These exerpts are from sections on Islam and the West and the Bloody Borders of Islam. His final footnote on the subject is here:
No single statement in my Foreign Affairs article attracted more critical comment than: “Islam has bloody borders.” I made that judgment on the basis of casual survey of intercivilizational conflicts. Quantitative evidence from every disinterested source conclusively demonstrates its validity.
Samuel P. Huntington
Islam and the West
Some Westerners, including President Bill Clinton, have argued that the West does not have problems with Islam but only with violent Islamist extremists. Fourteen hundred years of history demonstrate otherwise. The relations between Islam and Christianity, both Orthodox and Western, have often been stormy. Each has been the other’s Other. The twentieth-century conflict between liberal democracy and Marxist-Leninism is only a fleeting and superficial historical phenomenon compared to the continuing and deeply conflictual relation between Islam and Christianity. At times, peaceful coexistence has prevailed; more often the relation has been one of intense rivalry and of varying degrees of hot war. Their “historical dynamics,” John Esposito comments, “… often found the two communities in competition, and locked at times in deadly combat, for power, land, and souls.”‘ Across the centuries the fortunes of the two religions have risen and fallen in a sequence of momentous surges, pauses, and countersurges.
The initial Arab-Islamic sweep outward from the early seventh to the mid-eighth century established Muslim rule in North Africa, Iberia, the Middle East, Persia, and northern India. For two centuries or so the lines of division between Islam and Christianity stabilized. Then in the late eleventh century, Christians reasserted control of the western Mediterranean, conquered Sicily, and captured Toledo. In 1095 Christendom launched the Crusades and for a century and a half Christian potentates attempted, with decreasing success, to establish Christian rule in the Holy Land and adjoining areas in the Near East, losing Acre, their last foothold there, in 1291. Meanwhile the Ottoman Turks had appeared on the scene. They first weakened Byzantium and then conquered much of the Balkans as well as North Africa, captured Constantinople in 1453, and besieged Vienna in 1529. “For almost a thousand years,” Bernard Lewis observes, “from the first Moorish landing in Spain to the second Turkish siege of Vienna, Europe was under constant threat from Islam.”‘ Islam is the only civilization which has put the survival of the West in doubt, and it has done that at least twice.
By the fifteenth century, however, the tide had begun to turn. The Christians gradually recovered Iberia, completing the task at Granada in 1492. Meanwhile European innovations in ocean navigation enabled the Portuguese and then others to circumvent the Muslim heartland and penetrate into the Indian Ocean and beyond. Simultaneously the Russians brought to an end two centuries of Tatar rule. The Ottomans subsequently made one last push forward, besieging Vienna again in 1683. Their failure there marked the beginning of a long retreat, involving the struggle of Orthodox peoples in the Balkans to free themselves from Ottoman rule, the expansion of the Hapsburg Empire, and the dramatic advance of the Russians to the Black Sea and the Caucasus. In the course of a century or so “the scourge of Christendom” was transformed into “the sick man of Europe.” At the conclusion of World War I, Britain, France, and Italy administered the coup de grace and established their direct or indirect rule throughout the remaining Ottoman lands except for the territory of the Turkish Republic. By 1920 only four Muslim countries — Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Afghanistan—remained independent of some form of non-Muslim rule.
The retreat of Western colonialism, in turn, began slowly in the 1920s and 1930s and accelerated dramatically in the aftermath of World War II. The collapse of the Soviet Union brought independence to additional Muslim societies. According to one count, some ninety-two acquisitions of Muslim territory by non-Muslim governments occurred between 1757 and 1919. By 1995, sixty-nine of these territories were once again under Muslim rule, and about forty-five independent states had overwhelmingly Muslim populations. The violent nature of these shifting relationships is reflected in the fact that 50 percent of wars involving pairs of states of different religions between 1820 and 1929 were wars between Muslims and Christians.
The causes of this ongoing pattern of conflict lie not in transitory phenomena such as twelfth-century Christian passion or twentieth-century Muslim fundamentalism. They flow from the nature of the two religions and the civilizations based on them. Conflict was, on the one hand, a product of difference, particularly the Muslim concept of Islam as a way of life transcending and uniting religion and politics versus the Western Christian concept of the separate realms of God and Caesar. The conflict also stemmed, however, from their similarities. Both are monotheistic religions, which, unlike polytheistic ones, cannot easily assimilate additional deities, and which see the world in dualistic, us-and-them terms. Both are universalistic, claiming to be the one true faith to which all humans can adhere. Both are missionary religions believing that their adherents have an obligation to convert nonbelievers to that one true faith. From its origins Islam expanded by conquest and when the opportunity existed Christianity did also. The parallel concepts of “jihad” and “crusade” not only resemble each other but distinguish these two faiths from other major world religions. Islam and Christianity, along with Judaism, also have teleological views of history in contrast to the cyclical or static views prevalent in other civilizations.
