Samuel Huntington — on Immigration and the American Identity

The remarkable rise of Donald Trump, fueled in large part by his determination to keep immigrants out of his Greatening America, has caused many to re-examine the key concerns of the controversial political scientist Samuel Huntington. His writings on immigration and American national identity seem today to be sad prophecies of what has come to pass. In light of last year’s headlines — extreme vetting for Syrian refugees, Presidential dithering on DACA, white nationalist riots — I decided to re-post my 2005 ThoughtCast interview with Huntington, who died in late December, 2008.

Note: This interview was broadcast twice on WGBH in Boston.

Sam Huntington
The eminent and provocative political scientist and prolific author, talks with ThoughtCast about what he sees as the threat to America’s national identity (and its founding ‘Anglo-Protestant’ culture) posed by large numbers of unassimilated Hispanics, legal or otherwise, living in the United States. His most recent book: “Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity” has caused quite a stir. Huntington is also famous for an earlier work called “The Clash of Civilizations.” In this book, he argues that civilizations, not nations or ideologies, form the basic building blocks of future cooperation — and conflict.
Huntington, a longtime professor of political science at Harvard, is also a member of the editorial board of a new magazine chaired by Huntington’s former student, Francis Fukuyama, called “The American Interest.”
We discuss these topics in a half-hour interview while seated in the back yard of his home on Martha’s Vineyard — hence all those birds chirping away cheerily…

Click here: to listen (30 mins).


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20 Responses to Samuel Huntington — on Immigration and the American Identity

  1. Frank Livingston February 28, 2013 at 9:30 am #

    We need a strong look at our history with Shariah/Islamic law because it is not being taught, it is being completely ignored. Here is an example.

    Who said this, to whom, when, why and what have we ever done about it? Would you consider this statement to be contrary to our Constitution, our way of life, a danger to our National and Homeland Security? Would you think these are words of an enemy? Surely, our government has studied this but where are the reports? This appears to be the same as the plan the Muslim Brotherhood developed to destroy America and the western world in their effort to for a global Caliphate. Read An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America which can be found online at the Investigative Project on Terrorism website. What about the analysis of the memorandum provided by the former DOD/JCS Islamic expert, Stephen Coughlin. Read the “ANALYSIS OF MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD’S GENERAL STRATEGIC GOALS FOR NORTH AMERICA MEMORANDUM” by Stephen Coughlin, September 7, 2007. IPT Summary: Stephen Coughlin, a lawyer and U.S. Army Reserve Major, analyzed evidence from the terror-support trial of the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. He “cautioned the Pentagon to be wary of future outreach programs with specific U.S. Islamist organizations after evidence showed they were part of a long-range Muslim Brotherhood plan to subvert “American institutions through outreach, strategic deception and perception management. To undertake outreach with known identified organizations without knowledge of their objectives is to run the extreme risk of strategic manipulation by declared Jihad entities in ways that fulfill stated Muslim Brotherhood objectives as enumerated in the Memorandum.”
    Who said this?
    “The Ambassador answered us that it was founded on the Laws of their prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every musselman [muslim] who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.”

    This statement was a part of a March 28, 1786, letter from John Adams and Thomas Jefferson to John Jay, the United States Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Continental Congress, concerning their conversation with the Tripoli ambassador as to why his pirates/terrorists hijacked our merchant ships, stole the ships and cargo while holding the sailors for ransom.

    Why are we failing to address the obvious in the letter? Here are the main points:
    a. “it was founded on the Laws of their prophet”;
    b. “that it was written in their Koran”;
    c. “that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners”;
    d. “that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and”;
    e. “to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and”;
    f. “that every musselman [muslim] who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.”
    Has our government studied this and if they have, where are the published reports?
    See actual letter here:
    This is the typed version:

    Please take the time to read an article by Gerard W. Gawalt, a manuscript specialist for early American history in the Manuscript Division, Library of Congress titled, “America and the Barbary Pirates : An International Battle Against an Unconventional Foe. It can be found at:

    I suggest you go to YouTube and watch: Stephen Coughlin, Part 5: The Role of the OIC in Enforcing Islamic Law

    I would love to have a discussion on this.

