Handicapping the clash of civilizations: bet on America to win

Summary:  The world is wracked by a clash of civilizations. America is the aggressor. The rest of the world is on the defensive. Today we discuss why America is winning, with eventual victory almost certain: western culture will crush our foes, as it did in the Cold War. That means empathy for our foes should be part of our grand strategy.

“In War: resolution. In Defeat: defiance. In Victory: magnanimity. In Peace: good will.”
— Good advice from Winston Churchill’s The Second World War, Volume I : The Gathering Storm (1948)

Crusade vs Jihad

Contents of this series

(a)  How I learned to stop worrying and love Fourth Generation War. We can win at this game.

(b)  We are the attackers in the Clash of Civilizations. We’re winning.

  1. A spectre haunts the world
  2. Islam vs. America

(c)  Today’s post:

  1. Who is playing offense? defense?
  2. Can they win against our culture?
  3. Who is at fault? Us or them?
  4. The military dimension
  5. Recommendations
  6. For more information


(3)  Who is playing offense? Who is playing defense?

From one perspective, we see that Islamic jihadis have suddenly decided to retake their lost lands, such as Spain, and declare war on the Great Satan (i.e., America, or perhaps western civilization). But why attack now? Why attack the USA, rather than (for example) Israel? Such questions have been the subject of fascinating and often fevered speculation, mostly without much evidence or even logic. Here’s one of the better answers:

Ideologically, Salafism is to Jihadism what Marxism is to Leninism, even though psychologically, the jihadist disease appears closer to Nazism (i.e., pathological fear of, rather than faith in, modernity, along with virulent anti-Semitism). Just as the communist project of yesterday was summed up by the proverbial slogan “the Soviets, plus electricity,” the jihadist project today is best captured by “the sha’ria, plus WMD.” Like the Communist International, the Salafist International has its Bolsheviks and its Mensheviks, its Bernsteins and its Kautskys, and even its Leninesque What Is to Be Done? (Qutb’s Milestones).

As for the debates over what priority to give to the “far enemy” vs. the “near enemy,” they are but the equivalent of yesterday’s clashes between Trotskyite partisans of “permanent revolution” and Stalinist supporters of “socialism in one country.”

— Tony Corn, “World War IV as Fourth-Generation Warfare“, Policy Review, January 2006

Another and simpler explanation is that the jihadists are defending themselves. American culture threatens to wash away some key values of Islamic societies, as it is doing to so many other societies. The difference between their values and ours — and hence the danger — is greater for them than, for example, our western cousins (e.g., the French). So they seek self-preservation, an instinct both ubiquitous in practice and enshrined in the law of nations. Whether America’s cultural “aggression” is deliberate or inadvertent is not relevant.  We don’t care, nor do they.

Let’s check this conclusion by another line of logic. One objective of modern war (i.e., of the past few centuries) is to gain the moral high ground, usually by portraying the other side as the aggressor, a decisive advantage in wars from the American Revolution to the USSR-Afghanistan War. In today’s global community what nation consistently appears among the most likely to disturb the global peace? America.

(4)  Can they successfully defend against American culture?

Probably not.


  • Ideas and technology have always spread irresistibly. Cultures that have walled themselves off, such as China did for centuries, suffered as a result.
  • Globalization makes borders porous. Travel and trade allow cultural contagions to spread rapidly across the globe.
  • Modern communications technology allows the first two factors to change cultures in years instead of over generations.

(5)  Who is at fault for this conflict? America or them?

Please consult a priest or philosopher for answers to such questions. The FM website discusses what was, what is, and what might be.

In any case, neither Mother Nature nor Mistress Cleo (the muse of history) cares.  Rather than bother with such a pointless exercise, we should practice empathy for those whose cultures we threaten — and probably will irrevocably change. No matter if we disagree with their values, we can understand and sympathize with their anguish and lost traditions.

“There, but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford.”
— Said by John Bradford while imprisoned in the Tower of London (as a Protestant) when he saw others led toward their execution. He burned at the stake on 1 July 1555 (See Wikipedia)

(6)  The military dimension of this conflict

We couple an offensive cultural strategy with an aggressive military strategy. Although we call our military a “defense”, our actions speak louder than our words. We maintain a chain of approximately 700+ bases encircling the world plus a massive military force — that frequently intervenes in foreign lands. Those nations not on friendly terms with us might reasonably find this threatening.

As is so often the case in history, the conflict between the West and the rest is structural. We will not change ourselves to suit others. It’s our culture and their problem. What strategy will work best for us? Should we play offense or defense?

Both. And neither. The terms are meaningless except as generalities. Worse, they imply that we compete against everyone else. If so, what is the prize? Who cares? What does it mean to “win” the clash of civilizations”? The Soviet Union was a global menace for several generations, spreading communism and revolution over the globe – until it collapsed. What did their aggressiveness accomplish?

Disciple Caine: Master, do we seek victory in contention?
Master Kan: Seek rather not to contend.
Disciple Caine: But shall we not then be defeated?
Master Kan: We know that where there is no contention, there is neither defeat nor victory. The supple willow does not contend against the storm, yet it survives.

— From episode #1 of the television show “Kung Fu” (1972)

Our goal should be to build the best possible America. There is no perfect security in this world, only in the next. But we can make more friends than enemies, with empathy a powerful tool in our arsenal — in addition to the bombs.

