to give a relief package of $100 bn. to revive the economy. The GDP in the third quarter is contracted by 0.4%; with an annual GDP of $9.963 Trillion this roughly translates into a loss of $400 bn. only in one quarter. Afghanistan is costing US
economy $1 bn. per month. And if US and West stick to their promises of reconstruction of Afghanistan, it will cost billions of dollars over the next few years. The insurance industry has estimated its losses to be around $58 bn. in claims. The attacks have also resulted in massive lay-offs and added to the number of jobless, which is paralleled by the recession of early 90s. To date there are 24 million jobless in US and out of these 400,000 has lost their jobs with in last 12
weeks. In addition, the Anthrax scare is costing US economy millions of dollars every week. A 7,000 strong workforce of FBI is working on this case alone. It will cost hundreds of millions of dollars in near future to develop and install technology to monitor contaminated mail. The consumer confidence is as low as it was during the recession of early 90’s. The shock waves of this economic downturn are being felt around the globe. The economies of the top 30 wealthiest nations
are un-officially in recession whereas respective governments are hesitant to admit it to their own people. The travel and tourism industry around the globe is on the verge of bankruptcy. In short, this act of war has resulted in the loss of 100s of billions of dollars for US alone and trillions in the western economy, a deep recession, and a near collapse of the capitalist economy around the globe. These economic effects will be felt for next couple of decades.
If we compare these loses with the cost of some of other wars that US has fought the comparison is astonishing:
World War I .. $523 billion
Korean War .. $362 billion
Vietnam War. $517 billion
Gulf War .. $72 billion
(All figures are in year 1998 dollars)
One should also keep in mind that the cost of the above wars were accrued over a period of time ranging from 4 years of WWI to approx. 20 years of Vietnam War (except Gulf War). Given these figures it is easier to compare the extent of damage caused by September 11 attacks.
On the other hand the retaliatory Anglo-American War on Afghanistan with the objective of hunting down the perpetrators of September 11 attacks has resulted in 4-5 million Afghan refugees, who fled to the neighboring countries of Pakistan and Iran for safety. The non-Western media is putting the number of casualties in this war somewhere between 7 to 10 thousand including the civilian casualties ranging between 2-3 thousand. A comparison between the economy of two countries shows
the extent of human tragedy on this side. “Average life expectancy in Afghanistan is 43 years. Per capita income is $180 per year (before this war). Only 13 percent of the population have access to drinking water. Barely 12% of the population has sanitation coverage. Literacy is about 20 percent. The infant-mortality rate is a shocking 247 deaths per 1,000 live births (24.7%). On average, 16,000 mothers die in childbirth every year, one out of every 17 births, the second worst
maternal mortality rate in the world. It’s not just the bombs that are killing people. The dislocation and chaos of the war itself means huge numbers of Afghan people will die from hunger, cold and disease. According to UNICEF officials, more than 100,000 Afghan children will likely die from war-related causes by the end of winter.”
Part III – Analysis of Professor Huntington’s Thesis
According to Prof. Huntington there are eight civilizations in existence at present. These include Western, Confucian, Japanese, Islamic, Hindu, Slavic-Orthodox, Latin American and African civilizations. Before we start an analysis of the reasons why (according to Huntington) the civilizations (will) clash one must understand the fact that out of all eight civilizations Islamic is the only civilization which identifies itself with a religion. This is a delicate point to understand.
One may argue that Slavic-Orthodox civilization also identifies itself with religion but that is not entirely the case. One has to be Slavic, which is a regional as well as a racial identity. Similarly, Hindu civilization means a civilization belonging to subcontinent. Although the Hinduism as religion has spread in Far East yet there is no sense of belonging among the geographical dispersion. Islamic Civilization, on the other hand is unique in the sense that the “sense of
belonging” goes beyond the boundaries of race, geography, nationality, language and culture etc. And adherence to a common faith gives this sense of belonging. In other words the Islamic Civilization is universal.
According to the Prof. Huntington’s thesis there are six basic reasons as to why civilizations (will) clash. We will analyze the current conflict in their light.
