Who is winning the Clash of Civilizations?
According to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the West is losing to Islam, and she thinks that's a bad thing.
Our civilization is not indestructible: It needs to be actively defended. This was perhaps Huntington's most important insight. The first step towards winning this clash of civilizations is to understand how the other side is waging it—and to rid ourselves of the One World illusion.1
How does she think the West is losing to Islam? She thinks that Islam is outspending the West in terms of exporting its culture:
We need to recognize the extent to which the advance of radical Islam is the result of an active propaganda campaign. According to a CIA report written in 2003, the Saudis invested at least $2 billion a year over a 30-year period to spread their brand of fundamentalist Islam. The Western response in promoting our own civilization was negligible.
This belief in the propaganda disparity between the West and Islam is, of course, debatable. Hollywood alone, for example, has spent considerably more than $2 billion a year on movies for quite some time now, and their cultural products (films and videos) are watched and consumed all over the world. Other instances of Western soft-power can also be invoked to dispute Ali's claim.
Nevertheless, Ali's lens for viewing and understanding the conflict between the West and Islam is the late Samuel Huntington's clash of civilizations theory, which predicts that the big future wars will be between member states of one civilization and another. As per Huntington, the question underlying a clash of civilizations is not what you believe in but what you are. Beliefs characterized the Cold War: are you a capitalist or are you a communist? As such, one could hold a number of different socio-politico-economic beliefs yet still retain a particular cultural identity. Iraq and Syria, for example, had been committed to some form of Western-inspired socialism. But identity will characterize an inter-civilizational conflict; "It is more difficult to be half-Catholic and half-Muslim," says Huntington.
But here is the problem with Ali's reliance on Huntington's clash-of-civilizations model--it's not only a Western creation but it is post-modern in its premises since it elevates the subject position (self-identity) in terms of its fundamental materiality. The presumption is that you are, more or less, whatever you are born as (or aquire in terms of your initial socialization). If you are born as a Muslim, that's what you are. If you are born as a Westerner (secularist or Christian), that's what you are. If you're born as a Hindu (though Huntington scarcely mentions Hindu civilization in his book), then you're a Hindu. Of course, there will always be converts from one identity to another, but they are always insignificant as compared with the numbers that birth creates. Thus as per Huntington's model, propaganda would be of secondary importance in winning the Clash of Civilizations for the West.
Of primary importance in the Clash model is demography, and on account of generous immigration policies, the West is losing out to more fecund immigrants like those coming from third-world, Islamic countries. Ali is wrong about how the Clash can be won. Propaganda, however, serves a useful role in consolidating and protecting those identities despite their relocation to foreign soils. Nevertheless, Ali's West is losing the clash of civilizations on account of demography; native Westerners have all but forgotten to procreate in sufficient numbers. Not Muslims, however. And they are doing quite well in Europe--a group of countries whose brith rates are otherwise notoriously at the bottom of the world's birth rates.
1 Ayaan Hirsi Ali, "How to Win the Clash of Civilizations," 18 Aug. 2010. Wall Street Journal. 20 Aug. 2010 <http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703426004575338471355710184.html?mod=djemBestOfTheWeb_h>.