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Turkey, the Caspian Region,
& the Clash of Civilizations

By: Nathan L. Burns
Mentor: Dr. Houman A. Sadri

Abstract

This paper argues that Turkey's contemporary role in the Caspian Sea region directly challenges Samuel P. Huntington's civilizational paradigm. While his work Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (1996) is now a rather dated contribution to International Relations Theory, Huntington's ideas have continued to reverberate in the post-9/11 world. As the conflict between the US and the Islamic world drags on in Iraq and the Middle East, the allure of Huntingtonesque arguments may be all the stronger. 1

The civilization that most conforms to Huntington's paradigm is the Islamic civilization. Within the geographical area of this civilization, the Caspian Sea presents an ideal region for study. Historically, this region has been an arena for the struggles of major global powers. In the nineteenth century, this pattern of conflict was dubbed The Great Game. Russia, China, and the US constitute the global powers now engaged in this pattern of competition. Therefore, the region provides possible support for those who endorse a clash of civilizations paradigm.

However, analysis of Turkey's interaction in this region undermines this case. Turkey is an historically integral part of the Islamic world and cannot easily be dismissed by Huntington as an anomaly. This paper employs historical event data analysis across global, regional, and state levels. The conclusion of this research is that Turkey's international relationships do not reflect a growing trend toward a clash of civilizations. This examination, then, may be a timely reminder that the civilizational approach lacks utility in International Relations Theory.

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