Most importantly, patience and restraint make time our ally. Rather than our bombs, make our economic strength and vibrant culture the our cutting edges in this conflict, so that our enemies look with fear on the coming of each new year — as events slowly force them to evolve.

Or we can continue our bold warlike ways, and risk blowing our advantages. History provides many examples of ways to to this. Athens held a winning position similar to ours, and threw it away in an imprudent war. Lots of lessons for America in this passage.

Actually, we do know one important, big thing about the Classical Greek world that Thucydides did not know … There is a deep, powerful sense in which time was on the side of Athens and its empire. Each decade that the war between Sparta and Athens remained cold rather than hot was a decade for metics and immigrants to the Geek world to think whether they wanted to live in Spartan-allied oligarchies dominated by a closed guild of landowners, or in Athenian-allied places where the (male, citizen) demos ruled and where there was much more growth, commerce, trade, and opportunity.

Each decade that the war between Sparta and Athens remained cold rather than hot was a decade for rich Spartiates to marry the daughters of other rich Spartiates, and for poor Spartiates to find that they could no longer afford the Spartan lifestyle and so drop out of the citizen body — and of the main line of battle. By 350 Sparta could — this is a guess — put only one-fifth as many professional hoplite soldiers into the line of battle as it could have two centuries before. A policy of postponing the showdown — even if one of “apparently limitless forbearance” — was a policy of greatly increasing the relative strength of the Athenian side.

— “History as Tragedy: The Peloponnesian War“, Brad DeLong, Professor of Economic at Berkeley

The US government borrows vast sums each year (often from foreign governments) to sustain our trillion-dollar military apparatus, our foreign bases, and many wars. A great nation’s wealth, thoughtlessly thrown away without considering alternative strategies, which might achieve security at a cost we can afford. And allow time for the world to change so that this clash of civilizations passes, as have those in the past, leaving a better world in its wake.

(7)  Recommendations

For details about a defensive grand strategy:

(8)  For More Information

(a)  To read other posts about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar: posts about Military and strategic theory.

(b)  Posts about the Long War:

  1. The Fight for Islamic Hearts and Minds, 20 February 2012
  2. A look at al Qaeda, the long war — and us, 7 August 2013
  3. How I learned to stop worrying and love Fourth Generation War. We can win at this game., 18 September 2013

(c)  Posts about Islam

  1. Are islamic extremists like the anarchists?, 14 December 2009
  2. Hatred and fear of Islam – of Moslems – is understandable. But are there hidden forces at work?, 3 August 2010
  3. Should we fear that religion whose believers have killed so many people?, 4 August 2010
  4. Hard (and disturbing) information about schools in Pakistan – the madāris, 1 May 2011
  5. The Fight for Islamic Hearts and Minds, 20 February 2012

We have been here before

Women in Islam and the West

49 thoughts on “Handicapping the clash of civilizations: bet on America to win”

  1. “If so, what is the prize? Who cares? What does it mean to “win” the clash of civilizations”?”

    The spoils of world dominance are economic and political security. When you think that the U.S. seeks to ensure open trade (that benefits a system of economics it created) while also remaining as safe as geopolitically possible, much of its action, short and long term, make more sense.

    Islamism does have a competing economic system, one that would threaten the American way of doing business. But it’s so unsophisticated that it would also undo a lot of the technological progress humanity has achieved over the past 500 years.

    1. MrB,

      That’s quite logical. But it doesn’t make much sense to me since the end of the Cold War and the Fall of the Soviet Union.

      (1) Who are the threats to our “economic and political security”, such large threats that we spend over half of the world’s military/intel budget (most of the rest is from our allies)?

      (2) Do our military and “covert” interventions every few years in fact support those goals?

      (3) What is the link between our military interventions and free trade?

      (4) Who are the Islamists that have a competing economic system? Can you cite some that are opposed to free trade? The Gulf States and Indonesia are among the top beneficiaries of free trade. I doubt there is much support among their Islamic people for an alternative, assuming that there is one.

      1. Let me see if I can answer to your satisfaction as best I can. :)

        1).You’re also right that America most probably overspends. Much of that money was in its hysterical reaction to 9/11, which was not strategic but emotional.

        Nevertheless, the U.S. Navy ensures all world trade remains relatively free of piracy and doesn’t allow anyone but the the U.S. to set up a blockade. (Current blockade of Iran is a fine example, where Iran can’t break it because of superior U.S. naval might).

        The last time there wasn’t a supreme naval power, you had the Age of Piracy in the 17th and 18th centuries. The coming of the Royal Navy put that to rest and secured trade links for the Empire until America took over after World War II.

        The correct proportion necessary to secure global trade and ensure that no geopolitical competitors have freedom of action is up for debate. Perhaps it’s too much right now (and I don’t know a way to ascertain how much is too much, outside my training) but the general principle for domination is that America must spend more than anyone else to remain on top.

        2). The interventions, even if unsuccessful (as Iraq was) always do two things. One, they prove America can and will strike states that do not toe its line. Two, even if unsuccessful interventions, enemy states are reduced or destroyed, thus making them unable to challenge the U.S. as effectively. This has been America’s post-Cold War strategy, although not on purpose. If its self-proclaimed rogue states can’t be put right, the next best thing is to destroy or weaken them irreparably.

