The Clash of Civilizations:  Some Beginnings of Psychological Analysis

Dr. Robert D. Crane

Posted Apr 15, 2008      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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The Clash of Civilizations:  Some Beginnings of Psychological Analysis

by Dr. Robert D. Crane

  The April 17, 2008, issue of the “New York Review of Books” contains a review by William H. McNeill of Ben Kiernan’s new book, Blood and Soil, Yale University Press, 2007, which may help to explain the 21st century’s ideological obsession with saving the world from chaos by creating a new international law justifying universal, unilateral, creative destruction. 

  Henry Kissinger in his Washington Post op-ed position paper on August 12, 2002, calling for an immediate U.S. invasion of Iraq, first spelled out this genocidal approach to law as America’s mission in the new century and as the most compelling reason for an invasion (specifically even more compelling than weapons of mass destruction, oil, and Israel).  Osama bin Laden had beaten him to the punch even before 9/11, though their solutions differed superficially in that Osama’s solution called for a “global Islamic Caliphate” designed to impose what he considered to be Islamic law, whereas Kissinger’s solution sounded more like the elimination of religion as a better means to stop the seemingly inevitable disintegration of global civilization. 

  As described in my 83-page Green Paper, The Grand Strategy of Justice, published by the Islamic Institute for Strategic Studies, April 2000, in Part III, “Ecumenical Justice Versus the Pagan Empire,” Kissinger’s solutions for the imposition of world order evolved over time to account for new correlations of forces.  In his earlier Washington Post op ed piece of December 3, 1991, “What Kind of a New World Order,” Kissinger opposed President G. W. Bush’s call for a Pax America, later rephrased as Pax Universalis, and opposed even any overt use of the term “New World Order,” because the world was not yet ready for it.  In the run-tup to the invasion of Iraq, Kissinger for the first time used the term “New World Order” overtly, though he never seems to have publicly approved the standard NeoConservative strategy encoded in Leo Strauss’s “philosophy of deception” which called for enlisting organized religion as a strategic policy.  Although the NeoConservatives as a group clearly represent an extreme form of American tribalism, Kissinger, as a lifelong guru of the “Establishment,” has always opposed any kind of nationalism, whether American or Israeli, if it is linked tribalistically to exclusivist religious extremism.

  The history of American foreign policy in the early 21st century, which puzzles so many uncomprehending observers, may be deciphered ultimately only by both secular and spiritual psychology.  A good beginning in developing this new approach to understanding modern ideological elite movements may be Ben Kiernan’s Blood and Soil, a new “world history of genocide,” which finds genocide to be identified by “philosophical outlooks and obsessions, often harmless in themselves yet invidiously related,” that supply “lethal ideological ammunition” for violence, and that these include “racial and religious hatreds.”  Reviewer William H. McNeill in the April 17, 2008, issue of the New York Review of Books traces such hatred in “our” culture back to Deuteronomy 20:17, where the Lord demanded that his people “utterly destroy” the other peoples.  McNeill writes that “most Jews and Christians, we thought, have buried that language,” but Kiernan demonstrates that it is now revived with unprecedented virulence.  The latest warning about this revival of pure hatred may be found in Martin Marty’s article, “Rod Parsley on Islam,” in the Christian Post of April 14, 2008, and in Sheila Musaji’s latest blockbuster article in The American Muslim, “Islamophobia: Laying the Groundwork - Us vs Them,” April 14, 2008.

  None of these warners, however, point out that the godfather of civilizational clash as a new paradigm of post-modern thought is the Muslim, Syed Qutb, who was the original perverter of Islamic renewal as developed by the sufic founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan al Banna.  When this advocate of non-violence was executed half a century ago by the Egyptian government, his movement was taken over by Syed Qutb who had traveled widely in America and concluded that the Qur’an must be interpreted as a call to destroy the axis of evil in the West as embodied in the United States of America. 

  Qutb’s false division of the world into only dar al harb (the land of war) and the dar al Islam (the land of “peace”) had been a staple of Muslim extremists for many centuries, but he rebaptised it as a new paradigm of thought calling for eternal war with no substitute for victory.  Although most Islamists have long since abandoned the Qutubian paradigm, the most radical fringe elements have left to found new cadres that are committed to maximum destruction but increasingly without any coherent coordination or strategic planning.  The extremes of mutual demonization in our times, first raised to ontological and epistemological heights by the perversion of the Islamist movement half a century ago, has metastacized into a war between twin ideologies, one rooted in the caves of Afghanistan and the other in the halls of Washington, each perceiving the other as the cause of a war from which their is no exit. 

  The solution can come only from interfaith understanding and especially from interfaith cooperation in addressing the injustices of the world and by offering faith-based alternatives, especially linking economic justice with constitutional democracy, as recommended in my two new books, The Natural Law of Compassionate Justice, prepared in 2007 for the International Institute of Islamic Thought, in its sequel now under preparation, The Natural Law of Faith-Based Reconciliation, and in the new 600-page college textbook prepared by Muhammad Ali Chaudry, President of the Center for Understanding Islam, in cooperation with me as a kibitzer.  One conclusion of these books is that the clash of civilizations is first of all a clash within civilizations, more than among them, in which each side may marginalize the other but neither side can ever “win.”  Another conclusion is embodied in the wisdom of the Prophet Muhammad, who advised us: “Even if you would know that the world will end tomorrow, go out and plant a tree.”