- New Issue
- Books & Reviews
- About Us
After the Cold War, Francis Fukuyama, Samuel Huntington, and John Mearsheimer each presented a bold vision of what the driving forces of world politics would be. The world in 2010 hardly seems on a more promising track -- a reminder that simple visions, however powerful, do not hold up as reliable predictors of particular developments.
In Who Are We?, Samuel Huntington turns his formidable intellect to the challenges posed by immigration. Unfortunately, he has abandoned the clear-eyed realism of his past work in favor of disdainful moralism, whipping up nativist hysteria instead of offering real solutions.
The unipolar moment has passed. Even old allies stubbornly resist American demands, while many other nations view U.S. policy and ideals as openly hostile to their own. Washington is blind to the fact that it no longer enjoys the dominance it had at the end of the Cold War. It must relearn the game of international politics as a major power, not a superpower, and make compromises. U.S. policymaking should reflect rational calculations of power rather than a wish list of arrogant, unilateralist demands.
A nation's interests derive from its identity. But without an enemy to define itself against, America's identity has disintegrated. This breakdown intensified with the rise of multiculturalism and the ebbing of assimilation. Lacking a national identity, America has been pursuing commercial or ethnic interests as its foreign policy. Instead of putting American resources toward these sub-national uses, the United States should scale back its involvement in the world until a threat reinvigorates our national purpose.
Many in the West believe the world is moving toward a single, global culture that is basically Western. This belief is arrogant, false, and dangerous. The spread of Western consumer goods is not the spread of Western culture. Drinking Coca-Cola makes a Russian no more Western than eating sushi makes an American Japanese. The essence of the West is the Magna Carta, not the Magna Mac. As countries modernize, they may westernize in superficial ways, but not in the most important measures of culture--language, religion, values. In fact, as countries modernize they seek refuge from the modern world in their traditional, parochial cultures and religions. Around the globe, education and democracy are leading to "indigenization." And as the power of the West ebbs, "the rest" will become more and more assertive. For the West to survive as a vibrant and powerful civilization, it must abandon the pretense of universality and close ranks. Its future depends on its unity. The peoples of the West must hang together, or they will hang separately.
It's all very well to point to scattered events that the "civilizations" paradigm does not explain. But there is still no better framework with which to understand the post-Cold War world.
World politics is entering a new phase, in which the great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of international conflict will be cultural. Civilizations-the highest cultural groupings of people-are differentiated from each other by religion, history, language and tradition. These divisions are deep and increasing in importance. From Yugoslavia to the Middle East to Central Asia, the fault lines of civilizations are the battle lines of the future. In this emerging era of cultural conflict the United States must forge alliances with similar cultures and spread its values wherever possible. With alien civilizations the West must be accommodating if possible, but confrontational if necessary. In the final analysis, however, all civilizations will have to learn to tolerate each other.
Subscribe to Foreign Affairs for $32—and receive The Clash of Civilizations?: The Debate absolutely free. This digital reprint includes Huntington's seminal article plus commentary and criticism that it inspired.
Examines areas which have been cited by 'declinist' writers as causes of the US economic, and hence national, decline, in particular (1) deficits (2) declining shares (3) 'systemic' failures. Highly critical of the arguments propounded by Paul Kennedy, counters that the real source of any nation's decline -- 'internal stagnation' -- is something from which America is not suffering. Economic or military power are not the only determinants of national power, and so decline cannot be seen against a purely economic background. Concludes that although US predominance in world affairs is not so secure as it was, "the ultimate test of a great power is in its ability to renew its power". Director, Center for International Affairs, Harvard University.
A 'Lippmann gap' exists when a nation's foreign policy commitments exceed its power. Such a gap existed for the USA by the end of the 1960s, and until 1981 the USA sought to deal with it by reducing commitments and by increasing the role of US allies. President Reagan instead used policies of rhetorical assertion, military build-up, strategic defence, insurgency support, coercive diplomacy and arms control. The next administration's economic inheritance will compel reorganization of the defence establishment, conventional arms cuts, and greater effort by US allies. Concludes that the Lippmann gap will best be coped with by a middle-of-the-road administration.
Aviable political settlement in South Viet Nam will reflect and give some legitimacy to the balance of political, military and social forces produced by a decade of internal conflict and five years of large-scale warfare. A successful settlement can also inaugurate a process of political accommodation through which the various elements of Vietnamese society may eventually be brought together into a functioning polity. American objectives and American expectations of what can be achieved at the conference table and on the battlefield should, correspondingly, be based on the realities of power and the opportunities for accommodation.