Samuel Huntington, esteemed political scientist and author of the 1996 book, The Clash of Civilizations, died recently. The Clash of Civilizations hypothesized that religious and cultural identities would serve as the main catalyst for post-Cold War international conflict. The theory gained traction following September 11th and provides insight into Israel’s military response to rocket attacks launched by the terrorist group Hamas.
The fighting between Israel and Hamas highlights a deeply embedded ideological divide between a people who value freedom and espouse dignity, on the one hand, and those who prize death and preach hatred on the other. The events also serve as a disturbing reminder of the world’s third civilization that exists.
The third civilization is comprised of countries, institutions, and people unsure of their place, perhaps desiring to stand with free nations, but afraid or unwilling to fight and truly destroy terrorism. This Western European mentality largely embraces democratic values, at least when compared to radical Islamic societies, but is too compromised by multi-culturalism, political correctness, post-national niceties, and increasingly radical Islamic demography to identify civility from barbarism.
Much of this third civilization bristles at the simplicities of men like President George W. Bush, who shortly after September 11th declared that “Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” And by that standard, those who are “with us” should be cheering Israel’s movement into Gaza, an area from which terrorists launch rocket attacks against innocent civilians and from which children are taught to hate Americans and Israelis. Unfortunately, however, most nations throughout the world are reluctant to take a firm stand against Islamofacist and anti-Semitic forces, and, unsurprisingly, but sadly, the international reaction to Israel’s actions have ranged from ambivalence to outrage.
Many have labeled Israel’s response “disproportionate.” The European Commission called “for an immediate halt to military hostilities that are having a heavy impact on the civilian population in Gaza.” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his “extreme concern and disappointment” to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. France’s Foreign Ministry, in language that characteristically begins by criticizing Israel, said “France condemns the Israeli ground offensive against Gaza as it condemns the continuation of rocket firing (by Hamas against Israel).” And after much pressure, the U.N. finally passed a 14-0 resolution, with the U.S. abstaining, that calls for a ceasefire.
Meanwhile, Israel has deployed its own resources to lessen the humanitarian costs and civilian casualties in Gaza, while Hamas has pledged to launch further suicide attacks against Zionists everywhere. Yet, most nations—with some refreshing exceptions like the Czech Republic, which is now the European Union President—seem unable to distinguish the moral difference between a free state defending its sovereignty and a terrorist group attacking civilians.
Of course, the reactions throughout Western Europe pale in comparison to the calls throughout much of the Muslim world for the death of America and Israel. And while certainly not all Palestinians and Muslims can be characterized by the actions of groups like Hamas, and, in fact, so many are victims and deserve better, events in the Middle East still reflect a war between two civilizations…and a clash between three.
Hopefully America’s incoming President, Barack Obama, will appreciate the difference between the three civilizations upon taking office, although there should be cause for concern. He has remained remarkably quiet throughout the most recent Mid-East conflict and there are reports that his administration plans to open a dialogue with Hamas. Furthermore, President-elect Obama seems awfully preoccupied with impressing the international community and a group of nations neither with us nor with the terrorists, just hopeful that someday the divide will disappear.
That result is improbable at best, because in this war, only the most committed will win, and there is no question that terrorist groups like Hamas are committed. Luckily, there is another civilization—however, dwindling—that loves freedom as much as the other civilization loves death. In the meantime, a third people are exhausted and resigned to yelling from the sidelines. In case people have not noticed, they are not yelling encouragement to the good guys.