        3). Besides interventions proving America can, they also create a “push” incentive for powers to cooperate with American global rules. Ghaddafi learned this, albeit too late (witness how the embargoes were coming down since he’d finally cooperated on his WMD, until of course his terrible system of governance caught up with him).

        All interventions are intended on giving American as much power and domination in a particular area as possible. Areas which resist American power are more likely to suffer intervention. This opens up trade lanes that might otherwise be closed by hostile forces (witness how Iran has threatened to close the Hormuz and thus choke a vital trade point, but never actually followed through with it because its naval forces would be annihilated by the U.S.).

        4). Islam as a religion has stipulations on economics very similar to medieval Catholics. Usury (lending for profit) is not allowed, so there go modern credit systems.

        This is not to say that all Muslims buy that. First off, as humans, not all Muslims have a perfect understanding of religion, and so may not be aware it’s not allowed. Others take the view of modern Catholics – that was a fine rule for the way back when, but not applicable to now.

        Islamists, as people who believe the little mud-brick village the Prophet lived in was the perfect society, genuinely seek a dismantlement of much of modern economics because they do not fit into their 7th century vision. (See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_banking). Also, (http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2012/06/egypt-muslim-brotherhood-islamic-banking-.html). Salafism is the most prominent strain pushing this idea.

        As you rightly point out, certain states (and I’m sitting in one of them) ignore those stipulations or come up with special religious excuses because they seek economic growth that’s only currently achievable via market capitalism. Indonesia, for its part, has civil law, so is free to ignore the recommendations of the Qu’ran. The Gulf states practice, on many levels, something which many Westerns would view hypocrisy but really is just geopolitical pragmatism.

        Hopefully I answered your questions! If I’m deficient, or you see flaws, please do make mention!

      2. MrB,

        I believe we agree on most of what you say. The details are the difference.

        (1). The scale of our spending seems mad, wildly disproportionate to any rational threat — and starves our domestic infrastructure of needed capital.

        (2). The interventions are equally mad, not only unrelated to any national interest but usually failing (Vietnam, Afghan, Iraq — even most of the overt revolutions, leaving behind generations of hatred).

        (3). I still disagree with you description of Islamic nations. Passages like this look like getting info from Fox News:

        “Islamists, as people who believe the little mud-brick village the Prophet lived in was the perfect society,”

        While perhaps true in a theological sense, it seems quite mad to extend it broadly beyond that. That is the equivalent of saying our reverence for the Founders means we want America to look as it did in 1790.

        I think even fundo Islamists are as likely to advocate suppression of free trade as electricity. The great Islamic states of the past were to a large extent merchant states.

        Can you cite actual examples from the existing Islamic States? Iran, the Gulf principalities, the Saudi Princes?

      3. I do want to make clear that I see a vast gulf between Islam the religion and Islamism the political ideology as given form by Egyptian writer Sayd Qutb in the 1950s. This Islamism draws upon mythical roots of the religion, is a minority most everywhere, and concerns itself with political power as opposed to matters of the soul. It’s contributed very little to Islam as a whole except a propensity to cause conflict.

        As you rightly point out, Islamic countries in the past had Golden Ages and were quite active from a mercantile standpoint. But Islamists of today do not draw from these traditions. Islamists, embodied in a more moderate form by the Al Noor political party of Egypt and in their most extreme and militant form in al-Qaeda, go further back to the times of the Prophet himself. They reject the Islamic jurisprudence of the Golden Age; they reject the rulings of the Turkish caliphs of the Ottoman Empire; they essentially see all law and justice as encapsulated in the lives and times of those in Mecca and Medina in the 7th century.

        Islamism is quite distinct from Islam as a religion; it’s very much akin to the political Catholicism in function that once existed in Europe prior to the modern age. It’s primary purpose is to achieve political power by leveraging religious tenants into oppression and control. This is not Islam as a religion’s goal. Islam, like all religions, attempts to make people believe that it’s God’s chosen voice. Islamists want to make people believe that they themselves are God’s vanguard.

        Islamists don’t exactly advocate suppression of free trade, so to speak, as much as they come up with rules that hinder it. Usury is a great example – Islamic banks can’t set high interest rates on credit cards or loans. My bank here in Qatar gives an APR of 1%. For life. That’s standard practice. How can banks survive when they can’t do their most basic function, that is, make money on loans and investment? How does that affect market capitalism when your company can’t use credit to make payroll because no bank can afford it? (My old employer, the government of Abu Dhabi, was notoriously slow in paying for housing contracts, largely because they had to go through the laborious process of actually moving money from point A to point B rather than drawing on some bank’s ready line of credit and then paying the bank back later. This despite their being one of the wealthiest governments on Earth!)

        Largely, Islamism’s chokehold on credit hurts finance, which in turn hurts economic development, which in turn hurts free trade. It’s not that they want to turn off the lights; they’re just setting up a system that, without some kind of massive income from resources, won’t be able to pay for them.

