Samuel Huntington’s Warning – Idiocy of the Day by F. Ajami

  • DECEMBER 30, 2008
  • He predicted a ‘clash of civilizations,’ not the illusion of Davos Man.

    The last of Samuel Huntington’s books — “Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity,” published four years ago — may have been his most passionate work. It was like that with the celebrated Harvard political scientist, who died last week at 81. He was a man of diffidence and reserve, yet he was always caught up in the political storms of recent decades.

    [Commentary] Zina Saunders

    “This book is shaped by my own identities as a patriot and a scholar,” he wrote. “As a patriot I am deeply concerned about the unity and strength of my country as a society based on liberty, equality, law and individual rights.” Huntington lived the life of his choice, neither seeking controversies, nor ducking them. “Who Are We?” had the signature of this great scholar — the bold, sweeping assertions sustained by exacting details, and the engagement with the issues of the time. Continue reading

    Obama and the Politics of Crowds: By FOUAD AJAMI

    Wall Street Journal

    There is something odd — and dare I say novel — in American politics about the crowds that have been greeting Barack Obama on his campaign trail. Hitherto, crowds have not been a prominent feature of American politics. We associate them with the temper of Third World societies. We think of places like Argentina and Egypt and Iran, of multitudes brought together by their zeal for a Peron or a Nasser or a Khomeini. In these kinds of societies, the crowd comes forth to affirm its faith in a redeemer: a man who would set the world right.

    Illustration: Martin Kozlowski

    [Commentary]

    As the late Nobel laureate Elias Canetti observes in his great book, “Crowds and Power” (first published in 1960), the crowd is based on an illusion of equality: Its quest is for that moment when “distinctions are thrown off and all become equal. It is for the sake of this blessed moment, when no one is greater or better than another, that people become a crowd.” These crowds, in the tens of thousands, who have been turning out for the Democratic standard-bearer in St. Louis and Denver and Portland, are a measure of American distress. Continue reading