Reason # 1 – Prof. Huntington writes, “Civilizations are differentiated from each other by history, language, culture, tradition and, most important, religion. The people of different civilizations have different views on the relations between God and man, the individual and the group, the citizen and the state, parents and children, husband and wife, as well as differing views of the relative importance of rights and responsibilities, liberty and authority, equality and
Comments: True. Right after the September 11 attacks the US government and media adopted the lines, “attack on freedom and our way of life”, “attack on our values”, and even, as President Bush has reiterated several times “it is an attack on civilization” etc. Whereas on the other hand the Muslim world has responded by pointing out to the six basic issues as listed in Part I of this article.
It is imperative that these two responses must be understood objectively. Ostensibly one might reach to a conclusion that the American/Western response is more of a rallying cry rather than an agenda. But the fact is that the US media and government are sending mixed messages as to what really is the case. The anomaly is not really hard to understand. The US and the West have in fact been on the assault course on the Third World in general and Muslim World in particular. The western
media, NGOs, and the Globalization through WTO was the first wave of assault on the rest of the civilizations right after the collapse of the Soviet Union. So according to the Western paradigm of looking at the rest of the world, the September 11 attacks were a backlash and a counter-attack. One might come to a conclusion that West is determined to give the rest of the world only two options: Its either their way or the highway.
Contrary to the above an objective analysis of the six basic issues enlisted in part I are in no way an assault on Western Civilization. As President Musharaf puts it, these issues are unresolved political issues. How come a just resolution of these political issues becomes an attack on Western Civilization? And if a group of individuals can bring the whole Western Civilization down then one may argue that it is established on pretty shaky grounds. So in conclusion one may agree
with Huntington that the civilizations are in fact clashing and it is also obvious who is the aggressor.
Reason # 2 – Huntington says, “the world is becoming a smaller place. The interactions between peoples of different civilizations are increasing; these increasing interactions intensify civilization consciousness and awareness of differences between civilizations and commonalties within civilizations.”
Comments – With the advent and suffusion of electronic media these differences are being exploited and not being recognized. Today the print and electronic media are the most effective representative of any society. The first responsibility of any media is towards its society. And in freer (politically) societies the burden of this responsibility doubles. And also since Western media is most effective and reaches to the far and wide corners of the world it is supposed to act
more responsibly but on the contrary its corporate nature has turned it into just another propaganda tool. This media was faced with an interesting predicament after September 11 when it was compelled to deconstruct the demons that it had created over the years out of the religion of Islam. For the very first time it had to present the case for Islam relatively more objectively at the demand of its own people and political compulsions of its government. There is no doubt that
although it was done grudgingly, half-heartedly, and dishonestly yet it has sparked an interest in West to know more about Islam as a religion and a political ideology with more objectivity. As the common Americans are getting out of the phases of grief, anger, and war hysteria they are complaining about the jingoist and one sided role of their own media. This phenomenon will definitely impact the American and Western foreign policy agendas of the respective political parties in US
and West. People will demand more transparency and corporate media will have to obey the demand side of this supply chain.
But on the other hand the right wing media along with its Jewish compatriots is viewing Al-Jazeera as a “formidable weapon” in the hands of “extremists”. The people like Daniel Pipes and Frank Paris (President of American Institute of Middle Eastern Strategic Studies) openly suggest that Al-Jazeera must be “taken out” along with Talibans and Osama (Mitch Albom show, ABC Radio).
Only time will tell in near future whether these Civilizations will be able to avoid a clash at this front or not.
Reason # 3 – Huntington says “.the processes of economic modernization and social change throughout the world are separating people from longstanding local identities. They also weaken the nation state as a source of identity. In much of the world religion has moved in to fill this gap, often in the form of movements that are labeled “fundamentalist.” Such movements are found in Western Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism, as well as in Islam. In most countries
and most religions the people active in fundamentalist movements are young, college-educated, middle-class technicians, professionals and business persons.”
Comment – As far as Muslim World is concerned I will disagree with Professor that the process of economic modernization and social change is separating people from longstanding local identities. I think along with these two factors a heightened sense of self-awareness, which is a product of a combination of education, exposure to the foreign media, and political awareness are also bringing about this change. This is a very delicate point.