The level of violent conflict between Islam and Christianity over time has been influenced by demographic growth and decline, economic developments, technological change, and intensity of religious commitment. The spread of Islam in the seventh century was accompanied by massive migrations of Arab peoples, “the scale and speed” of which were unprecedented, into the lands of the Byzantine and Sassanian empires. A few centuries later, the Crusades were in large part a product of economic growth, population expansion, and the “Clunaic revival” in eleventh-century Europe, which made it possible to mobilize large numbers of knights and peasants for the march to the Holy Land. When the First Crusade reached Constantinople, one Byzantine observer wrote, it seemed like “the entire West, including all the tribes of the barbarians living beyond the Adriatic Sea to the Pillars of Hercules, had started a mass migration and was on the march, bursting forth into Asia in a solid mass, with all its belongings.” In the nineteenth century spectacular population growth again produced a European eruption, generating the largest migration in history, which flowed into Muslim as well as other lands.
A comparable mix of factors has increased the conflict between Islam and the West in the late twentieth century. First, Muslim population growth has generated large numbers of unemployed and disaffected young people who become recruits to Islamist causes, exert pressure on neighboring societies, and migrate to the West. Second, the Islamic Resurgence has given Muslims renewed confidence in the distinctive character and worth of their civilization and values compared to those of the West. Third, the West’s simultaneous efforts to universalize its values and institutions, to maintain its military and economic superiority, and to intervene in conflicts in the Muslim world generate intense resentment among Muslims. Fourth, the collapse of communism removed a common enemy of the West and Islam and left each the perceived major threat to the other. Fifth, the increasing contact between and intermingling of Muslims and Westerners stimulate in each a new sense of their own identity and how it differs from that of the other. Interaction and intermingling also exacerbate differences over the rights of the members of one civilization in a country dominated by members of the other civilization. Within both Muslim and Christian societies, tolerance for the other declined sharply in the 1980s and 1990s.
The causes of the renewed conflict between Islam and the West thus lie in fundamental questions of power and culture. Kosovo? Who is to rule? Who is to be ruled? The central issue of politics define by Lenin is the root of the contest between Islam and the West. There is, ho ever, the additional conflict, which Lenin would have considered meaningless, between two different versions of what is right and what is wrong and, as a consequence, who is right and who is wrong. So long as Islam remains Islam (which it will) and the West remains the West (which is more dubious), this fundamental conflict between two great civilizations and ways of life will continue to define their relations in the future even as it has defined them for the past fourteen centuries.
These relations are further roiled by a number of substantive issues on which their positions differ or conflict. Historically one major issue was the control of territory, but that is now relatively insignificant. Nineteen of twenty-eight fault line conflicts in the mid-1990s between Muslims and non-Muslims were between Muslims and Christians. Eleven were with Orthodox Christians and seven with adherents of Western Christianity in Africa and Southeast Asia. Only one of these violent or potentially violent conflicts, that between Croats and Bosnian, occurred directly along the fault line between the West and Islam.
The effective end of Western territorial imperialism and the absence so far of renewed Muslim territorial expansion have produced a geographical segregation so that only in a few places in the Balkans do Western and Muslim communities directly border on each other. Conflicts between the West and Islam thus focus less on territory than on broader inter-civilizational issues such as weapons proliferation, human rights and democracy, control of oil, migration, Islamist terrorism, and Western intervention.
In the wake of the Cold War, the increasing intensity of this historical antagonism has been widely recognized by members of both communities. In 1991, for instance, Barry Buzan saw many reasons why a societal cold war was emerging “between the West and Islam, in which Europe would be on the front line.”
This development is partly to do with secular versus religious values, partly to do with the historical rivalry between Christendom and Islam, partly to do with jealousy of Western power, partly to do with resentments over Western domination of the postcolonial political structuring of the Middle East, and partly to do with the bitterness and humiliation of the invidious comparison between the accomplishments of Islamic and Western civilizations in the last two centuries.
In addition, he noted a “societal Cold War with Islam would serve to strengthen the European identity all round at a crucial time for the process of European union.” Hence, “there may well be a substantial community in the West prepared not only to support a societal Cold War with Islam, but to adopt policies that encourage it.” In 1990 Bernard Lewis, a leading Western scholar of Islam, analyzed “The Roots of Muslim Rage,” and concluded:
It should now be clear that we are facing a mood and a movement far transcending the level of issues and policies and the governments that pursue them. This is no less than a clash of civilizations—that perhaps irrational but surely historic reaction of an ancient rival against our Judeo-Christian heritage, our secular present, and the worldwide expansion of both. It is crucially important that we on our side should not be provoked into an equally historic but also equally irrational reaction against that rival.
