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"Clash of civilizations" or crisis of civilization?

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From Asia Times

The outlook of current Western leaders suggests that humanity will be hard pressed to survive the 21st century

Talk about a graphic display of soft power: Beijing this week hosted the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations.

Organized under the direct supervision of President Xi Jinping it took place amid an "Asian Culture Carnival." Sure, there were dubious, kitschy and syrupy overtones, but what really mattered was what Xi himself had to say to China and all of Asia.

In his keynote speech, the Chinese leader essentially stressed that one civilization forcing itself upon another is "foolish" and "disastrous." In Xi's concept of a dialogue of civilizations, he referred to the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as programs that "have expanded the channels for communication exchanges."

Xi's composure and rationality present a stark, contrasting message to US President Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" campaign.

West vs East and South

Compare and contrast Xi's comments with what happened at a security forum in Washington just over two weeks earlier. Then, a bureaucrat by the name of Kiron Skinner, the State Department's policy planning director, characterized US-China rivalry as a "clash of civilizations," and "a fight with a really different civilization and ideology the US hasn't had before."

And it got worse. This civilization was "not Caucasian" -- a not so subtle 21st century resurrection of the "Yellow Peril." (Let us recall: The "not Caucasian" Japan of World War II was the original "Yellow Peril.")

Divide and rule, spiced with racism, accounts for the toxic mix that has been embedded in the hegemonic US narrative for decades now. The mix harks back to Samuel Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, published in 1996.

Huntington's pseudo-theory, coming from someone who did not know much about the multi-polar complexity of Asia, not to mention African and South American cultures, was mercilessly debunked across vast swathes of the global South. In fact, Huntington did not even come up with the original, flawed concept. That was the work of Anglo-American historian and commentator Bernard Lewis, who passes for a Middle East guru in the US.

Divide, rule, conquer

As Alastair Crooke, the founder of the Conflicts Forum, has outlined, Lewis consistently preached divide and rule, tinged with racism, in Islamic states. He was a fervent proponent of regime change in Iran and his recipe for dealing with Arabs was "to hit them between the eyes with a big stick" because, in his world view, the only thing they respect is power.

Crooke reminds us that since the 1960s, Lewis has been a master at spotting vulnerabilities in "religious, class and ethnic differences as the means to bring an end to Middle Eastern states." Lewis is a hero across a certain spectrum -- a spectrum that includes former US Vice President Dick Cheney and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Now, we live in the era of "Lewis redux." Given that the Islamic world is largely subdued, in torpor or in turmoil, the clash of civilizations basically applies, on a downsized scale, to containing or destroying Shi'ite Iran.

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Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia (more...)
 

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