‘War criminals on the lecture circuit!’ ran the headline on the student newspaper when Professor Samuel P. Huntington came to speak at Sussex in 1973. The controversial academic, who was was hounded off campus by 500 protesting students, has died aged 81.
Huntington, an American political scientist and author of the infamous ‘Clash of Civilizations’ thesis, was famously prevented from giving a speech on ‘The role of the military in U.S. foreign policy.’ He had been criticised by students for advocating the use of ‘forced draft urbanisation’ during the Vietnam War, in which he worked as a strategic advisor for the U.S. military. The scheme involved saturation bombing of rural areas where there was the most support for revolutionaries, leading to the devastation of the countryside and refugees being forced to live in cramped and squalid conditions, where they were more vulnerable to further air attacks.
After Huntington’s arrival on campus, the audience started getting out of control and plans were hastily amended. Huntington was transported off campus with a police escort, followed by the press, to a lecturer’s home where the conference eventually took place for a group of American Studies students. Unionews, the student newspaper at the time, was prevented from attending the event. It did however report that an unfortunate English lecturer was flour-bombed on campus after being mistakenly identified as Huntington.
In his later work Huntington was criticised for his argument that cultural and religious differences between major civilisations would be the cause of conflict in the 21st century – particularly between Islam and the West. He was criticised for oversimplifying and by some, for encouraging Western supremacy.
Huntington died of complications associated with diabetes at his home in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts on Christmas Eve.