Similar observations came from the Islamic community. “There are unmistakable signs,” argued a leading Egyptian journalist, Mohammed Sid-Ahmed, in 1994, “of a growing clash between the Judeo-Christian Western ethic and the Islamic revival movement, which is now stretching from the Atlantic in the west to China in the east.” A prominent Indian Muslim predicted in 1992 that the West’s “next confrontation is definitely going to come from the Muslim world. It is in the sweep of the Islamic nations from the Maghreb to Pakistan that the struggle for a new world order will begin.” For a leading Tunisian lawyer, the struggle was already underway: “Colonialism tried to deform all the cultural traditions of Islam. I am not an Islamist. I don’t think there is a conflict between religions. There is a conflict between civilizations.”
In the 1980s and 1990s the overall trend in Islam has been in an anti-Western direction. In part, this is the natural consequence of the Islamic Resurgence and the reaction against the perceived “gharhzadegi” or Westoxication of Muslim societies. The “reaffirmation of Islam, whatever its specific sectarian form, means the repudiation of European and American influence upon local society, politics, and morals.” On occasion in the past, Muslim leaders did tell their people: “We must Westernize.” If any Muslim leader has said that in the last quarter of the twentieth century, however, he is a lonely figure. Indeed, it is hard to find statements by any Muslims, whether politicians, officials, academics, businesspersons, or journalists, praising Western values and institutions. They instead stress the differences between their civilization and Western civilization, the superiority of their culture, and the need to maintain the integrity of that culture against Western onslaught. Muslims fear and resent Western power and the threat which this poses to their society and beliefs. They see Western culture as materialistic, corrupt, decadent, and immoral. They also see it as seductive, and hence stress all the more the need to resist its impact on their way of life. Increasingly, Muslims attack the West not for adhering to an imperfect, erroneous religion, which is nonetheless a “religion of the book,” but for not adhering to any religion at all. In Muslim eyes Western secularism, irreligiosity, and hence immorality are worse evils than the Western Christianity that produced them. In the Cold War the West labeled its opponent “godless communism”; in the post—Cold War conflict of civilizations Muslims see their opponent as “the godless West.”
These images of the West as arrogant, materialistic, repressive, brutal, and decadent are held not only by fundamentalist imams but also by those whom many in the West would consider their natural allies and supporters. Few books by Muslim authors published in the 1990s in the West received the praise given to Fatima Mernissi’s Islam and Democracy, generally hailed by Westerners as the courageous statement of a modern, liberal, female Muslim. The portrayal of the West in that volume, however, could hardly be less flattering.
The West is “militaristic” and “imperialistic” and has “traumatized” other nations through “colonial terror” (pp. 3, 9). Individualism, the hallmark of Western culture, is “the source of all trouble” (p. 8). Western power is fearful. The West “alone decides if satellites will be used to educate Arabs or to drop bombs on them… It crushes our potentialities and invades our lives with its imported products and televised movies that swamp the airwaves…. [It] is a power that crushes us, besieges our markets, and controls our merest resources, initiatives, and potentialities. That was how we perceived our situation, and the Gulf War turned our perception into certitude” (pp. 146-47). The West “creates its power through military research” and then sells the products of that research to underdeveloped countries who are its “passive consumers.” liberate themselves from this subservience, Islam must develop its own engineers and scientists, build its own weapons (whether nuclear or conventional, she does not specify), and “free itself from military dependence on the West” (pp. 43-44). These, to repeat, are not the views of a bearded, hooded ayatollah.
Whatever their political or religious opinions, Muslims agree that basic differences exist between their culture and Western culture. “The bottom line,” as Sheik Ghanoushi put it, “is that our societies are based on values other than those of the West.” Americans “come here,” an Egyptian government official said, “and want us to be like them. They understand nothing of our values or our culture.” “[W]e are different,” an Egyptian journalist agreed. “We have a different background, a different history. Accordingly we have the right to different futures.” Both popular and intellectually serious Muslim publications repeatedly describe what are alleged to be Western plots and designs to subordinate, humiliate, and undermine Islamic institutions and culture.”
