The civilisations of the modern world are more likely to collapse than collide (Niall Ferguson, 26/02/2006, Sunday Telegraph)

or all its seductive simplicity, I have never entirely bought the theory that the future will be dominated by the clash of civilisations. For one thing, the term “civilisation” has always struck me as much too woolly. I know what a religion is. I know what an empire is. But, as Henry Kissinger might have said, who do I call when I want to speak to Western Civilisation? Anyone who crosses the Atlantic as often as I do quickly learns how vacuous that phrase has become.

As Robert Kagan said, in another Great American Essay, “Americans are from Mars, Europeans are from Venus” – at least when it comes to the legitimacy of using military force. In a whole range of ways – from the way they worship to the way they work – Americans and Europeans are more than just an ocean apart. As for “Judaeo-Christian” civilisation (a phrase popularised by Bernard Lewis, another prophet of the great clash), I don’t remember that being a terribly harmonious entity in the 1940s.

The really big problem with the theory, however, is right in front of our very noses. Question: Who has killed the most Muslims in the past 12 months? The answer is, of course, other Muslims. […]

Now Huntington is too clever a man not to hedge his bets. “This article does not argue,” he wrote back in 1993, “that groups within a civilisation will not conflict with and even fight one another.” But he went on to reassert that “conflicts between groups in different civilisations will be more frequent, more sustained and more violent than conflicts between groups in the same civilisation.”

Sorry, wrong. It is well known that the overwhelming majority of conflicts since the end of the Cold War have been civil wars. The interesting thing is that only a minority of them have conformed to Huntington’s model of inter-civilisation wars. More often than not, the wars of the New World Disorder have been fought between ethnic groups within one of Huntington’s civilisations.

To be precise: Of 30 major armed conflicts that are either still going on or have recently ended, only 10 or 11 can be regarded as being in any sense between civilisations, in the sense that one side was predominantly Muslim and the other non-Muslim. But 14 were essentially ethnic conflicts, the worst being the wars that continue to bedevil Central Africa. Moreover, many of those conflicts that have a religious dimension are also ethnic conflicts; religious affiliation has more to do with the localised success of missionaries in the past than with long-standing membership of a Christian or Muslim civilisation. […]

The future therefore looks more likely to bring multiple local wars – most of them ethnic conflicts in Africa, South Asia and the Middle East – than a global collision of value-systems. Indeed, my prediction would be that precisely these centrifugal tendencies, most clearly apparent in Iraq today, will increasingly tear apart the very civilisations identified by Samuel Huntington.

In short, for “the clash of civilisations”, read “the crash of civilisations”.

The fundamental problem with the clash of civilizations theory is that it’s an outgrowth of multiculturalism, whereas the End of History, though Mr. Fukuyama never grasped the fact, is essentially Evangelical. China and the Middle East are going to evolve into liberal democracies because they have no other choice. You just can’t build a decent society and a functional state/economy on Confucianism or Islamicism.


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