The Clash of Civilization is Already Here
Reading Andrew Kohut’s latest poll results that were issued on June 13, 2006, entitled, “America’s Image Slips, But Allies Share U.S. Concerns Over Iran, Hamas,” one gets a powerful feeling that the clash of civilizations—that Samuel Huntington wrongly described of being around in the early 1990s—is finally very much amidst us. Even though the Kohut poll has a wider scope than is reflected in his title, it is issued at a time when three conflicts involving the world of Islam are capturing the attention of the international community.
First is the conflict is the sustained U.S. presence in Iraq, which has attracted the insurgents of all leanings: Islamists, Baathists, Arab nationalists, pan-Arabists, and global Jihadists.
The second issue of global attention is the U.S.-Iran conflict involving Iran’s uranium enrichment program. The government of that country depicts its uranium enrichment as part of its fundamental rights to conduct peaceful nuclear research, and insists that it has no intention of developing nuclear weapons. The United States, on the contrary, is equally adamant that Iran aspires to do just that.
Third, the election of Hamas in the occupied territories has triggered an intense conflict, not only between the West and the Palestinian nation, but also within the Palestinian nation itself. The United States and the EU insisted that they would suspend their financial assistance to the Palestinians until Hamas renounces violence, recognizes, and then negotiates with Israel. The EU has relented and agreed to send money to President Abu Abbas of Fatah for distribution to the Palestinian people, thereby continuing its insistence of not dealing with Hamas. Israel has also withheld all Palestinian funds that it collects in the occupied territories on their behalf.
Given the high visibility of these three issues, Andrew Kohut’s poll has presented some very interesting results.
The U.S. invasion of Iraq, since it was carried out without the sanction of the world body, has remained highly unpopular worldwide. However, its unpopularity is considerably more intense in Muslim countries than it has been in the West.
It is apparent that, even though the positive image of the United States in selected Western countries has gone down between 1999 and 2006, those numbers are significantly higher in Muslim countries during the same period.
Iran’s Potential Acquisition of Nuclear Weapons
Even though there is a global opposition to Iran’s potential development of nuclear weapons, Muslim and Western countries have entirely different perception of the “threat” stemming from such a possibility.
Germany, France, U.K. Japan as well as the United States unanimously oppose Iran’s potential development of nuclear weapons. However, in a number of Muslim countries opposition to that issue is considerably lower than in the West. In Turkey, 61 percent oppose while 23 percent favor Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. In Indonesia, these number are 59 and 30; in Pakistan 15 and 52; in Egypt 42 and 44; and in Jordan 42 and 45.
The electoral victory of Hamas has surprised the whole world. If democracy was such a good idea, one wonders why there is such a strong opposition to the result of that phenomenon in the occupied territories.
The general belief in the Muslim world is that there is a profound evidence of Western hypocrisy on this development. A general Muslim position is that if the West wanted democracy to take roots in the occupied territories (and elsewhere in the Middle East), then it should accept its results, no matter how different they happen to be from their collective expectations. Why, they ask, the Palestinians are being punished for exercising their democratic rights?
In the United States only 20 percent of the people feel that the election of Hamas was a “good” development, while 50 percent labeled it as “bad.” In the U.K. the same numbers are 32 and 34; Spain 28 and 47; France 24 and 69; Germany 11 and 71. Compare the same numbers in some Muslim countries: Pakistan percent 87 good 4 percent bad; Egypt 76 and 13; Jordan 68 and 16; Indonesia 61 and 23; Turkey 44 and 23.
Which Country is More dangerous to World Peace?
In the unipolar post-Cold War and post-9/11 global order, world’s attention is more focused on what the U.S. does than during the Cold War years, when the former Soviet Union shared the limelight with that superpower. According to Kohut, “Majorities in 10 of 14 foreign countries surveyed say that the war in Iraq has made the world a more dangerous place.” That number is very high even in Great Britain, America’s strongest ally, where “61% say the war has made the world more dangerous, while just half that number (30%) feel it has made the world safer.”
Finally, another important finding of Kohut’s survey is the comparison of which country’s action is most dangerous to world peace. The issues covered in the survey include Iran, the U.S. in Iraq, North Korea, and Israel-Palestinian conflict. However, in this essay, I will only focus on Iran and the U.S. presence in Iraq. In Indonesia 7 percent envisage Iran’s current government as a threat to world peace and 31 percent depict U.S. presence in Iraq in the same category. For Egypt, Iran and U.S. get 14 percent and 56 percent; Jordan 19 and 58; Turkey 16 and 60; and Pakistan 4 and 28.
Ehsan Ahrari - [email protected]
Website - http://www.ehsanahrari.com/
Ehsan Ahrari is the CEO of Strategic Paradigms Defense Consultancy based in Alexandria, VA, US. His columns appear regularly in Asia Times Online.
Dr. Ehsan Ahrari is WSN Editor U.S.A. and member of the WSN International Advisory Board.