The reaction against the West can be seen not only in the central intellectual thrust of the Islamic Resurgence but also in the shift in the attitudes toward the West of governments in Muslim countries. The immediate postcolonial governments were generally Western in their political and economic ideologies and policies and pro-Western in their foreign policies, with partial exceptions, like Algeria and Indonesia, where independence resulted from a nationalist revolution. One by one, however, pro-Western governments gave way to governments less identified with the West or explicitly anti-Western in Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Lebanon, and Afghanistan. Less dramatic changes in the same direction occurred in the orientation and alignment of other states including Tunisia, Indonesia, and Malaysia. The two staunchest Cold War Muslim military allies of the United States, Turkey and Pakistan, are under Islamist political pressure internally and their ties with the West subject to increased strain.
In 1995 the only Muslim state which was clearly more pro-Western than it had been ten years previously was Kuwait. The West’s close friends in the Muslim world are now either like Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf sheikdoms dependent on the West militarily or like Egypt and Algeria dependent on it economically. In the late 1980s the communist regimes of Eastern Europe collapsed when it became apparent that the Soviet Union no longer could or would provide them with economic and military support. If it became apparent that the West would no longer maintain its Muslim satellite regimes, they are likely to suffer a comparable fate.
Growing Muslim anti-Westernism has been paralleled by expanding Western concern with the “Islamic threat” posed particularly by Muslim extremism. Islam is seen as a source of nuclear proliferation, terrorism, and, in Europe, unwanted migrants. These concerns are shared by both publics and leaders. Asked in November 1994 whether the “Islamic revival” was a threat to U.S. interests in the Middle East, for instance, 61 percent of a sample of 35,000 Americans interested in foreign policy said yes and only 28 percent no. A year earlier, when asked what country posed the greatest danger to the United States, a random sample of the public picked Iran, China, and Iraq as the top three. Similarly, asked in 1994 to identify “critical threats” to the United States, 72 percent of the public and 61 percent of foreign policy leaders said nuclear proliferation and 69 percent of the public and 33 percent of leaders international terrorism—two issues widely associated with Islam. In addition, 33 percent of the public and 39 percent of the leaders saw a threat in the possible expansion of Islamic fundamentalism. Europeans have similar attitudes. In the spring of 1991, for instance, 51 percent of the French public said the principal threat to France was from the South with only 8 percent saying it would come from the East. The four countries which the French public most feared were all Muslim: Iraq, 52 percent; Iran, 35 percent; Libya, 26 percent; and Algeria, 22 percent:2 Western political leaders, including the German chancellor and the French prime minister, expressed similar concerns, with the secretary general of NATO declaring in 1995 that Islamic fundamentalism was “at least as dangerous as communism” had been to the West, and a “very senior member” of the Clinton administration pointing to Islam as the global rival of the West.”
With the virtual disappearance of a military threat from the east, NATO’s planning is increasingly directed toward potential threats from the south. “The Southern Tier,” one U.S. Army analyst observed in 1992, is replacing the Central Front and “is rapidly becoming NATO’s new front line.” To meet these southern threats, NATO’s southern members — Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal—began joint military planning and operations and at the same time enlisted the Maghreb governments in consultations on ways of countering Islamist extremists. These perceived threats also provided a rational for continuing a substantial U.S. military presence in Europe. “While U.S. forces in Europe are not a panacea for the problems created by fundamentalist Islam,” one former senior U.S. official observed, “those forces do cast a powerful shadow on military planning throughout the area. Remember the successful deployment of U.S., French and British forces from Europe in the Gulf War of 1990-1991? Those in the region do.” And, he might have added, they remember it with fear, resentment, and hate.
Given the prevailing perceptions Muslims and Westerners have of each other plus the rise of Islamist extremism, it is hardly surprising that following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, an intercivilizational quasi war developed between Islam and the West. It is a quasi war for three reasons. First, all of Islam has not been fighting all of the West. Two fundamentalist states (Iran, Sudan), three nonfundamentalist states (Iraq, Libya, Syria), plus a wide range of Islamist organizations, with financial support from other Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, have been fighting the United States and, at times, Britain, France, and other Western states and groups, as well as Israel and Jews generally. Second, it is a quasi war because, apart from the Gulf War of 1990-1991, it has been fought with limited means: terrorism on one side and air power, covert action, and economic sanctions on the other. Third, it is a quasi war because while the violence has been continuing, it has also not been continuous. It has involved intermittent actions by one side which provoke responses by the other. Yet a quasi war is still a war. Even excluding the tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians killed by Western bombing in January-February 1991, the deaths and other casualties number well into the thousands, and they occurred in virtually every year after 1979. Many more Westerners have been killed in this quasi war than were killed in the “real” war in the Gulf.