        The more pragmatic Gulf states, like the United Arab Emirate, Oman, Bahrain, etc., follow older forms of Sunni Islam that arose during the times of the Arab empire and are therefore more pragmatic (except for Oman, which follows a weird variance of Islam called Ibadism, which is neither Shi’a nor Sunni). Only Qatar and Saudi Arabia follow the severe Islamic form of Salafism, which formed deep in the interior of Arabia and long after the Arab empires died. Qatar’s tiny size, however, and geopolitical weaknesses have forced it to abandon much of these beliefs, if still paying lip service to aspects. After all, I’m ten minutes walking distance from a bar.

        Essentially, all the Gulf states have slowly started to ignore these rules. Their leaders are trying to do without being noticed, but still resort to oppression if Islamists do start to point out their flaws (see the UAE’s arrests and imprisonment of dozens of Islamists of Al-Islah http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/the-muslim-brotherhood-on-trial-in-the-uae)

        This comes from the Muslim Brotherhood’s website (Ikwhan, in Arabic). (http://www.ikhwanweb.com/article.php?id=813)

        “The Islamic economic system which had prevailed was changed into the system of the usurious banks although the usurious interest rate is strictly forbidden under the Islamic Shari`ah.” is to the quote to beat.

        To sum up, Islam and Islamism are very, very different. Like political Catholicism (which was also against usury), political Islam just doesn’t work well trying to mesh with market capitalism. It isn’t as stark a contrast as communism, but it’s also not symbiotic with capitalism.

        Let me know if I missed anything! Hope that helps!

      4. Ugh – much apologies, I just replied, but it didn’t send. Give me a few minutes to try to put that all back together. It was quite involved. :)

  2. FM, for all your harping on how we, nowadays, are like the Roman Empire, I’d hope you’d consider that it was taken over by an Oriental cult.

    1. Duncan,

      That’s an interesting point!

      However, while there are some similarities, I do not believe we are like the Roman Empire in any substantive way. The analogies I most often draw are to late Republican Rome and (as in part 2 of this series) to Athens.

  3. What irritates me most is just the cry-baby-ism if American political and media mainstream. We’re invading countries and torturing and spying and killing people with drones and supporting the Gaza Embargo and other craziness and then, if someone wants to kill us then when we’re all crying like babies. Poor us, we suffer so from irrational Muslim terrorism. Please spare me.

    I think if we’re going to maintain a empire of bases and wars and military violence and bombing, at least we should just accept that people are going to hate the USA for this. This is just a cost of doing business. Either stop it, or just grow up, really.

    1. Cathryn,

      I had not seen things in quite that light, but I agree with your general observation. Our reactions to events often seem like those of cowardly bullies, not a confident superpower hegemon.

  4. If Jihadis rule Muslim countries, no room for Western culture there. By the way Jane’s report reveal 80% of rebel fighters are Islamist. If the Muslim Brotherhood is considered moderate, we know what that means as Egypt has demonstrated what they do in power.

    Here’s The Full, Extremist-To-Moderate Spectrum Of The 100,000 Syrian Rebels

    Also, I do not know what US culture will be like in new demographic era. It seems to me it will become increasingly diluted.

    1. Winston,

      “we know what that means as Egypt has demonstrated what they do in power.”

      You mean that the MB-dominated government was as bad as the military-dominated governments that for so long have ruled Egypt? That seems a bit of a stretch given the evidence. Do you have body counts for each?

  5. Islam in its golden ages was quite unlike what Qutb and his ilk project. The mindset was completely different. Check out these two BBC documentaries about Spain.



    And Islam at the start was also quite different. Consider how the Kharijites stood for election of leaders by universal suffrage and for equality of both genders. They were just uncompromising in their mindset so they became extremists. Qutb and company (including Wahhbis) he was inspired by)are extremists but have the opposite mindset of the Kharijites. The kharjites illustrate that what is espoused by the extremists is really a tribal culture. In the documentary there is a glimpse of this in the Bedouins who found Muslim Spain to be libertine.

    Kharijites: Early Muslim rebels espoused democratic principles

  6. Iran is different from ME. This was not covered by mainstam press. I guess it didn’t go with the image they wanted to project. This happened in 2008:

    Iranian women on top of inventors’ list in Korea competitions
    TEHRAN– Iran’s female inventors have received 23 medals at the Korea International Women’s Invention Exposition, coming at the top of the list.
    Bagging 12 gold, five silver and six bronze medals, Iranian women inventors gained the first place among 25 countries participating at the international event, held in the South Korean capital of Seoul from May 8 to 10, 2008.
    Maryam Eslami’s implement for reparation and surgery of osseous diseases in olecranon grabbed the International Federation of Inventors’ Associations (IFIA) Award.
    Eslami was also honored with the WIPO special emblem as the top laureate for her findings consistent with the treatment of bone and joint diseases at the 36th International Exhibition of Inventions held on April 2-6 in which Iran ranked first.
    Mehrnaz Golchinfar, has invented an electricity generator system for Third World countries. Her power station, free of environmental pollution, was selected as the best invention and won the Special Jury Award.
    Sonia Saberi’s nano-composite earned her the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Award.
    Organized by the Korean Women Inventors Association (KWIA), the first international event for women inventors from around the world was sponsored by WIPO.
    Iranian female inventors competed with participants from 25 countries including France, Switzerland, Japan, Rumania, and Australia at the prestigious festival.
    Despite Western Media’s propaganda against Iranian women as oppressed creatures, there is no barrier for women to research and study. Iran’s university students consist mainly of women, and most of scientific researches are conducted by women.

