On the final day of the Democratic National Convention one of the speakers was Khizr Khan. Not the fifteenth century founder of the Sayyid dynasty in India, of course, but a Pakistani born immigrant to the United States. Khan condemned Republican candidate Donald Trump’s policies with regards to immigration as violating the American constitution. He talked about his son who had died as an American soldier in the Iraq War and asked what Trump had sacrificed.
Most of the discussion that this has generated over the last week or so has been long on emotion and short on fact. Although Khan had publicly attacked Trump, anything Trump said in response, no matter how reasonable, was condemned, because Khan was a grieving parent. One would think, from the propaganda that began appearing all over the progressive media, that Trump had been personally responsible for the death of Khan’s son. The irony is that Trump was against the Iraq War and has condemned it frequently throughout his campaign, while Khan’s own preferred candidate, Hillary Clinton, as Senator for New York voted for the war and thus was in part responsible for his son’s death.
That did not come up very often in the media’s anti-Trump fest. It did not fit the narrative. Nor did the fact that Khan had a personal motive other than the death of his son for attacking Trump. He is a lawyer who specializes in helping Muslims immigrate to the United States. He is also an advocate of Shariah Law who has been accused of having connections to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic organization that is the parent organization of terrorist group Hamas and which - with the support of the Obama administration and especially his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – has fomented revolution against several secular Middle Eastern governments which, when successful, has resulted in those governments being replaced by jihadist theocracies.
What is most interesting in all of this is the way in which the American election this year is turning out to be a contest, not just between the two individuals Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, but the alternate visions of post-Cold War geopolitics offered two decades ago by Francis Fukuyama and Samuel P. Huntington.
Fukuyama, who is currently a professor at Stanford University, was the author of a famous essay “The End of History?” which appeared in the September 1989 issue of The National Interest. He expanded the thesis of this essay into a book length treatise entitled The End of History and the Last Man, which was published in 1992. Fukuyama’s thesis was an update of the nineteenth century Whig Interpretation of History. He argued, that the triumph of the American-led free world over Communism in the Cold War, signalled, not just the end of that particular conflict, but the end of history itself in the sense that Western liberal democracy and free market capitalism would become universally accepted and the basis of a new, world order. Fukuyama saw this outcome as both inevitable and desirable, and his vision of a Pax Americana – a new world order of liberal, democratic capitalism, benevolently policed by the American military – has been the basis of the foreign policy of every American administration since.
The late political scientist, Samuel P. Huntington of Harvard University, saw the post-Cold War world as shaping up in a different way, and responded to Fukuyama’s book with an essay “The Clash of Civilizations”, published in the Summer 1993 issue of Foreign Affairs. He too expanded his thesis into a book length treatise, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, which was published in 1996. He argued that conflicts between civilizations and cultures, however regrettable, were an inevitable recurrence in human history, which he viewed as being more cyclical, as opposed to the very linear understanding of history found in the original Whig Interpretation and Fukuyama’s thesis. The end of the Cold War, he believed, signalled the end of a particular kind of conflict, the ideological type that had characterized the Twentieth Century, but that other inter-civilizational conflicts would arise, and that the next one was likely to be between Western civilization and the non-Western world, especially the Islamic world.
Fukuyama’s thesis seems to me to be not just utter foolishness but dangerous utter foolishness. The Canadian conservative philosopher George Grant argued in Lament For a Nation (1965) that the world seemed to be headed towards a “universal and homogenous state” of American style liberalism, like the kind Fukuyama believed to be desirable, but observed that the ancients had believed that any such universal state would be a tyranny. If the ancients were right, as Grant believed as do I, then all the recent efforts to build a borderless, global, society, however well-intentioned they may be, are leading us down a path to darkness and misery.
Huntington’s thesis, by contrast, has been borne out by the events of the last two and a half decades. Western civilization is now in a clash with the non-Western, and especially the Islamic world, and those who believe in Fukuyama’s vision of universal, liberal, democracy are jeopardizing the West’s ability to survive, let alone win, this conflict. Observe, for example, the consequences of the attempts of the last two American presidential administrations to introduce liberal democracy to Iraq, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Libya, and Syria. The overthrow of the Hussein government in Iraq and the weakening of the Assad government in Syria has led to much of these countries being taken over by the Islamic State, the most formidable jihadist opponent the West has yet faced, while Hamas was voted in by the Palestinians, remaining in control of the Gaza Strip, and Islamic theocrats have come to power in Egypt and Libya. Meanwhile, as we have seen over the course of the last two years, the vision of a global liberal order in which borders do not hinder the free movement of either people or goods and the ensuing relaxed attitude on the part of most Western governments to migration and border security, has internalized the threat from the Islamic world. The conflict between Obama-backed rebels in Syria and the Assad government there, created the pretext whereby droves of invaders, claiming to be refugees from this crisis, have overrun Europe while the number of large scale terrorist attacks on Western soil has been rapidly multiplying.
