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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Feb. 28, 2006 / 30 Shevat, 5766

The crash of civilizations

By Niall Ferguson


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | It has been nearly 13 years since Samuel Huntington published his seminal essay "The Clash of Civilizations?" in Foreign Affairs. As works of academic prophecy go, this has been a real winner — up there with George Kennan's epoch-making 1947 essay "The Sources of Soviet Conduct," which laid out the rationale for containment of the Soviet Union.


"In this new world," wrote Huntington, "the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations…. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future."


The other great think-piece of the post-Cold War period was Francis Fukuyama's "The End of History." Published in 1989, before the fall of the Berlin Wall, it argued that liberal democracy had conquered, once and for all, rival ideologies such as fascism and communism. But Fukuyama went from seeming prescient to seeming overoptimistic within just a few years. In particular, Bosnia's civil war showed how history might actually resume with a vengeance in some post-communist societies.


By contrast, Huntington's vision of a world divided along ancient cultural fault lines has stood up much better. Indeed, the Bosnian war was a good example of what Huntington had in mind, because it was a conflict located precisely on the fault line between Western Christianity, Orthodoxy and Islam.


Muslims were the losers in Bosnia. But Huntington's point was that in other respects, Islam was an ascendant civilization, not least because of the high birthrates prevalent in most Muslim societies. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 were interpreted by many Americans in Huntington's terms; this was an attack on America's Judeo-Christian civilization by the fanatical followers of a prophet spurned by both Jews and Christians.


Also ascendant, Huntington argued, was Confucianism, the civilization of China. This forecast, too, has been vindicated by the seemingly unstoppable growth of the Chinese economy.


Huntington's model makes sense of an impressively high proportion of the news. When young Muslim men riot in protest against Danish cartoons, it looks like another case of clashing civilizations. Small wonder many congressmen are baffled by the Bush administration's willingness to let a Dubai-based firm take over terminal operations at six U.S. ports: wrong civilization.


Strife between Nigerian Muslims and Christians? Chalk up another one to Huntington. Trouble in the Caucasus? That's two. Darfur? Three, and counting.


And yet, for all its seductive simplicity, I have never entirely bought the theory that the future will be dominated by the clash of civilizations.


For one thing, the term "civilization" 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, whom do I call when I want to talk to Western civilization? Anyone who crosses the Atlantic on a regular basis quickly learns how vacuous that phrase has become.


As for "Judeo-Christian civilization" (a phrase popularized by Bernard Lewis), I don't remember that being a terribly harmonious union in the 1940s.


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


I've been predicting for some time that Iraq could end up being like Lebanon to the power of 10 if the civil war already underway there should escalate. Last week's bomb attack on the Shiites' Golden Mosque in Samarra may be the trigger for precisely that escalation. The point is that Iraq's "clash" is not between civilizations but within Islamic civilization — between the country's Sunni minority and its Shiite majority.


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 civilization will not conflict with and even fight one another."


But he went on to say: "Conflicts between groups in different civilizations will be more frequent, more sustained and more violent than conflicts between groups in the same civilization."


Sorry, wrong. It's 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-civilization wars. More often than not, the wars of the "new world disorder" have been fought between ethnic groups within one of Huntington's civilizations.


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 civilizations. 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; in many cases, religious affiliation has more to do with the localized success of missionaries in the past than with long-standing membership of a Christian or Muslim civilization.


In reality, the problems of the Middle East have little to do with a clash of civilizations and a lot to do with the Arab world's "civilization of clashes" — the propensity of its political culture to resolve disputes by violence rather than negotiation. The same applies a fortiori to sub-Saharan Africa.


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 will tend to tear apart at least one (and maybe more) of the very civilizations identified by Huntington.


In short, for the "clash of civilizations," read the "crash of civilizations."

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Niall Ferguson is a professor of history at Harvard University. He is the author of "Empire" (Basic Books, 2003) and "Colossus" (Penguin, 2004). Comment by clicking here.

02/21/06: Not the president, but close
02/14/06: Want historic trouble? Look south
02/07/06: Greenspan advising Britain? It's housing bubbles, deficits and potential meltdowns all over again
01/31/06: Missing the Cold War
01/24/06: It's a sick, Thick World
01/17/06: Tomorrow's world war today
01/03/06: Scotland, it's over, but keep the accents
12/20/05: History, democracy and Iraq
12/20/05: History, democracy and Iraq
11/22/05: Ghost of Napoleon haunts Tony Blair
11/22/05: Can it happen in Britain too?
11/15/05: Red plus blue equals purple
11/10/05: The fires of disintegration
11/01/05: Triumph of an über-wonk

© 2006, Los Angeles Times Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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