    Me rulers stuck in tribal Bedouin mindset. However, I should mention
    https://chronicle.com/blogs/ticker/caltechs-president-will-depart-for-top-job-at-saudi-university/55891Caltech president has moved to a Saudi University.
    “The rise of Salafism in Palestine, sandwiched between Fatah and Hamas, owes its existence to Palestinian graduates from the Saudi universities, echoing the situation in Indonesia.”
    Global Salafism: Islam’s New Religious Movement

  7. Another way in which we are like the Athens of Thucydides, which you touch on above: we proclaim our adherence to Periclean ideals like tolerance, openness, empathy, and equality; but our foreign policy bears more resemblance to the Athenian policy at Melos – the strong take what they can, and the weak suffer what they must. The words of the Melians might well be echoed by others who have suffered our military aggression: “your warlike movements, which are present not only to our fears but to our eyes, seem to belie your words.”

  8. By the way, are you familiar with Mike Lofgren. He has an insider’s perspective since he spent two decades in Congress as a Congressional aide in defense policymaking.
    If you google his name, you will find his other articles. he has also published a book.

    “All this security theater could subside over time if the United States changed its foreign policy.”

    The NSA Affair: A Symptom, Not a Cause

    Mike Lofgren | The Authoritarian Seduction

  9. Most of the comments about Islam seem to come 5th hand from the media. My take, having lived in Egypt many years ago, is that the mosque is the only institution impervious to police/army repression.

    With increased literacy , access to television news, and access to the Internet, the population is conscious that a better life is possible. Since the only part of life that is not subject to instant repression is the religious sphere, this populist politics takes on a naturally Islamicist tint. Add the bloody repressions of majority attempting to participate in political life through the ballot box – Algeria, Egypt , Syria – radicalization of the factions is understandable.

    This is why the overthrow of Morsi by the army is such a tragedy. A Morsi administration would have gone far to diffuse this time bomb. Since democracy has been foreclosed , the terrorist route is the only one left.

    A tragedy for all the actors in this drama.

  10. John tragedy is that in Egypt and Syria there are significant secular oriented populations also. The ballot box route means tolerating this as well. Morsi failed because he chose to ignore this reality. Morsi’s friends were decimating the Christians in Egypt and Islamists are killing Christians as well.

    Maybe country should have had constitution first and proper institutions supporting secular rule before elections? Beside there can be no monolithic islamist route. Islam has many schools of thought. In a sense these Islamists seek to paper over the differences like the BJP in India tries to paper over the differences within Hinduism itself. By the way, BJP attacks Muslism before elections for electoral gains. This is not unlike the Islamists going after the “other”. meanwhile India’s case indicates that elections will not stop this attitude. If anything it fuels such behavior in a country with different faiths.

    1. I have yet to see proof that the MB instigated attacks on Christians. There’s some evidence that the Egyptian security forces may have “allowed” it at least in some cases to help their propaganda.

      Egypt is a big country with lots of loose cannons; sporadic mob violence is not uncommon; last year there was a massacre at a soccer game, for instance, followed by literally months of street clashes between supporters of the two teams and between the two teams and the police.

      But the only mass killings that have happened in the last 2 years in Egypt were of MB supporters.

  11. I always enjoy your posts, and your perspective. This post is no exception.
    I guess I don’t quite agree with this post, even if you are correct strategically.
    America can only win the way that Tacitus describes the victory of Rome:
    “To plunder, to slaughter, to steal, these things they misname empire; and where they make a wilderness, they call it peace.”

    If we are winning, we are soon going to “win” our way out of a world that has any mystery, beauty, variety, or meaning left.

    If this is “winning,” then we’d better stop. Our educational system is producing mass ignorance. Our economic system is producing mass despair and escapism. Our “healthcare” system is producing poor results at great cost.

    You have the admirable intention of trying to “save” a system that is hardly worth saving in its present form, and which is causing enemies to appear where none were.

    America is a dying culture of clueless, uneducated, and ignorant debt-slaves. I’m no longer even bitter… I’m only in my mid-40’s, and the decay is unbelievable. Only people who inhabit enclaves of the elites could believe that this isn’t an already-dead system and culture, which is running on fumes.

    There’s no “there there” to even save. Spiritual death precedes physical dissolution for nations and empires, just as it did for Rome and the Byzantines, etc. The form perseveres for a while.

    Our bellicosity, grandiosity, and violence are the signs of weakness and fear. Even the entertainments we watch are the sings of spiritual death. We are watching things for fun that out parents and grandparents would find execrable. We way underestimate how important moral and spiritual vitality are to maintain any kind of system or empire.

    It’s all over except for the crying and dying. It will actually be a good thing, not a bad thing, when the USA is no longer able to attempt to impose its will on the rest of the world.

    It’s odd: all civilizations and empires collapse, literally without exception. I know you know that. We differ on where we think the USA is on the timeline, or perhaps you think the timeline can be modified.

    Rousseau pointed out that a decadent nation needs harsher and harsher rulers. He’s being proven right… it’s worrisome though, because I suspect the populace can get even more decadent, and the rulers even more brutal.

