He even went so far as to identify the manner in which this conflict would play out: "a war of terrorism versus air power."Support for Huntington's theory came on Sept.11, 2001, when al Qaeda launched its attacks against the United States and prompted the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.And so, 20 years later in a world that seemingly confirms Huntington's predictions in many ways, it is just as illuminating to take a closer look at what he got wrong.
And just as Huntington overstates the civilizational nature of conflicts in the Islamic world, he fails to address many of the geopolitical imperatives behind them, including the opening of fissures within Islam as the Sykes-Picot era declines and the weakening of centralized states' ability to contain those divisions.
While Huntington attributed the Islamic world's rise to its demographic expansion, he credited the post-Cold War ascent of China to its economic expansion.
In the early 1990s, the Yugoslav Wars erupted, pulling Orthodox Serbs, Catholic (Western) Croats and Bosniaks into a bloody battle fought along civilizational lines.
Not long after, the predominantly Orthodox Armenia and mostly Muslim Azerbaijan declared war over Nagorno-Karabakh, and both sides received outside support from patrons within their civilizational categories: The Turks backed their religious and cultural brethren in Azerbaijan, and the Russians came to the aid of their Orthodox comrades in Armenia.
China's resistance to Western supremacy stems from its Confucian values, which emphasize the importance of hierarchy, authority, consensus and the state's dominion over society and which clash with American beliefs of liberty, equality, democracy and individualism.
The chasm between the two makes a Western-style political structure incompatible with Chinese cultural and civilizational traditions, just as it is incompatible with the Islamic world's rejection of the separation of church and state.
Huntington contended, in what was perhaps his most forward-looking insight, that clashes between the West and the Islamic world would intensify with the collapse of the Cold War rivalry.
He astutely observed that the fall of the Soviet Union and much of the global communist movement in the early 1990s "removed a common enemy of the West and Islam and left each the perceived threat to the other." Huntington argued that the shared universality of the Western and Islamic cultures, which espouse views that they believe all humans can adhere to, would generate competition and conflict between the two.
But Huntington's reasoning behind it is less convincing.
Confucianism is not what has created friction between China and the United States; trade and economic patterns have.