Samuel Huntington is a provocative writer, but very grounded and analytical in his approach. This makes him fascinating. His analysis, as time as shown, has been correct. We see this in the war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Libya where there was significant involvement by Western powers in the Muslim world. The converse is also true, as we have seen the Muslim world unable to catch up with the West in terms of social development, technology, reverting to acts of subversion and spreading disorder through acts of terror. In reference to his book ‘The Clash of Civilization – The Remaking of the World Order’ from 1996, I dedicate this post and refer to global developments in the energy industry. After all, the energy is intervoven with global geopolitics, and the changing political wind in the Middle East and far-away nations like Qatar has a direct impact on us in Europe and America.
There are numerous geopolitical commentators succh as George Friedman, but Samuel Huntington differs from them in many ways, because he seems so objective in his analysis. He has foreseen the mounting conflicts of growing Chinese power, and China’s competitive nature of premiership in East Asia, competing with Japan. Japan itself has ambitions and technical capabilities to reign supreme in East Asia, and can match China militarily.
The strategic alliance between Russia and China may not last for very long
As Samuel Huntington points out very eloquently, Russia is not a natural ally of China. The spread of Chinese soft power, a consequence of China’s financial prosperity, means Russia will be wary of China. As the writer has foreseen, great power competition will arise in Central Asia as China expands outward. Samuel Huntington points out there is a distinct likelihood that China will look to form an alliance with Western nations, as border issues become more important. If China continues to grow, Russia’s economic dependance will also be a significant factor determining the course of the alliance between Russia and China.
Russia’s cosy relationship with China may not last, as China outgrows its neighbor in stature and influence in Central Asia and gains a foothold in Eastern Siberia. At that point, Russia will weigh its own options and may decide to quite literally ‘refuel’ its relationship with Western European nations and the United States, which will be an inflection point for Russia and may risk damaging its relationship to China. This will correlate with increased oil and natural gas deliveries to Western Europe.
Samuel Huntington thinks that Japan is a separate civilization from China, and Japan will fight for supremacy in East Asia
Samuel Huntington classifies Japan as a distinct civilization in its own right. I think a lot of readers would agree with his analysis, although there are a great many similarities between China, Korea and Japan in terms of Confucian culture. What Samuel Huntington also points out is that Japan may be Western in outward appearance, but remains its own civilization in terms of cultural values and social dynamics. Outward appearances should not deceive us.
The Effect of the Clash of Civilization on the Energy Industry
Samuel Huntington has correctly assessed the situation. He predicted a number of issues that are going to happen and showed where the fault lines between different social groupings are. His understanding of social dynamics is breathtaking. He knows that physical proximity determines the level of conflict. The closer you are physically to another civilization, the more conflict will be. His grounded approach is a good way to prepare ourselves what is to come. This makes it more likely that energy supply chains will be interrupted, which forces us to look for alternative supplies of energy. In that sense, it appears reasonable for countries like Germany to procure some LNG from the U.S., because the U.S. and France are our main political partners in the Western World. Taking Samuel Huntington’s book to heart, it would mean that Russia is incompatible as a long-term political partner for Germany. That makes Nordstream a risky endeavor due to the inherent geopolitical risks. It also means that we have to invest more in renewable energy sources in Germany, to prevent economic upheaval caused by our dependence on the Middle East.
Transnational electricity networks in the heartland of Western Civilization
Interestingly, Samuel Huntington refers to core regions of a civilization that radiate outward and spread their culture to the peripheries of that civilization. As far as Western civilization is concerned, that core region is in France, Northern Italy, Germany and the Benelux region. Europe’s core region is where Western Civilization has originated, and this is where we also find a well-integrated electricity network that transmits electricity from one country to another very easily. Further out in Eastern Europe, electricity networks between countries are not as well integrated, emphasizing their remoteness from the center of that civilization.
The United States is an integral part of Western Civilization, and has inherited its cultural traditions and legal customs from Europe. Right from the start, it was a European enclave, a frontier state. The youthful United States had to build its own infrastructure on a different continent, seperated by an ocean from the European heartland. According to Huntington, the Atlantic Ocean functions as a superhighway between Europe and America, to connect Western Civilization into a cohesive whole. But the United States also compliments Europe in many ways, contributing the Western Civilization with its abundant natural gas and oil reserves. That has been a major advantage of Western Civilization compared to all others, that for the last 200 years, Western Civilization had access to some of the finest energy reserves on the planet. In England and Germany exploited their coal reserves to fuel the industrial revolution, and the United States used its own coal reserves, in addition to oil and natural gas reserves to propel it to superpower status, and the leader of Western nations.
Explaining our Relationship with the Middle East in Terms of Energy Geopolitics
A few years ago, various investors came together to start a renewable energy project which has been named Desertec. This project never came off the ground and many reasons were given for that. Desertec was supposed to bring electricity produced by photovoltaic installations in North Africa to central Europe. Reading Samuel Huntington’s book, one gets the impression that part of the problem why Desertec never was completed had to do with the cultural distinctiveness of Islamic civilization, as being different from Western Civilization. The problem was not that electricity could not be transmitted long distance from North Africa to Europe, the problem was the legal and financial uncertainty that such a project would entail.
Huntington, S. P. 2002, The Clash of Civilizations And The Remaking of World Order, Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, London.