[OPE-L:8560] Clash of Barbarisms

From: rakeshb@stanford.edu
Date: Fri Mar 07 2003 - 14:23:20 EST

This is a very good short essay. While the class analysis may be 
overly formal--that is, so called fundamentalism has no roots in 
the proletariat proper-- there are real insights into the nature of so 
called fundamentalism, the ideological and material 
contradictions of US foreign policy; there are some excellent 
historical vignettes, especially of Sa'udi Arabia. Achcar is an 
extremely well versed social theorist (he edited the excellent verso 
volume on The Legacy of Ernest Mandel), and this context of war 
allows him to make new use of Foucault and Elias.  Very sharp 
succinct insights. 
My main criticism: in a public lecture on this book, he seemed to 
rely too heavily on the notion that OPEC is a price fixing cartel and 
that US foreign policy is directed at oil security, i.e., securing the 
supply of oil to the US. His argument seemed too similar to 
Michael Klare's about which I have posted criticism before. 

.The Clash of Barbarisms: September 11 and the Making of the 
New World Disorder
by Gilbert Achcar, Peter Drucker (Translator) 

Product Details 

*	Hardcover: 128 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.57 x 9.48 x 
*	Publisher: Monthly Review Press; (November 2002) 
*	ISBN: 1583670823 
*	In-Print Editions: Paperback 
*	Average Customer Review:  Based on 2 reviews. Write a review.

Editorial Reviews
Book Description
The shift in the U.S. global role precipitated by the events of 
September 11, 2001—although the events were unexpected—was 
a long time in the making. In this challenging work, Gilbert Achcar 
analyzes how this shift came about and examines its fateful 

Achcar's Clash of Barbarisms traces the rise of militant and 
anti-Western Islamic fundamentalism to its roots in U.S. policies 
aimed at control of the oil reserves of the Middle East, and above 
all, Saudi Arabia—the "Muslim Texas." Achcar examines the 
political premises of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda and show how 
these led to the massive miscalculation of the September 11 
attacks, with results both politically counterproductive and morally 

The major result of this miscalculation has been to complete a 
shift from the vision of a world order based on international law 
and respecting the rights of strong and weak nations alike, 
announced by George Bush, Sr., in 1991, to the world order being 
created by the administration of George W. Bush today, in which 
the United States asserts its own power and pursues its interests 
without regard for law or rights. In this context, we are living 
through a "clash of barbarisms" indeed. 

This important and timely work is already scheduled for 
publication in French, English, German, Turkish, and Korean. It 
draws on first-hand knowledge of the Middle East, but looks 
beyond immediate events to clarify their geopolitical bases.

Book Info
Traces the rise of militant and anti-Western Islamic 
fundamentalism to its roots in U.S. policies aimed at control of the 
oil reserves of the Middle East, and above all, Saudi Arabia-the 
'Muslim Texas.' Softcover. --This text refers to the Paperback 

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Customer Reviews
Avg. Customer Review:  
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 Excellent, Balanced Viewpoint, February 23, 2003 
	Reviewer: James Igoe (see more about me) from Hoboken, NJ 
USA I had the opportunity to listen to Achcar lecture at La Maison 
Francaise at NYU, and found his view intriguing, if not entirely 
acceptable, and certainly worthy of inclusion into a broader 
worldview. His English is faltering, but the translation is excellent 
and the book is well structured. Also, the book is about 100 pages 
long, and I found it an easy read, although not simply written. 
Reading the book would not take a great amount of time, and it 
provides a wealth of solid, but little known, historical and political 

The largest takeaway from his analysis is a more balanced 
approach to international interactions, and a detailed analysis of 
the history of the Middle East and Islam, as it relates to political 
struggles. His analysis is akin to Chomsky's understanding of 
American political strategy, but also dovetails contrapuntally with 
more mainstream writers such as Brzezniski. 

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful: 

 Only Barbarians Clash, January 26, 2003 
	Reviewer: Paul J. Rask (see more about me) from Portland, 
Oregon USA After reading this slim volume, one receives the 
impression that it was a hurried effort, pieced together from 
previously published writings, not only of Gilbert Achcar's own 
work, but also of other writers. That, however, does not dull its 
message which is to portray the United States as the new Roman 
Empire, the political and military colossus of the 21st Century, the 
less than noble giant which can take what it wants from the world 
at large. And what the latter day Leviathan wants is not justice, nor 
fairness, demonstrating few of the noble principles which gave it 

Mr. Achcar who teaches politics and international relations in 
France intended this book to counterpoise with Samuel 
Huntington's better known book, "The Clash of Civilizations". He 
contends that it is the barbarism of the West which is currently 
evident in the US which clashes with the barbarism of the East as 
practiced by Islamic fundamentalists. His conclusion is that 
Professor Huntington is wrong; cultured societies don't war but 
barbaric societies do.

In an interesting comparison, Mr. Achcar depicts George W. Bush 
as a fundamentalist religious leader standing in fierce opposition 
to Islamic fundamentalists. The inference is that there are 
religious overtones to a war being planned against Iraq which -- 
much more likely -- is to control large oil reserves.

One point that the book brings out which is overlooked in mass 
media reports of the Bush Administration's war against terrorism. 
It is not true, the author asserts, that Islamists hate the USA for its 
freedom, for its wealth, for its non-Islamic ways. The US is hated 
for its uncritical support of international policies which are unfair 
and do not promote justice -- an antithesis of what the USA 
preaches. Those critics of the USA find a gross hypocrisy about 
such stands and they hate the duplicity of it all.

>From a reader's point of view, the book was a little hard going at 
times perhaps because it is a translation, after all, from French. 
Nevertheless, for those who do not become edgy when learning 
uncomfortable facts about the most significant issue of this 
century, this book is recommended.
=pjr= --This text refers to the Paperback edition. 

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