  12. By someone who did some fieldwork himself:
    “How does one understand or explain recurring, gruesome communal violence in India?”

    “Berenschot accumulated rich ethnographic data, exposing the existence of “a fairly closely-knit network of municipal councillors, members of Legislative Assemblies, the police, party workers, activists of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and local neighbourhood leaders (including “social workers” and goondas), all involved in the planning, instigation and perpetration of violence”

    “The book unravels this “link” in the “embedded nature” of the “mediated, everyday state,” a state which has control over resources to which the large majority of poor citizens have no direct access. Since resources are insufficient for universal access, enter the politician/political parties and their followers as intermediaries to facilitate access to insufficient resources to neighbourhoods on a selective basis. Politicians and ruling parties especially arm-twist bureaucrats in government and civic bodies to make resources available to those who are “us” while denying the same to “them”. At the same time, the subservient police force is used to extend protection and impunity to local political activists and criminals.
    The book provides numerous graphic examples of how politicians engage with local communities on an everyday basis to cultivate and consolidate their electoral constituency.”
    Book focuses on aspects behind communal violence in India

  13. FM, you have convinced me!

    However, it is not enough that we vanquish foreign cultures.

    As part of our crusade, we must clean our own house. Banish foreign influences from our own midst. Let pure Americanism reign! ( “Americanism” being defined so as to include such items as the Confederate battle flag, of course. )

    As proud descendant of a judge in a witch trial, I feel well qualified to propose harmful foreign elements which we must get rid of.

    Obviously other Frenchie artists were peddling foreign influences. Look at the influence of Japanese prints on the Impressionists.

    1. Right thinking people will not be surprised to learn that Picasso was influenced by African art:

      No need to waste time sifting through his various works to determine which are tainted and which not. Get rid of all of it. Only a liberal pantywaist would object to applying a broad brush when it comes to getting rid of bad art.

      Picasso is hardly the only artist affected by foreign influences. Delacroix, who was of course French, traveled to Algiers, where his art was permanently affected.

      Obviously other Frenchie artists were peddling foreign influences. Look at the influence of Japanese prints on the Impressionists.

      And it’s not just a Frenchy art thing. Heck. The word “algebra” is actually Arabic. We need to get rid of it. Now.

      America has many foreign influences embedded within. You will have a mere shell left after you get rid of the “foreign” influences.

      1. Duncan,

        I have consolidated your incoherent comments into one. The only response I can give is “don’t drink and comment”. Nothing you say has any visible connection to this post.

    2. Duncan,

      I don’t understand. What does “it is not enough that we vanquish” mean? This is the working out of life, as natural and automatic as the sun rising. Are you saying we should attempt to stop the spread of our culture? If so, how would you propose doing so?

      And the rest of your email, about foreign influences, is incomprehensible — with no visible referent to this post.

  14. It is an excellent coincidence that the two most recent posts on the FM website dovetail perfectly with the War Nerd’s most recent article for NSFW Corp and his most recent War Nerd Wednesday radio talk. In it he discusses how jihadis are acting defensively in their own mind as the hegemonic power of “Mall Culture” bares down upon their still largely traditional Islamic societies.

    Also interesting is how both FM and the War Nerd see Muslims as those on the losing end, I happen to agree. Their societies are looking more and more like ours not the other way around. This poses an interesting question, what are the most powerful ideological forces left on Earth? Nationalism (maybe)? Perhaps Capitalism has crushed all rivals?

    1. Hoyticus,

      The War Nerd was high on my reading list before going behind the NSFW paywall!

      Good question about the remaining powerful ideological forces. it is too soom, I suspect, to count our Islam. An Islamic Reformation (so long predicted) might make it again a broadly appealing and powerful force.

      Nationalism still lives, but I wonder if it is fading.

      Perhaps the world is becoming bourgeois, as the Romantics feared (e.g., Anna Karenina), so that there will no longer be great emotional depths — for good or evil. Just personal ambition, grubbing for money and power and status.

  15. Nice article but where is it going?

    It all makes sense but I’m still confused, so pardon the discombobulated logic. It’s big picture. Too big. Way too big. Does America win? or just American values? or “Western” ones, meaning American ones minus the country itself, washed clean of any “political” taint? and which of those?

    Surely not consumerism, that can’t be something to be having a clash of civilizations about? Surely not democracy, that’s just a means to an end if you’re talking about values. (not to mention our actual track record on the subject).

    Or not values at all? Is it just our status as a corporate logo, like a big marketing campaign? Like when you see the golden arches out in the dark along the highway, after a long drive, and you realize you’re hungry and say, it’s time to eat. I’m pulling over at the next exit. If only we could make the American flag like that, we wouldn’t have to fight all these wars.

    This I’ve actually seen. People (other than in Western Europe) freakin LOVE America. They don’t know why. The “Dream”, despite whatever the reality may be … that’s even what that crazy Frenchy, Clotaire Rapaille (the genius behind “The best part of waking up, is Folgers in your cup”) – he believes the Dream is our secret reptilian charm. Except for the middle east. Probably doesn’t work on them.

    Why are we having a clash of civilizations with them again? Sure it’s not for some simple material reason like geopolitics or material resources?

    The part of our culture that is virulent and likeable, everyone already likes. The part that is nasty and mean nobody likes. Something’s not right.

