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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

History is Written by the Winner…

Last time I went to Barnes & Noble, I stopped by the table displaying the selected works chosen to help make sense of the post-9-11 world. Most prominent among the Bin Laden biographies and histories of the Middle East was Samuel P. Huntingtons’ 1996 “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order.” Figuring it couldn’t hurt to be an informed member of society, I picked it up.

Huntington, it turns out, is a pretty big fish in the pond of Poli-sci: Harvard Professor, founder of Foreign Policy magazine, and president of the American Political Science Association. He constructed this book as an expansion of his 1993 Foreign Affairs submission which caused more controversy and response than any single article they’ve printed in fifty years. It’s a pretty hard-core work of academia, in which after about a chapter or so, it has you thinking it would be easier to just go out and buy a flag. If you can muddle through the text-bookish quality of the writing, it does present you with a whole new, although somewhat bleak and pessimistic view of the emerging order in the Post-Cold War.

The thesis, essentially, is that we’ve gone from three worlds to eight civilizations. The Wesphalian concept of nation-states as sovereign actors has eroded, the concept of ideology as a regional factor has collapsed, and the only way to understand conflicts in the international arena is to view groups of countries as culturally bounded. The new players are: The West (Western Europe and We the People), Latin America, African, Islamic, Sinic (Greater China), Hindu, Orthodox (Russia and its’ ‘near abroad’), and Japanese.

What Huntington tackles first is a marked decline in the West’s influence in international affairs. When we see a world that is more modern, we mistakenly see a world more Western. This is an antithesis of Thomas Friedman’s idealistic view of globalization, in “The Lexus and the Olive Tree.” What Huntington is saying is that we see the Lexus as our Olive Tree, and think that our commercial influence in other parts of the world will somehow bring along with them our ideas of liberal democracy, rule of law, and individualism. But, no amount of Big Macs or Brad Pitt movies are going to incite other civilizations to vote prowestern.

The second issue is the arrival of China as the next candidate for the world’s hegemonic economic and military hyper-power. The U.S. and co. isn’t used to a number two slot, but the Clinton and early administrations have had to take that number a few times already. Bush even donned the traditional garb over the weekend.

But the aspect that has caught Huntington the most flak is his examination of the Islamic Resurgence. The Islamic civilization is in the midst of a maturing baby-boom, and its 18-25 year old demographic is grasping powerfully to it’s cultural identity. A true liberal democracy in many of its’ states would bring Anti-Western, fundamentalist governments into power. And contrary to the public stance, Muslim civilization tends to be the least peaceful on earth, being involved in more than 2/3s of the worlds major conflicts (more than 1000 deaths) in the years 1992, ’93, and ’94. And the violence was about equally distributed in countries where they were the minority and the majority.

One possible reason Huntington gives is that Islam lacks a core state that can act as a strong enough mouthpiece in the international community. Without influence, violence becomes the only viable alternative.

A nice staunch realist/conservative viewpoint, with a suggestion of the necessity of a containment policy for both Islam and China until things stabilize. The book finishes with a brief projection of what World War III might look like, and blames the incapacity of the West to handle it on its dedication to liberal multiculturalism. Well, I’m still voting left, but this book does speak in the language quickly becoming the one the world dialogues in, and I’d suggest it to either side of the line.