Has the Clash of Civilizations Thesis Influenced America’s War on Terror?

Gregorio Bettiza
University of Exeter

Cross-posted from the Religion and IR Blog

Samuel Huntington’s theory that post-Cold War world politics would be defined by the “clash of civilizations” has generated much debate in scholarly and policy circles since it first appeared on the pages of Foreign Affairs in 1993. One of the main controversies has revolved around the extent to which Huntington’s (in)famous thesis would come to shape America’s foreign policy and its War on Terror since the attacks of September 11, 2001 (9/11).

Some like Paul Avey and Michael Desch have suggested in a 2014 International Studies Quarterly article that Huntington’s ideas have had scarce purchase among US national security policymakers and, by implication, little impact on American foreign policy. Through the use of surveys, Avey and Desch found that across a range of theories which policymakers where most familiar with, Huntington’s clash of civilizations was the one they exhibited the greatest skepticism towards and influenced their work the least. (Other theories policymakers were surveyed on included: democratic peace theory, mutual assured destruction, population centric COIN, structural realism, expected utility.)

Others, especially critical scholars often drawing on Edward Said’s concept of orientalism, have tended to reach dramatically different conclusions. Within this scholarship the clash of civilizations is generally understood as a shared discourse that percolates across all levels of American society, from Hollywood productions to the corridors of power in Washington DC, consistently categorizing Islam and Muslims as the new post-Cold War ‘other’. The War on Terror is then understood as an enactment of these discourses on the world political stage. Continue reading “Has the Clash of Civilizations Thesis Influenced America’s War on Terror?”

Pandemipolitics and the (Potential) Unmaking of the Liberal World Order

Gregorio Bettiza
University of Exeter

Cross-posted from Pandemipolitics

The global politics of the current Covid-19 pandemic (i.e. ‘pandemipolitics’) intersects in complex ways with the making, ongoing crisis, and potential unmaking of the liberal world order. What the characteristics of this order are is a hotly debated issue in international relations. Rather than using a clear-cut definition, I tend to think about the liberal order as coming together around four interlocking features which constitute our contemporary, post-Cold War, globalized international system.

First, this order is characterized by a progressive growth of international institutions and rules designed to collectively govern multiple aspects of world affairs. Second, the liberal order is marked by the spread of capitalist modes of production and the forces of economic globalization, largely organized around neo-liberal logics which require the scaling back of the state and thrive on the (relatively) free movement of goods, finance, and people worldwide. Third, this order facilitates and legitimizes the global diffusion of liberal values and institutions, including democratic regimes and universal human rights norms, while simultaneously delegitimizing and stigmatizing non-liberal worldviews and identities. Fourth, and finally, driving many of these processes and structures, are ideas, practices, and interests largely stemming from powerful Western actors. Continue reading “Pandemipolitics and the (Potential) Unmaking of the Liberal World Order”