    Stay away from that Samuel P. Huntington. He’s no good.

    1. asdf,

      The point of the series was clearly stated in the first chapter, and repeated thereafter: we should adopt a defensive grand strategy, replacing our current offensive one.

      The second point is that our values are displacing (partially) those of many other cultures, destabilizing them. They seldom like this. “Consumerism” is not a value. Democracy is, and its a popular one. Even tyrannies are forced to have sham elections, the price vice pays to virtue. It will not take hold quickly or easily. Democracy, even in the partial fashion we have in the west, took centuries to achieve.

      The other values are too obvious to mention.

      Asdf, I get the impression you gave this series (perhaps just this post) no more than a quick skim. The points you raise were all discussed in these posts. It does not seem that you disagree with what I said, but seem unaware what I said.

      1. asdf,

        Here’s an example You asked:

        “Nice article but where is it going? It all makes sense but I’m still confused, so pardon the discombobulated logic. It’s big picture. Too big. Way too big. Does America win? or just American values? … Stay away from that Samuel P. Huntington. He’s no good.”

        Here’s what I wrote in this post, explaining why our offensive strategy should be changed:

        If so, what is the prize? Who cares? What does it mean to “win” the clash of civilizations”? The Soviet Union was a global menace for several generations, spreading communism and revolution over the globe – until it collapsed. What did their aggressiveness accomplish?

        Disciple Caine: Master, do we seek victory in contention?
        Master Kan: Seek rather not to contend.
        Disciple Caine: But shall we not then be defeated?
        Master Kan: We know that where there is no contention, there is neither defeat nor victory. The supple willow does not contend against the storm, yet it survives.

        — From episode #1 of the television show “Kung Fu” (1972)

        Our goal should be to build the best possible America. …

    2. FM, I agree very much with the idea of a defensive strategy, I should seriously thank you for promoting this.

      But let me try to get my reaction out in a more sober form. Thanks for being patient.

      I also agree with the observation that our culture, especially the mythical version of it from TV etc, is something that is eagerly adopted and this displaces traditional social systems, causes genuine disruption and backlash.

      But I am not convinced that this phenomenon is the major cause for the level of conflict between our “civilizations”. For one thing, shouldn’t it apply equally to other fundamentalist groups or societies?

      Seems to me, that looking at our relationship with Islamic countries through the lens of “clash of civilizations” mixes together the culture, politics, and power relationships (including both state and commercial), while in reality the connection between these isn’t all that rigid. Makes it easy to attribute the effects of one of those elements to another.

      The “clash of civilizations” also provides a language loaded full of emotion, and makes a convenient excuse for extremists (both here and there) to paint the conflict as inevitable, which is something I also question very much.

      If enough people see it that way, and they do, it becomes real. But I don’t buy into it, other than a way to understand the crowd psychology that is going on.

      1. Asdf,

        “But I am not convinced that this phenomenon is the major cause for the level of conflict between our “civilizations”.”

        You might be correct. We can only speculate about these things.

        However I don’t show this source of discord as a theoretical point, but as a reason to use a defensive grand strategy. Examination of the other causes of conflict — such as our long history of intrusive intervention in their societies (e.g., overthrowing elected governments) tends to further support this recommendation.

        “For one thing, shouldn’t it apply equally to other fundamentalist groups or societies?”

        It does. Note the “culture wars” in the US, burning brightly for generations. More broadly, as I noted cultures vary in their ability to withstand foreign influences. Europe, Singapore, China, Japan, Latin America – many are coping quite well.

        Trivia note: I do not believe “fundamentalist” usefully describes societies. It is a modifier — as in fundamentalist Christian. Not a thing in itself.

        “Seems to me, that looking at our relationship with Islamic countries through the lens of “clash of civilizations” mixes together the culture, politics, and power relationships (including both state and commercial)”

        Yes, there are always other factors at work. Any analysis, no matter how long — esp of only a thousand words (which is a multiple of the average website post), only can provide a glance at the complexities of the world. The point here is to shown one poorly understood factor. It is not an explanation of the Cosmic All.

      2. Asdfg,

        My mistake, I forgot to add this to my reply —

        You raised all good points. Esp the reminder that I should have mentioned that this is only a sliver of an explanation for the complex relationship of America with the rest of our world!

  16. From “The Book of Knowledge”, Chapter3 : Following The Ways Of The Jews And Christians
    باب اتِّبَاعِ سُنَنِ الْيَهُودِ وَالنَّصَارَى

    Abu Sa’id al-Khudri reported Allah’s Messenger (s.a.w.) as saying:

    Allah’s Messenger (s.a.w.) as saying:
    “You (Muslims) would tread the same path
    as was trodden by those before you
    inch by inch and step by step
    so much so that if they had entered
    into the hole of the lizard,
    you would follow them in this also.”
    We said:
    “Allah’s Messenger,
    do you mean Jews and Christians
    (by your words) those before you?”
    He said:
    “Who else?”
    lizard devouring
    boiling frog

    *note the Jews and Christians are not the lizard in this analogy

    Sahih Muslim is a collection of hadith compiled by Imam Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj al-Naysaburi (rahimahullah). His collection is considered to be one of the most authentic collections of the Sunnah of the Prophet (), and along with Sahih al-Bukhari forms the “Sahihain,” or the “Two Sahihs.” It contains roughly 7500 hadith (with repetitions) in 57 books.
    The translation provided here is by Abdul Hamid Siddiqui.