Both sides have, moreover, recognized this conflict to be a war. Early on, Khomeini declared, quite accurately, that “Iran is effectively at war with America,” and Qadhafi regularly proclaims holy war against the West. Muslim leaders of other extremist groups and states have spoken in similar terms. On the Western side, the United States has classified seven countries as “terrorist states,” five of which are Muslim (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan); Cuba and North Korea are the others. This, in effect, identifies them as enemies, because they are attacking the United States and its friends with the most effective weapon at their disposal, and thus recognizes the existence of a state of war with them. U.S. officials repeatedly refer to these states as “outlaw,” “backlash,” and “rogue” states—thereby placing them outside the civilized international order and making them legitimate targets for multilateral or unilateral countermeasures. The United States Government charged the World Trade Center bombers with intending “to levy a war of urban terrorism against the United States” and argued that conspirators charged with planning further bombings in Manhattan were “soldiers” in a struggle “involving a war” against the United States. If Muslims allege that the West wars on Islam and if Westerners allege that Islamic groups war on the West, it seems reasonable to conclude that something very much like a war is underway.
In this quasi war, each side has capitalized on its own strengths and the other side’s weaknesses. Militarily it has been largely a war of terrorism versus air power. Dedicated Islamic militants exploit the open societies of the West and plant car bombs at selected targets. Western military professionals exploit the open skies of Islam and drop smart bombs on selected targets. The Islamic participants plot the assassination of prominent Westerners; the United States plots the overthrow of extremist Islamic regimes. During the fifteen years between 1980 and 1995, according to the U.S. Defense Department, the United States engaged in seventeen military operations in the Middle East, all of them directed against Muslims. No comparable pattern of U.S. military operations occurred against the people of any other civilization.
To date, each side has, apart from the Gulf War, kept the intensity of the violence at reasonably low levels and refrained from labeling violent acts as acts of war requiring an all-out response. “If Libya ordered one of its submarines to sink an American liner,” The Economist observed, “the United States would treat it as an act of war by a government, not seek the extradition of the submarine commander. In principle, the bombing of an airliner by Libya’s secret service is no different.”” Yet the participants in this war employ much more violent tactics against each other than the United States and Soviet Union directly employed against each other in the Cold War. With rare exceptions neither superpower purposefully killed civilians or even military belonging to the other. This, however, repeatedly happens in the quasi war.
American leaders allege that the Muslims involved in the quasi war are a small minority whose use of violence is rejected by the great majority of moderate Muslims. This may be true, but evidence to support it is lacking. Protests against anti-Western violence have been totally absent in Muslim countries. Muslim governments, even the bunker governments friendly to and dependent on the West, have been strikingly reticent when it comes to condemning terrorist acts against the West. On the other side, European governments and publics have largely supported and rarely criticized actions the United States has taken against its Muslim opponents, in striking contrast to the strenuous opposition they often expressed to American actions against the Soviet Union and communism during the Cold War. In civilizational conflicts, unlike ideological ones, kin stand by their kin.
The underlying problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power. The problem for Islam is not the CIA or the U.S. Department of Defense. It is the West, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the universality of their culture and believe that their superior, if declining, power imposes on them the obligation to extend that culture throughout the world. These are the basic ingredients that fuel conflict between Islam and the West.
Characteristics of Fault Line Wars
Wars between clans, tribes, ethnic groups, religious communities, and nations have been prevalent in every era and in every civilization because they are rooted in the identities of people. These conflicts tend to be particularistic, in that they do not involve broader ideological or political issues of direct interest to nonparticipants, although they may arouse humanitarian concerns in outside groups. They also tend to be vicious and bloody, since fundamental issues of identity are at stake. In addition, they tend to be lengthy; they may be interrupted by truces or agreements but these tend to break down and the conflict is resumed. Decisive military victory by one side in an identity civil war, on the other hand, increases the likelihood of genocide.
Fault line conflicts are communal conflicts between states or groups from different civilizations. Fault line wars are conflicts that have become violent. Such wars may occur between states, between nongovernmental groups, and between states and nongovernmental groups. Fault line conflicts within states may involve groups which are predominantly located in geographically distinct areas, in which case the group which does not control the government normally fights for independence and may or may not be willing to settle for something less than that. Within-state fault line conflicts may also involve groups which are geographically intermixed, in which case continually tense relations erupt into violence from time to time, as with Hindus and Muslims in India and Muslims and Chinese in Malaysia, or full-scale fighting may occur, particularly when new states and their boundaries are being determined, and produce brutal efforts to separate peoples by force.
