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Ayaan Hirsi Ali misuses Samuel Huntington

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This WSJ piece by Ayaan Hirsi Ali on the late Harvard political Scientist Samuel Huntington and his widely discussed “Clash of Civilizations” thesis get’s Sam only half right: She is correct that Huntington thought that the future of world politics would be defined by the interaction of larger ethno-religious groupings – which he referred to as civilizations.

She is wrong, however, on two important points: First, Huntington did not argue that the West needed to only confront other civilizations, particularly Islam. Indeed, the conclusion of the book is a brief for a stable civilizational balance of power system based upon spheres of influence.

Second, Huntington’s own policy prescriptions followed this logic. He, along with nearly 40 other scholars, signed a statement in the January 1, 2005 Economist calling for a resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict as a means of advancing the U.S.’s standing in the Islamic world. He also opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq on the same grounds. In other words, Huntington is not much of an ally for Hirsi’s war against Islam.

Michael Desch

Michael Desch is Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame. He was the founding Director of the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs and the first holder of the Robert M. Gates Chair in Intelligence and National Security Decision-Making at the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University from 2004 through 2008.

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