The so-called ‘Clash of Civilizations’ is a hypothesis proposed by the American political scientist Samuel P. Huntington in 1992, whereby people’s cultural and religious identities are the primary source of conflict in a post-Cold War world.
Huntington’s theory hangs on the the idea that up until the French Revolution, principle wars were between princes, emperors and monarchs to expand their bureaucracies, economic strength and most importantly — territories. In the process they created nation states. After WWI, conflict between nation states, according to Huntington, yielded to the conflict of ideologies.
Dr.Robert’s view of Huntington’s theory is as follows: “Huntington’s book or thesis is part of a neoconservative plan, what Huntington does is to set up the Middle East for the neoconservative plan of American hegemony of the whole Middle East, and I think that this thesis he constructed was to get the foreign policy community in the United States, foreign policy writers and professors, thinking that a clash between the United States and the Islamic world was something that was normal, just part of the way things worked. And that’s why he went back to the past to Kings and Princes to try and root it in the past, that sort of thing….the Napoleonic Wars began as an ideological thing, the overthrow of the old order by the French revolution, and the old order trying to protect itself. It's hard to say exactly what WWII was all about, but it did seem that the Germans had in mind expanding to the east,…then we had the Korean and Vietnam wars which were presented to the American people as an ideological clash between freedom and democracy and Soviet totalitarianism….Wars now are wars of choice created by Washington. What they've done is destabilise the balance in the Middle East between the two main Muslim groups, the Shia and the Sunni. Washington has overthrown secular leaders like Saddam Hussein, which has released a conflict within that society, and they are trying to do the same thing in Syria, to get rid of Assad who is also a secular leader. But these are wars that were provoked by a handful of American intellectuals known as neoconservatives.”
Huntington seems to imply that civilisations are intrinsically hostile to each other — a kind of civilisational chaos theory, John Harrison said. “Yes, I think that is what his argument is. It's obviously false. In the Middle East you had Christians, Jews and Muslims living together, the relationship between the United States and the Middle East was stable. The Arabs sold us their oil, we gave them paper money, they used the paper money to finance the American deficit….there was no need for conflict then between the Arab world and the United States,…all of this conflict was invented by the neoconservatives, who had this plan for a new American century; and it called for invading and overthrowing the governments in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia….It was put into effect with 9/11, but the plans existed to invade Iraq prior to 9/11. It was a choice conflict that had nothing to do with cultural conflict.”
To say that civilisations clash with each other is potentially a very dangerous statement, John Harrison suggested. Dr Roberts agreed: “Yes, it is very dangerous, it has brought the United States into conflict not merely with Muslims, but also with Russia and China. And with the independent-minded governments in Latin America. So we are essentially in conflict with everybody because we are indispensable and exceptional”. “Americans then are very special because they are not only representatives of white christian culture, but also exceptional because you are Americans,” John Harrison said. “This is very similar to what the Nazis said, they were the chosen people, the exceptional ones,” Dr Roberts agreed.
Finally, Dr Roberts was asked if ‘transculturalism’ whereby different cultures are understood and respected, could be the way forward. “Well, that would be the only way forward. We have to understand that peoples have a history. Culture is in history and you can't expect people just to write it all off and do what you're doing. If there has to be change, it is gradual over time, it can't be imposed from the outside, so I think, yes, people have to learn to respect each other, and respect other civilisations. It used to be when I was a student, that's what they tried to teach you, they had to try to teach you to understand other people, and their histories, and how it affects them. So you weren't supposed to go around bullying or challenging them or overcoming, that's not what you were supposed to do.”