Thursday, August 02, 2007

Intellectual Guns for Hire

As professional producers of knowledge, what scholars write can be deadly. Perhaps one of the deadliest since the end of the Cold War is Samuel Huntington. His prophetic(?) article entitled "Clash of Civilisations" came out in the Foreign Affairs journal in 1993. Huntington claimed that in a world where there was no longer a rival empire, the major cause of conflict would be inter-civilisational. The greatest fissure and consequently the greatest points of conflict would be between the "West" and "Confucian" civilisation, and also the "West" and "Islamic" civilisation.

I imagine Foreign Affairs publisher, the influential Council of Foreign Relations, knocking on Huntington's door. Or it could be the other way around. They ask him, or he tells them, now that inter-ideological conflict is over, who should the paranoid lone superpower look out for? Who's the next possible rival to American hegemony?

Huntington has expanded his thesis into a book which came out in 1997. Palestinian scholar Edward Said called Huntington out for the cultural racist and war-monger that he is. After September 11, 2001, Clash of Civilisations and the Re-making of the World Order, which was re-printed in 2002, seems to have been the bible guiding US foreign policy in the Eurasian continent.

Since 9/11 the global agenda has been firmly re-directed to combatting terrorism. Governments from Britain all the way to the Philippines have responded to call for war against Islamic fundamentalists. Islamophobia is at an all-time high and Muslims are responding to what they perceive to be an assault on their identity. The inherently transnational nature of the umma, the community of believers, is being used to fight an asymmetrical war against "Satan" personified by America. Again I ask, does the Philippines really want to be embroiled in this? Any rational government would think twice. But this administration is only thinking of short-term gains. Think of the future Madame President.

In the mean time, eradication of global poverty has taken a backseat on the to-do list of the global community and Huntington is laughing all the way to the bank. Iraq is in shambles as the four-year war has claimed an estimated 600,000 lives to date. As Washington floats the idea of doing an Iraq on Iran, and the US succeeds in expanding its sphere of influence eastward, who's next? For hints, see Huntington's diagram above. The thicker the line, the greater the tendency for conflict. Oh Samuel, what art thou wrought?

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