Magazine article The American Conservative

What to Conserve

Magazine article The American Conservative

What to Conserve

Article excerpt

Samuel Huntington guaranteed he would be remembered unkindly by progressives when he dedicated his last two books to distinctly politically incorrect themes. In the 1993 essay that became the basis for The Clash of Civilizations, he predicted that in the century to come "the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations." Eleven years later, in Who Are We?, he addressed immigration and the "Anglo-Protestant" roots of American identity. Today, these books presumably require "trigger warnings."

Huntington did not set out to give offense, but The Clash of Civilizations, in particular, was misinterpreted by certain critics as a brief for pre-emptive war and demonizing other peoples. In fact, Huntington's motive in both books was defensive: helping Americans understand new threats and the limits of globalization, whether in the form of economic development and democratization abroad or assimilating large numbers of immigrants at home. Huntington provided the basis for what TAC's William S. Lind has called a "defensive grand strategy," whose core tenet is to separate the United States from the chaotic ethno-religious forces that are dissolving traditional nation-states throughout much of the world. The Middle East, of course, is the prime example.

The U.S. role in igniting the conflagration now enveloping that region is not to be overlooked: the Iraq War, intervention in Libya, and the failure of our policymakers to understand just how different these cultures are from our own opened the door to anarchy and ISIS. Huntington was taken to be a Western chauvinist, but clearly other civilizations have at least as much to fear from us as we do from them.

Huntington's diagnosis should not be taken as a prescription for a crude nationalism, much less for xenophobia or jingoism. …

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