  2. Mehmet May 17, 2009 at 1:05 pm #


    it clearly understood from his arguments that he talks about the islamic history. Islam is nowadays independent from policy in Europe and everybody knows that. The Islam has the least relation with the happenings in India and in Kosovo, or do I know wrong? The happenings in Palestina is not a clash of religions. It is israeli-arabic conflict. Don’t forget what happened there (even with christians). And if Europe pleads the cultural reasons against Turkey’s joining is it a matter of Islam again? Should Islam be guilty for that all?

    Samuel Huntington sees Osama Bin Laden as leader of Islam, George W.Bush did him to the most famous important man in the world. In this circumstance Al Qaida doesnt need any advertisement…
    Think about it Sam! 😉


    Mehmet A.

  3. Jenny Attiyeh October 9, 2007 at 11:10 pm #

    Hi Julia, Alexa and Hanna.
    Thanks so much for your comment! However as I’m a journalist, not an opinion-maker, so to speak, my opinions ought to remain my own. I’m kind of glad you feel the need to ask what they are — perhaps I’m better at being ‘objective’ in these interviews than I realized. Thanks again for listening and contributing!

  4. Julia, Alexa, Hanna October 9, 2007 at 2:10 pm #

    Jenny Attiyeh

    Dear Jenny,
    We have recently read Samuel Huntington’s essay, The Clash of Civilizations. Also, we listened to your interview with Huntington on ThoughtCast. We also read another interview between Mark O’Keefe, the Associate Director, and Huntington, on the Pew Forum. We found both of them very intriguing.

    In the interview with Mr. O’Keefe, Huntington was asked what he thought; “In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, you (Huntington) wrote that the attack was Osama BinLaden’s attempt to draw the United States and the West into a full-fledged clash of civilizations with Islam… Do you think he succeeded?” We want to know whether Osama BinLaden wanted to make the world clash with Islam, and whether or not you believe he has succeeded.

    In Huntington’s 1993 essay, he explains that he does not give BinLaden full credit for the tragedy in the Muslim world, but certainly agrees that a large portion was subject to Western colonialism. The natives in such areas are asserting themselves and fighting back.

    We have obtained his view on this situation and now wish to know what your opinions are.

    Thank you for taking your time to read our letter and we look forward for your reply.

    Julia Sarnacki
    Alexa Stango
    Hanna Williams

  5. Benjamin September 2, 2007 at 10:15 pm #

    well, there are obvious flaws to his argument, his logic in the article at least is just not coherent, check my blog for what I am referring to

  6. Jenny June 19, 2007 at 2:05 pm #

    What makes you think I’m a Protestant? And why would they be a growing minority?
    Also, what would be the hardball questions I avoided? I’m serious. I’d really like to hear them.

  7. paco sharte June 19, 2007 at 1:20 am #

    This interview has been the most “directed interview” i’ve heard and it seems Jenny just feels to be part of this growing minority of white Protestants in comparisson the growing Hispanic polulation. I also felt that the hardball questions were avoided.

  8. Benjamin February 6, 2007 at 3:12 pm #

    I am definitely not challenging Huntington just on his lack of explanation of the dangers of bilingualism. Click on the link for my website and you can see a couple of content issues that I contend with and that I would have asked him about. His argument is simply not coherent and lacks inner logic to some extent.
    In response to John, you seem to have never heard of Switzerland? I doubt that anyone would argue that it does not hold common values, loyalties and culture, yet it has three (and a half if you want) languages spoken. Language is not necessarily associated with these aspects.
    Furthermore, you claim that with emotional ties to the fatherland German-Americans would not have been able to fight against Germany? I’ll give you one simple (exemplarly there are thousands) counter example. Marlene Dietrich. It were exactly her emotional ties to Germany that made her work as diligently for the end of the Nazi-regime.

