Home / Articles / What are We Fighting For? Western Civilization, American Identity, and U.S. Foreign Policy
This January 2009 e-book by James Kurth, FPRI Senior Fellow and Claude Smith Professor of Political Science at Swarthmore College, discusses the foundations of Western and specifically American civilization, the ideals which make them worth fighting for.
The Real Clash of Civilizations
Fifteen years ago, Samuel P. Huntington published, first as an article (“The Real Clash of Civilizations?” Foreign Affairs, Summer 1993) and then as a book (The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, Simon and Schuster, 1996), his famous argument about the clash of civilizations. The clash that he was referring to was the clash between the West—Western civilization—and the rest. Of the rest, he considered the greatest challenges to the West would come from the Islamic civilization and the Sinic, or Confucian, civilization. These challenges would be very different because these civilizations were very different. But together they could become a dynamic duo that might raise very serious challenges to the West.
Since Huntington published his thesis, these challenges have indeed occurred. We all know about the conflict that we have with at least the Islamic extremists, the Islamists within the Islamic civilization—not only with Al Qaeda since 9/11, but then in Iraq and now once again in Afghanistan. There is also the clash with the Chinese civilization. This takes a very different form, being much more a competition over “smart power” and “soft power” (more on which below) than over hard power. But this is also a conflict that may become more intense in the next generation.