Fault line conflicts sometimes are struggles for control over people. More frequently the issue is control of territory. The goal of at least one of the participants is to conquer territory and free it of other people by expelling them, killing them, or doing both, that is, by “ethnic cleansing.” These conflicts tend to be violent and ugly, with both sides engaging in massacres, terrorism, rape, and torture. The territory at stake often is for one or both sides a highly charged symbol of their history and identity, sacred land to which they have an inviolable right: the West Bank, Kashmir, Nagorno-Karabakh, the Drina Valley, Kosovo.
Fault line wars share some but not all of the characteristics of communal wars generally. They are protracted conflicts. When they go on within states they have on the average lasted six times longer than interstate wars. Involving fundamental issues of group identity and power, they are difficult to resolve through negotiations and compromise. When agreements are reached, they often are not subscribed to by all parties on each side and usually do not last long. Fault line wars are off-again-on-again wars that can flame up into massive violence and then sputter down into low-intensity warfare or sullen hostility only to flame up once again. The fires of communal identity and hatred are rarely totally extinguished except through genocide. As a result of their protracted character, fault line wars, like other communal wars, tend to produce large numbers of deaths and refugees. Estimates of either have to be treated with caution, but commonly accepted figures for deaths in fault line wars underway in the early 1990s included: 50,000 in the Philippines, 50,000 – 100,000 in Sri Lanka, 20,000 in Kashmir, 500,000-1.5 million in Sudan, 100,000 in Tajikistan, 50,000 in Croatia, 50,000-200,000 in Bosnia, 30,000 – 50,000 in Chechnya, 100,000 in Tibet, 200,000 in East Timor. Virtually all these conflicts generated much larger numbers of refugees.
Many of these contemporary wars are simply the latest round in a prolonged history of bloody conflicts, and the late-twentieth-century violence has resisted efforts to end it permanently. The fighting in Sudan, for instance, broke out in 1956, continued until 1972, when an agreement was reached providing some autonomy for southern Sudan, but resumed again in 1983. The Tamil rebellion in Sri Lanka began in 1983; peace negotiations to end it broke down in 1991 and were resumed in 1994 with an agreement reached on a cease-fire in January 1995. Four months later, however, the insurgent Tigers broke the truce and withdrew from the peace talks, and the war started up again with intensified violence. The Moro rebellion in the Philippines began in the early 1970s and slackened in 1976 after an agreement was reached providing autonomy for some areas of Mindanao. By 1993, however, renewed violence was occurring frequently and on an increasing scale, as dissident insurgent groups repudiated the peace efforts. Russian and Chechen leaders reached a demilitarization agreement in July 1995 designed to end the violence that had begun the previous December. The war eased off for a while but then was renewed with Chechen attacks on individual Russian or pro-Russian leaders, Russian retaliation, the Chechen incursion into Dagestan in January 1996, and the massive Russian offensive in early 1996.
While fault line wars share the prolonged duration, high levels of violence, and ideological ambivalence of other communal wars, they also differ from them in two ways. First, communal wars may occur between ethnic, religious, racial, or linguistic groups. Since religion, however, is the principal defining characteristic of civilizations, fault line wars are almost always between peoples of different religions. Some analysts downplay the significance of this factor.
They point, for instance, to the shared ethnicity and language, past peaceful coexistence, and extensive intermarriage of Serbs and Muslims in Bosnia, and dismiss the religious factor with references to Freud’s “narcissism of small differences.” That judgment, however, is rooted in secular myopia. Millennia of human history have shown that religion is not a “small difference” but possibly the most profound difference that can exist between people. The frequency, intensity, and violence of fault line wars are greatly enhanced by beliefs in different gods.
Second, other communal wars tend to be particularistic, and hence are relatively unlikely to spread and involve additional participants. Fault line wars, in contrast, are by definition between groups which are part of larger cultural entities. In the usual communal conflict, Group A is fighting Group B, and Groups C, D, and E have no reason to become involved unless A or B directly attacks the interests of C, D, or E. In a fault line war, in contrast, Group Al is fighting Group B1 and each will attempt to expand the war and mobilize support from civilization kin groups, A2, A3, A4, and B2, B3, and B4, and those groups will identify with their fighting kin. The expansion of transportation and communication in the modern world has facilitated the establishment of these connections and hence the “internationalization” of fault line conflicts. Migration has created diasporas in third civilizations. Communications make it easier for the contesting parties to appeal for help and for their kin groups to learn immediately the fate of those parties. The general shrinkage of the world thus enables kin groups to provide moral, diplomatic, financial, and material support to the contesting parties—and much harder not to do so. International networks develop to furnish such support, and the support in turn sustains the participants and prolongs the conflict. This “kin-country syndrome,” in H.D.S. Greenway’s phrase, is a central feature of late-twentieth-century fault line wars.” More generally, even small amounts of violence between people of different civilizations have ramifications and consequences which intracivilizational violence lacks. When Sunni gunmen killed eighteen Shi’ite worshippers in a mosque in Karachi in February 1995, they further disrupted the peace in the city and created a problem for Pakistan. When exactly a year earlier, a Jewish settler killed twenty-nine Muslims praying at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, he disrupted the Middle Eastern peace process and created a problem for the world.
