Foreign Affairs From The Anthology: The Clash of Civilizations?
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Conflict or Cooperation?

Three Visions Revisited

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"Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slave of some defunct economist," John Maynard Keynes once wrote. Politicians and pundits view the world through instincts and assumptions rooted in some philosopher's Big Idea. Some ideas are old and taken for granted throughout society. For most Americans, it is the ideas of the liberal tradition, from John Locke to Woodrow Wilson, that shape their thinking about foreign policy. The sacred concepts of freedom, individualism, and cooperation are so ingrained in U.S. political culture that most people assume them to be the natural order of things, universal values that people everywhere would embrace if given the chance.

In times of change, people wonder more consciously about how the world works. The hiatus between the Cold War and 9/11 was such a time; conventional wisdom begged to be reinvented. Nearly a century of titanic struggle over which ideology would be the model for organizing societies around the globe -- fascism, communism, or Western liberal democracy -- had left only the last one standing. After a worldwide contest of superpowers, the only conflicts left were local, numerous but minor. What would the driving forces of world politics be after the twentieth century, the century of total war?

Among the theorists who jumped into the market for models of the future, three stood out: Francis Fukuyama, Samuel Huntington, and John Mearsheimer. Each made a splash with a controversial article, then refined the argument in a book

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In This Review

The End of History and the Last Man
Francis Fukuyama
Free Press, 1992
400 pp.
The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order
Samuel P. Huntington
Simon & Schuster, 1996
368 pp.
The Tragedy of Great Power Politics
John J. Mearsheimer
Norton, 2001
448 pp.

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