  9. john January 7, 2007 at 11:50 pm #

    People arriving at Ellis Island often had their names anglicised. Was that rough? Perhaps? But making a nation that coheres is a rough buiness. It was a clear message to immigrants that one needed to assimilate. Again, imagine if German immigrants had not assimilated? Could we have fought and won WW2 if they had retained cultural, linguistics and EMOTIONAL ties to the fatherland? No man can serve two masters. It was ironic that Jenny accused Huntington of having a conflict of interest: he is trying to prevent a Balkanised America with conflicts to multiple countries.

  10. john January 7, 2007 at 11:36 pm #

    How can a society be coherent if people have different values, loyalties and culture? How could we have won WW2 if German-Americans had maintained their own culture and language? German-Americans learned or rather were forced to “learn to dream in English.”
    Today’s denationalised elites no longer perform the roles of adults–they no longer ask people to assimilate so that we may have a coherent society.

  11. martin January 4, 2007 at 10:21 am #

    Incredible!!! Huntington’s so reactionary — you don’t see that, American people?? A dangerous teacher shaping minds… He doesn’t see the complexities in the world, in the USA? He’s like a brother of Bush….

  12. Jenny December 30, 2006 at 6:41 pm #

    How about this — what questions would YOU like to ask Huntington? What has he not sufficiently addressed? What do you feel he’s/we’ve left out? Are we consciously or unconsciously avoiding certain material as Tim (above) suggests? Are we too p.c. to dig in deeply enough?

    Thanks for the input.

  13. Tim December 28, 2006 at 5:54 pm #


    As Professor Huntington touches on a couple of times in the interview, much of the criticism directed at him has not been legitimate. What he seems to brush off then is the shallowness of disapproval. Benjamin here takes issue with the fundamental assertion that bilingualism is a bad thing, and Huntington would certainly engage that. But to be fair, is not most of the criticism targeted at his work reactionary itself? Mr. Huntington said he is surprised by the ferocity of response to his book, but I get the impression that he is more disappointed in the lack of scholarly debate. As a political scientist I have been monitoring for strong responses to his assertion of the role of Anglo-P culture, and the selection is bare. I believe it is because people are unable to respond—have we seen the emergence of a paradigm? Prove me wrong!


  14. Benjamin November 28, 2006 at 5:48 am #

    Interesting interview, but I don’t understand why you do not ask him one single hardball question? His argument is so faulty to large extents and the basic argument (that a bilingual nation is negative in the first place) is never challenged by you. I just wonder what the point of an interview with someone intruiging like Huntington is if you do not take advantage of it.

  15. Nurudeen Sulayman April 22, 2006 at 6:46 pm #

    Dear Jenny,
    I think your Samuel Huntington interview is very interesting. He is saying the truth but the truth is bitter. When you are in Rome you get to do as the Roman does. Whoever wishes or intends to live in America should be ready to follow the footpath of America. Let the immigrants who do not speak English on their arrival to this great nation go and learn how to do so. Otherwise, America will lose its cultural value and become valueless. Great job. Well done.

  16. Lila November 26, 2005 at 6:22 pm #

    Dear Jenny, I discovered your podcast through digital podcast forum and liked your concept very much! Listened to your interview with Samuel Huntington, it was very interesting … and good job!!

  17. Administrator October 4, 2005 at 11:21 pm #

    You’re not alone, Shelley. As you heard in the interview, quite a few share your criticism of Huntington. Do you get the feeling from the interview that he is concerned about all this criticism, or does he just brush it away?
    Thanks for the input!

  18. Shelley October 4, 2005 at 7:02 pm #

    Jenny, fascinating interview, though I find myself in fairly strong disagreement with Professor Huntington.


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