Incidence: Islam’s Bloody Borders
Communal conflicts and fault line wars are the stuff of history, and by one count some thirty-two ethnic conflicts occurred during the Cold War, including fault line wars between Arabs and Israelis, Indians and Pakistanis, Sudanese Muslims and Christians, Sri Lankan Buddhists and Tamils, and Lebanese Shi’ites and Maronites. Identity wars constituted about half of all civil wars during the 1940s and 1950s but about three-quarters of civil wars during the following decades, and the intensity of rebellions involving ethnic groups tripled between the early 1950s and the late 1980s. Given the overreaching superpower rivalry, however, these conflicts, with some notable exceptions, attracted relatively little attention and were often viewed through the prism of the Cold War. As the Cold War wound down, communal conflicts became more prominent and, arguably, more prevalent than they had been previously. Something closely resembling an “upsurge” in ethnic conflict did in fact happen.”
These ethnic conflicts and fault line wars have not been evenly distributed among the world’s civilizations. Major fault line fighting has occurred between Serbs and Croats in the former Yugoslavia and between Buddhists and Hindus in Sri Lanka, while less violent conflicts took place between non-Muslim groups in a few other places. The overwhelming majority of fault line conflicts, however, have taken place along the boundary looping across Eurasia and Africa that separates Muslims from non-Muslims. While at the macro or global level of world politics the primary clash of civilizations is between the West and the rest, at the micro or local level it is between Islam and the others.
Intense antagonisms and violent conflicts are pervasive between local Muslim and non-Muslim peoples. In Bosnia, Muslims have fought a bloody and disastrous war with Orthodox Serbs and have engaged in other violence with Catholic Croatians. In Kosovo, Albanian Muslims unhappily suffer Serbian rule and maintain their own underground parallel government, with high expectations of the probability of violence between the two groups. The Albanian and Greek governments are at loggerheads over the rights of their minorities in each other’s countries. Turks and Greeks are historically at each others throats. On Cyprus, Muslim Turks and Orthodox Greeks maintain hostile adjoining states. In the Caucasus, Turkey and Armenia are historic enemies, and Azeris and Armenians have been at war over control of Nagorno-Karabakh. In the North Caucasus, for two hundred years Chechens, Ingush, and other Muslim peoples have fought on and off for their independence from Russia, a struggle bloodily resumed by Russia and Chechnya in 1994. Fighting also has occurred between the Ingush and the Orthodox Ossetians. In the Volga basin, the Muslim Tatars have fought the Russians in the past and in the early 1990s reached an uneasy compromise with Russia for limited sovereignty.
Throughout the nineteenth century Russia gradually extended by force its control over the Muslim peoples of Central Asia. During the 1980s Afghans and Russians fought a major war, and with the Russian retreat its sequel continued in Tajikistan between Russian forces supporting the existing government and largely Islamist insurgents. In Xinjiang, Uighurs and other Muslim groups struggle against Sinification and are developing relations with their ethnic and religious kin in the former Soviet republics. In the Subcontinent, Pakistan and India have fought three wars, a Muslim insurgency contests Indian rule in Kashmir, Muslim immigrants fight tribal peoples in Assam, and Muslims and Hindus engage in periodic riots and violence across India, these outbreaks fueled by the rise of fundamentalist movements in both religious communities. In Bangladesh, Buddhists protest discrimination against them by the majority Muslims, while in Myanmar Muslims protest discrimination by the Buddhist majority. In Malaysia and Indonesia, Muslims periodically riot against Chinese, protesting their domination of the economy. In southern Thailand, Muslim groups have been involved in an intermittent insurgency against a Buddhist government, while in the southern Philippines a Muslim insurgency fights for independence from a Catholic country and government. In Indonesia, on the other hand, Catholic East Timorians struggle against repression by a Muslim government.