In the last century when Colonial powers (Western) removed their physical presence from the Muslim lands they left behind two things for their former subjects. One, a social class, which collaborated with them, was left as social elite, aristocrats, and political leaders who want to maintain the status quo and a system of exploitation of masses left by their former masters. The corrupt democracies, fascist regimes, tyrannical monarchies, and despotic military dictators are the
manifestation of this phenomenon. [Readers are strongly recommended to read “Islam in Revolt” by Bernard Lewis. Two, an education system which is not only designed to create brain dead, cramming, rote-zombies perfect for a system of exploitation setup by former colonial masters. What is the product of this system? – scavenging bureaucrats, clerk like engineers, philosophers who can’t conceive an original idea, predatory politicians, and economists who
can’t put two and two together- a perfect recipe to turn a polity into a failed state. And so we have them all over the Muslim World.
One must understand that Education in a broader sense always have two components-the education itself and the training (moral, ethical, technical, etc.) based on that education. What this education really lacks is the training part, completely. All the training that a Muslim get is from the cradle where he first learns the moral values he will have to live by. Then comes the mosque and if he is lucky, the madrassah, where he is taught to live in an unforgiving world with a set of
ethical and moral values, which are based in the culture and religion. The same Muslim-if the colonial education has not killed his mental faculties- is when exposed to other cultures and civilizations and does a self-evaluation comes to only one conclusion i.e. it is post colonial political system based on colonial paradigm and the education, which is the main cause of his suffering. The West refers to this self-awareness as “Revolt in Islam”. The Western media projects
this phenomenon as a defiance and malevolence of Western system of values. As a reaction it promotes and protects pip-squeak liberals and fascist democrats.
One may also come across an anomaly in this phenomenon when he sees the product of some very prestigious and modern educational institutions. The output of these institutions is better only as compared to their ordinary counterparts that they can speak their former master’s language fluently and with a tolerable accent. Why such prestigious institutions fail to deliver the brains, which are required to lead the nation towards progress and not regression can be understood in
terms of the “training” component. The training that this class gets teaches it only one thing that they are born to rule; they must learn to exploit their fellow human being to be at the top of the food chain; morality and ethics is for weak and poor.
The new Muslim, the educated Muslim is becoming aware of this ‘scheme’ to keep him backward, brain dead, and slave minded. So he reverts to the basics, the origin, and the fundamentals of the ethics. And the source of such ethics and his identity of course is Islam.
Reason # 4 – Huntington says, “.the growth of civilization-consciousness is enhanced by the dual role of the West. On the one hand, the West is at a peak of power. At the same time, however, and perhaps as a result, a return to the roots phenomenon is occurring among non-Western civilizations. Increasingly one hears references to trends toward a turning inward and “Asianization” in Japan, the end of the Nehru legacy and the “Hinduization” of India, the failure of Western
ideas of socialism and nationalism and hence “re-Islamization” of the Middle East… A West at the peak of its power confronts non-West that increasingly have the desire, the will and the resources to shape the world in non-Western ways.
Comment – The last sentence summarizes it all. It is necessary to mention a myth that is perpetuated by West to the rest of the world. The myth is that the freedom and liberties are a virtue of Western Civilization alone. Especially, a common person in West is thoroughly convinced about the truth of this ‘myth’. In his worldview (created by media) the non-West is incapable of handling or producing the notions of freedom and liberty. And that the non-West actually
abhors this ‘Western concept’. The truth is quite the contrary. It is easier to practice freedom and liberty when a country is geographically completely isolated and in case of Europe and Japan when there is an umbrella available with the most powerful war machine in the world (NATO). It is also easier when your economic system is based on the principles of colonial exploitation of the weaker and poorer nations. The proof of this truth is the aftermath of September 11.
It is interesting to see a nation who fought one of the bloodiest civil wars to rid the world of the scourge of slavery is now trading its civil liberties for their security; the civil liberties, which were the result of the 300 years of relentless political process. Racial profiling is in effect without any law or statute. In the week of November 19, 800 men of Middle Eastern origin were interrogated in the Metro Detroit area alone as to if they have any connection with Osama or
not. All that ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) had to offer was an advice to those who were interrogated to have their attorney present during the interrogation. It is the same nation who once saved the world from Nazism, and today it is lining up for pills.
