In an article from Proceedings, Lieutenant Colonel James G. Lacey considers the apparent dependency of US planners on scenarios presented by Samuel Huntington (Clash of Civilizations) and Bernard Lewis (The Crisis of Islam) and finds it wanting. Though he mentions Lewis, his greatest beef is with Huntington. Lacey argues that we tend to confuse Arab Civilization with Muslim Civilization. While most of the former are Muslims, most Muslims are not Arab. Lacey sees Arab civilization as nearing collapse – given it burgeoning youth population and ineffective repressive governments. Muslim civilization, however, appears to be doing just fine.
I haven’t read this particular book by Lewis, so I can’t comment on it. My impression of Huntington is that his thesis that the primary basis of conflict in the near term (at least) will be civilizational rather than ideological seems pretty sound. His greatest weakness has been in understanding the place of religion in civilizations. While the West may be closely associated with Christianity, it is not the case that Christianity now provides the chief public values and agenda for the West, nor that Christianity is only of civilizational significance in the West.
If Lacey is right, what course of action ought we to pursue? He suggests:
The grand strategic concept that provides the best chance of success is the one that served us so well in the Cold War—containment. No matter what else we do we must position ourselves to contain the effects of the complete collapse of Arab civilization. Already 10 percent of the French population is from Muslim North Africa. Europe’s ability to assimilate a larger flood of economic refugees is questionable. And mass migration is just one effect a total collapse will have. Containment will mean adopting and maintaining difficult policy choices, which include:
- Working closely with the European nations to defend their southern border against the mass migration of tens of millions of destitute Arabs as well as armed confrontations with failing Arab states.
- Renewing our close ties with Turkey and making that nation a bulwark against the effects of collapse.
- Working to help modernize and integrate the Russian military into an enhanced European defense structure.
- Ensuring China is a partner in this containment effort.
- Propping up weak border states that are already dealing with the spillover effects of Arab collapse—such as Pakistan and the new Caucasus states.
- Assisting the Iranian popular will to establish a government not based on a religious oligarchy. The Persian people may form an eastern bulwark against collapse.
- Plan for the security of critical resources even during possible upheavals and regional turmoil.
- Spillover effects such as terrorist groups already evident in places like Indonesia and the Philippines must be eradicated or reversed.
- We need to be clear that this is not a failure of Islam. In this regard we must help Muslims outside of the Arab world find their own interpretations of their faith and not fall prey to those being espoused by the Arab world—Wahhabism.
I’d suggest that as Christians – I can’t speak for the US or for the West – that we invest ourselves in presenting Jesus to the nations. In a time of turmoil, we might find more openness than we might otherwise be inclined to expect.
One nation – mentioned by Lacey, but from a govermental not civilizational perspective – to look out for is China. Considering their huge economic growth (and possible upcoming bubble popping), potentially devastating population imbalance (young men outnumbering young women – [sound like the Arab world?]),and the supposed growth of the Christian population, we’ll perhaps see some cracks there also.
Through all this conflict – whether inter or intra civilizational (and, yes, we have our own also) – Christians need to position themselves as friends of the various peoples, not as conquerors or exploiters. Can we act now as those who seek to bless others – whether their civilization is at the top or the bottom, in crisis or perfect stability?