In the Middle East, conflict between Arabs and Jews in Palestine goes back to the establishment of the Jewish homeland. Four wars have occurred between Israel and Arab states, and the Palestinians engaged in the intifada against Israeli rule. In Lebanon, Maronite Christians have fought a losing battle against Shiites and other Muslims. In Ethiopia, the Orthodox Amharas have historically suppressed Muslim ethnic groups and have confronted an insurgency from the Muslim Oromos. Across the bulge of Africa, a variety of conflicts have gone on between the Arab and Muslim peoples to the north and animist-Christian black peoples to the south. The bloodiest Muslim-Christian war has been in Sudan, which has gone on for decades and produced hundreds of thousands of casualties. Nigerian politics has been dominated by the conflict between the Muslim Fulani-Hausa in the north and Christian tribes in the south, with frequent riots and coups and one major war. In Chad, Kenya, and Tanzania, comparable struggles have occurred between Muslim and Christian groups.
In all these places, the relations between Muslims and peoples of other civilizations —Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Hindu, Chinese, Buddhist, Jewish — have been generally antagonistic; most of these relations have been violent at some point in the past; many have been violent in the 1990s. Wherever one looks along the perimeter of Islam, Muslims have problems living peaceably with their neighbors. The question naturally rises as to whether this pattern of late-twentieth-century conflict between Muslim and non-Muslim groups is equally true of relations between groups from other civilizations. In fact, it is not. Muslims make up about one-fifth of the world’s population but in the 1990s they have been far more involved in intergroup violence than the people of any other civilization. The evidence is overwhelming.
1. Muslims were participants in twenty-six of fifty ethnopolitical conflicts in 1993-1994 analyzed in depth by Ted Robert Gurr (Table 10.1). Twenty of these conflicts were between groups from different civilizations, of which fifteen were between Muslims and non-Muslims. There were, in short, three times as many intercivilizational conflicts involving Muslims as there were conflicts between all non-Muslim civilizations. The conflicts within Islam also were more numerous than those in any other civilization, including tribal conflicts in Africa. In contrast to Islam, the West was involved in only two intracivilizational and two intercivilizational conflicts. Conflicts involving Muslims also tended to be heavy in casualties. Of the six wars in which Gurr estimates that 200,000 or more people were killed, three (Sudan, Bosnia, East Timor) were between Muslims and non-Muslims, two (Somalia, Iraq-Kurds) were between Muslims, and only one (Angola) involved only non-Muslims.
The New York Times identified forty-eight locations in which some fifty-nine ethnic conflicts were occurring in 1993. In half these places Muslims were clashing with other Muslims or with non-Muslims. Thirty-one of the fifty-nine conflicts were between groups from different civilizations, and, paralleling Gurr’s data, two-thirds (twenty-one) of these intercivilizational conflicts were between Muslims and others (Table 10.2).
In yet another analysis, Ruth Leger Sivard identified twenty-nine wars (defined as conflicts involving 1000 or more deaths in a year) under way in 1992. Nine of twelve intercivilizational conflicts were between Muslims and non-Muslims, and Muslims were once again fighting more wars than people from any other civilization.
Three different compilations of data thus yield the same conclusion: In the early 1990s Muslims were engaged in more intergroup violence than were non-Muslims, and two-thirds to three-quarters of intercivilizational wars were between Muslims and non-Muslims. Islam’s borders are bloody, and so are its innards.
The Muslim propensity toward violent conflict is also suggested by the degree to which Muslim societies are militarized. In the 1980s Muslim countries had military force ratios (that is, the number of military personnel per 1000 population) and military effort indices (force ratio adjusted for a country’s wealth) significantly higher than those for other countries. Christian countries, in contrast, had force ratios and military effort indices significantly lower than those for other countries. The average force ratios and military effort ratios of Muslim countries were roughly twice those of Christian countries (Table 10.3). “Quite clearly,” James Payne concludes, “there is a connection between Islam and militarism.”
Muslim states also have had a high propensity to resort to violence in international crises, employing it to resolve 76 crises out of a total of 142 in which they were involved between 1928 and 1979. In 25 cases violence was the primary means of dealing with the crisis; in 51 crises Muslim states used violence in addition to other means. When they did use violence, Muslim states used high-intensity violence, resorting to full-scale war in 41 percent of the cases where violence was used and engaging in major clashes in another 38 percent of the cases. While Muslim states resorted to violence in 53.5 percent of their crises, violence was used by the United Kingdom in only 11.5 percent, by the United States in 17.9 percent, and by the Soviet Union in 28.5 percent of the crises in which they were involved. Among the major powers only China’s violence propensity exceeded that of the Muslim states: it employed violence in 76.9 percent of its crises.” Muslim bellicosity and violence are late-twentieth-century facts which neither Muslims nor non-Muslims can deny.
No single statement in my Foreign Affairs article attracted more critical comment than: “Islam has bloody borders.” I made that judgment on the basis of a casual survey of intercivilizational conflicts. Quantitative evidence from every disinterested source conclusively demonstrates its validity.