    1. Thank you for posting this comment. Since many of us are unfamiliar with the Sahih Muslim, I added the description of the Sahih Mulim copied from that website, along with the Books and Chapter title.

  17. I want to add that Islam is not a religious for tribals. In fact for its time it was very advanced. This was why Kharijites could support gender equality and democracy early on. Had its followers continued in that spirit (a spirit also followed in its Golden Age), Muslims would not be less advanced than the West today.

    It should also be kept in mind, while its region may not have been a cultured area, they were aware of cultures that were more cultured at the time. This is demonstrated by the fact the Prophet’s uncle went to China. His visit is in the records of the Chinese dynasty of the time.

    “Muslims take great pride in citing a hadith that says “Seek knowledge even unto China.” It points to the importance of seeking knowledge, even if it meant traveling as far away as China, especially as at t the time of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), China was considered the most developed civilization of the period. Islam in China began during the caliphate of ‘Uthman ibn Affan (Allayhi Rahma, ra), the third caliph. ”

  18. I also want to say I do not think America has a culture. It is a fusion of other cultures (western and nonwestern) that have been reflected in the American environment in different ways. This may be because it is a young country of immigrants and has gone through many changes. Also, Americans have imported ideas from other culutres as well. It is still going through changes.

    There is also no Islamic culture. Islam is reflected in different ways in different regions. Of course the Wahhabis are trying to change that and create a monolithic primitive Islam. The Jihadis are all Wahhabis. Other islamic cultures are more sanguine.

  19. Some of the views are partial, here is more

    Salafisim (which is the core of Jihadism) is not against Western values per se. it is against progression in general and particularly religious innovation (as Islam here is seen as a way of life), actually it existed long before US (and the rise of Western Civilization), and its central figure Ibn Taymiyyah lived in the 13th century (CE). The movement is mainly about living as the early Muslim predecessor’s way of life (and hence the name).

    It is worth noting that Salafism reached its peak by the 13th century, and then almost vanished till the late 19th century (the rise of Wahabism: a ‘modern’ stricter version of Salafism). Thanks to Saudi money, it is on the rise recently.

    Qutbism (as the previous article didn’t mention) is not just directed toward the West, it is core idea is what is called in Islam Takfir of mainstream Muslims (simply put; those who call themselves Muslims are not actually Muslim and must be re-conquered for Islam), which led to its founder’s execution. While Qutb was influenced by some Salafi figures, he is not considered a Salafi (for example, he used to wear a suit –western clothes- something which Salafism doesn’t like and even prohibited in Wahabism). Qutbism shares a lot with a very early Islamic sect (7th century CE): Khawarij; which emerged for political reasons and declared the mainstream Muslims as nonbelievers, then went one step further by killing them.

    The reason I mention this is because the articles might imply that these movements are merely a product of the ‘”clash of civilizations”, the reality is much more complex.

    Jihadism (a mix of the peaceful Salafism and the violent Qutbism) is mainly political, it sees itself as the spearhead in the war between the West and Islam, ‘war’ here is in the physical meaning: bombing Muslim countries (which Al-Qaeda said again and again), that doesn’t mean they are OK with Western values, but if we remove this ‘war on Islam’ component, we can see that the rejection of Western values is directed inward toward the Muslim communities; best example is Sauid Arabia, back in the 60s when the King established the first TV station (something which was strictly prohibited in Wahabism) the worst they did was not to attack Western people or bomb their countries, but to attack this new Saudi TV station. A more recent example is the first mixed-sex university in Saudi Arabia few years back, the uproar it sparked was against other Muslims who accepted or supported this extreme immoral move (criticism ranged between declaring them as sinners to publicly calling for killing), Al-Qaeda and the Jihadist in general stayed out of this game.

    That is for the Salafi part, for the Jihadist, Afghanistan and Somalia provides a vivid picture that even Bin Laden criticized (as documents released after his death showed). The recent Al-Shabab attack in Kenya (which is not a Western country) that uses the same tactics as in Spain/UK/US, has a similar justification and carried by a the shared Jihadi mentality is worth studying…

    A little off-this-comment note, change resistance is normal, even those who smartly ‘embraced’ it (the Japanese), only did that after two visits from the American fleet (preceded by about 300 years of self-imposed seclusion).

  20. Ayman, Khawraj believed in gender equality and universal suffrage. They were dogmatic and unwilling to compromise and hence their downfall. Islam needs to see that if an early sect could believe in these values, certainly Muslims can support them now. The Salafis mindset was really a Bedouin mindset. You should see the documentary about Muslim Spain and see what the Bedouins thought of the libertines in Spain! Yet these libertines sparked the Western Renaissance. The area that is today Saudi Arabia has not prospered, even in Golden Age of Islam because of the primitive Bedouin mindset.

    Meanwhile Ferdinand and Isabella were Christian fundamentalists. hence Spain missed the renaissance. Today Southern Spain is the poor part of Spain, when under Muslim Spain it was flourishing. Spain still bears the scars of the Christian fundamentalists.

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