Now take an example of two Democracies in Third World, India and Iran. Iran has been able to maintain a democratic electorate for the past 22 years despite a 10 year overt war waged on it by Iraq. It also has to face a on going covert war by CIA and stand up to US against all efforts to isolate Iran from the rest of the world. So people of Iran have to sacrifice their liberties and freedom to preserve their system. Compare it with India, where threat to the society is from with in
because the government (majority) has refused to listen to the concerns of their fellow citizens. Their government blames the unrest on neighboring countries and get away with taking the freedom and liberty of its all of its own people. In this case, a combination of hunger, poverty and the lack of political awareness and education make the people defeat themselves; whereas an educated and politically aware Indian knows very well the value of freedom and liberty.
Unfortunately, all those who are struggling hard to establish a rule of law, personal freedom, and liberties in non-West point their fingers towards the very people who boast about their virtue of freedom and liberty. And today West is afraid of Muslim Civilization for not what it is but for what it might become in this regard.
Reason # 5 – Huntington writes “cultural characteristics and differences are less mutable and hence less easily compromised and resolved than political and economic ones. In the former Soviet Union, communists can become democrats, the rich can become poor and the poor rich, but Russians cannot become Estonians and Azeris cannot become Armenians. In class and ideological conflicts, the key question was “Which side are you on?” and people could and did choose sides and
change sides. In conflicts between civilizations, the question is “What are you?” That is a given that cannot be changed. And as we know, from Bosnia to the Caucasus to the Sudan, the wrong answer to that question can mean a bullet in the head. Even more than ethnicity, religion discriminates sharply and exclusively among people. A person can be half-French and half-Arab and simultaneously even a citizen of two countries. It is more difficult to be half-Catholic and
Comments – I do not agree with this idea as far as Muslim Civilization is concerned. Diversity is inherent in Islam. If that were not the case then Islam would have been only a religion of Arabian Peninsula. The perception of West in this regard is a product of the dis-information of their media and a mindset, which cannot free itself from viewing Muslims with in Crusades-paradigm only.
Reason # 6 – Huntington writes “..Finally, economic regionalism is increasing. The proportions of total trade that are intra-regional rose between 1980 and 1989 from 51 percent to 59 percent in Europe, 33 percent to 37 percent in East Asia, and 32 percent to 36 percent in North America. The importance of regional economic blocs is likely to continue to increase in the future. On the one hand, successful economic regionalism will reinforce civilization-consciousness. On
the other hand, economic regionalism may succeed only when it is rooted in a common civilization. The European Community rests on the shared foundation of European culture and Western Christianity. The success of the North American Free Trade Area depends on the convergence now underway of Mexican, Canadian and American cultures. Japan, in contrast, faces difficulties in creating a comparable economic entity in East Asia because Japan is a society and civilization unique to itself.
However strong the trade and investment links Japan may develop with other East Asian countries, its cultural differences with those countries inhibit and perhaps preclude its promoting regional economic integration like that in Europe and North America.
Comments – True. But the idea that economical regionalism can only succeed if it is rooted in a common civilization is fallacious. As a matter of fact the root of this idea lies in the genesis and metamorphosis of Capitalism through Colonial era, Cold War and Globalization which is hanging like a Sword of Damocles on the non-Western world. The fact of the matter is any system including economical regionalism can succeed if it is based on just and fair principles of live
and let live. But today when 20% of the world population consumes 85% of world energy, 83% of the world’s GNP, 70% of world’s food grain and owns 92% of the world industry, the world seems to be very unjust and Western system of values do not seem to be a compelling example to follow for the rest of the world. Today 1.2 billion people who live in absolute poverty, 100 million of those who are homeless, 14 million of those who go hungry everyday, and 14 million children
under 5 who will die this year, every year, next year, and year after year are asking none other but West why you hate us so much? In this scenario Islam with its political and economical ideology, principles of universal brotherhood, and a world order based on principles of justice and equality for all may become a political ideology to be reckoned with for West. And is there any wonder why Western Civilization is clashing with Islamic Civilization