Fukuyama’s theory has generated a losing strategy in the conflict against Islam, a conflict in which Western civilization was already handicapped by the victory of its own liberalism in the Twentieth Century. That victory was not so much over the twin evils of Communism and Nazism (1) as over the traditions and religion of Christendom, i.e., pre-modern, pre-liberal, Western Civilization. For a thousand years Christendom fought against Islam’s relentless attempts to conquer it. There were notable losses – such as the defeat of the kingdom of Serbia by the Ottomans in the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 and the fall of Constantinople, the capital of Eastern Christendom, in the following century – but there were also major victories – such as when Charles Martel’s Franks defeated the Islamic hordes at Tours in 732 and when the Holy League turned away the invading Ottomans before the gates of the capital of the Holy Roman Empire in 1683. To Islam, the present conflict with the West is not something new but rather the renewal and continuation of its fourteen century long war of conquest against Christendom. The West, in which the Christendom that valiantly fought back against Islamic aggression has been replaced by a “Western Civilization” of modern, secular, liberalism, fails to understand this, and so is ill-equipped for the conflict.
The revival of Christendom would be the West’s best chance of surviving and winning this conflict. A Donald Trump presidency, in the American republic that is the centre of the modern liberal West, will not bring about a revival of Christendom. It would, however, be the second best thing, for it would mean the defeat of the Fukuyama inspired, idealistic, liberal triumphalism that, in its naïve belief that liberal democracy is destined to prevail over all its competitors, has been uniting the Islamic world, bringing it most fanatical proponents to power, and internalizing within the West, what was formerly an outside threat. Trump may be a crude, vulgar, egotist, with a tendency to speak before he thinks through what he is speaking about, but he is also a realist and a patriot, who understands that America and the West are in a war with Islam, in which open borders and unrestricted immigration can and will be exploited by the enemy for our own destruction. He is not ideologically committed to the idea that American liberal democracy is the only acceptable form of government and must become universal, and so has shown a willingness to get along with leaders like Russia’s Putin and Syria’s Assad who, while they may not govern in a way that American liberal democrats would approve of, have been fighting the jihadists and protecting the Christian communities in their own countries.
His opponent, by contrast, worked to destabilize the Assad government as Obama’s Secretary of State, which assisted the rise of ISIS at the expense of the safety of the ancient Christian communities in Syria, and has been rattling her sabre against Putin. Her assistance to rebel groups in Egypt against a government not pure enough by the standards of American democratic liberalism, brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Egypt in the mercifully short-lived, presidency of Mohammed Morsi. The consequences of her similar actions in Libya are well known. The overthrow of Saddam Hussein in the Iraq War for which she voted as Senator also contributed to the rise of ISIS, and the wars her husband’s administration – in which she had an unprecedented amount of influence as First Lady - fought against Yugoslavian/Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic – recently exonerated of all the charges made against him at the time – benefited Muslim groups in Bosnia and Kosovo who were allied with Osama bin Laden.
The Trump vs. Clinton presidential contest this fall, therefore, is also, in a sense, a contest between a realism that has a degree of similarity to that of the late Samuel Huntington and the pure liberal idealism of Francis Fukuyama, with the survival of the West in its clash with Islam hanging on the outcome.
(1) Liberalism had largely been colonized by Communism by the time the Soviet Union collapsed. As Tomislav Sunic remarked, in Homo Americanus: Child of the Postmodern Age (2007) that “Some European authors observed that communism died in the East because it had already been implemented in the West”, an observation that seems rather justified when one compares the ten measures proposed in the second chapter of the Communist Manifesto with the accomplishments of which progressive liberalism is most proud in the United States and other Western countries. Historian John Lukacs has frequently made a similar observation about national socialism (of which Nazism is a contraction). Liberalism triumphed over these totalitarian enemies, in other words, at the expense of becoming the very thing it had defeated.