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Hegemonic Competition, Hegemonic Disruption and the Current War
Unformatted Document Text:  Newmann: DRAFT: Please do not cite without permission hegemonic system as was Germany in the years leading up to World War II or as China may be in the 21 st century. Without a great power national champion, al-Qaeda cannot become a peer competitor. Only a nation-state has the organizational capabilities and resource potential to pose such a threat. Even if al- Qaeda or ideological brethren seized power in both Egypt and Saudi Arabia, it would need to maintain unity and substantially promote successful industrialization and modernization to become a second-tier power. It would also need to deal with regional opponents to its new regimes (secular Syria, Shi’ite Iran, Israel) to begin to act as a global power. This model therefore does not consider the possibility that al- Qaeda will achieve its ultimate goal of creating a successor to the Islamic caliphate, an empire stretching from North Africa to Southeast Asia. The al-Qaeda threat begins as an asymmetric one and remains an asymmetric problem for the duration of its relevance in international affairs. The specific reasons for making this assumption are detailed in a subsequent section on scenarios for hegemonic disruption. However, for the purposes of illustrating the model it is enough to simply state that the potential for unifying all Muslims across the Sunni and Shi’ite divide, across ethnic differences (African, Arab, Central Asian, Southeast Asian), and across ideological lines (liberal variants of Islam as practiced in Indonesia or Turkey vs. more conservative strains in Saudi Arabia) is very low. The al-Qaeda’s networks asymmetric challenge to US hegemony is defined here as a threat of disruption. Disruption has several potential elements: propagation of an ideology that rejects the hegemonic ideology spread by the US; terrorist campaigns against governments, organizations, and individuals that are US political or ideological allies; inspiration of more traditional insurgencies; and the seizure of power in nation-states. The al-Qaeda network can be seen as the 21 st century virtual version of Communism. 39 The World Islamic Front for Jihad against Jews and Crusaders, al-Qeada’s virtual transnational organization through which Osama bin-Laden hopes to unify a global revolutionary network, might be a budding Cominterm. Its potential is in the future. Most scholars would have been skeptical of a prediction in 1848 that the world would be faced with a set of Marxist and left-leaning 39 This analogy is also drawn in Clarence J. Bouchat, “A Fundamentalist Islamic Threat to the West,” Studies in Conflict in Terrorism, Vol. 19. No. 4 (October-December 1996), pp. 339-352; and Benjamin and Simon, The Age of Sacred Terror, pp. 453-454. Ikle makes the case that the terrorist leader of today may become the Lenin of tomorrow, but he does not specifically link this to revolutionary Islam. See Fred Ikle, “The Next Lenin,” The National Interest, No. 47 (Spring 1997), pp. 9-19. 13

Authors: Newmann, William.
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Newmann: DRAFT: Please do not cite without permission
hegemonic system as was Germany in the years leading up to World War II or as China may be in the 21
st
century. Without a great power national champion, al-Qaeda cannot become a peer competitor. Only a
nation-state has the organizational capabilities and resource potential to pose such a threat. Even if al-
Qaeda or ideological brethren seized power in both Egypt and Saudi Arabia, it would need to maintain
unity and substantially promote successful industrialization and modernization to become a second-tier
power. It would also need to deal with regional opponents to its new regimes (secular Syria, Shi’ite Iran,
Israel) to begin to act as a global power. This model therefore does not consider the possibility that al-
Qaeda will achieve its ultimate goal of creating a successor to the Islamic caliphate, an empire stretching
from North Africa to Southeast Asia. The al-Qaeda threat begins as an asymmetric one and remains an
asymmetric problem for the duration of its relevance in international affairs. The specific reasons for
making this assumption are detailed in a subsequent section on scenarios for hegemonic disruption.
However, for the purposes of illustrating the model it is enough to simply state that the potential for
unifying all Muslims across the Sunni and Shi’ite divide, across ethnic differences (African, Arab, Central
Asian, Southeast Asian), and across ideological lines (liberal variants of Islam as practiced in Indonesia or
Turkey vs. more conservative strains in Saudi Arabia) is very low.
The al-Qaeda’s networks asymmetric challenge to US hegemony is defined here as a threat of
disruption. Disruption has several potential elements: propagation of an ideology that rejects the
hegemonic ideology spread by the US; terrorist campaigns against governments, organizations, and
individuals that are US political or ideological allies; inspiration of more traditional insurgencies; and the
seizure of power in nation-states. The al-Qaeda network can be seen as the 21
st
century virtual version of
Communism.
The World Islamic Front for Jihad against Jews and Crusaders, al-Qeada’s virtual
transnational organization through which Osama bin-Laden hopes to unify a global revolutionary
network, might be a budding Cominterm. Its potential is in the future. Most scholars would have been
skeptical of a prediction in 1848 that the world would be faced with a set of Marxist and left-leaning
39
This analogy is also drawn in Clarence J. Bouchat, “A Fundamentalist Islamic Threat to the West,” Studies in Conflict in
Terrorism, Vol. 19. No. 4 (October-December 1996), pp. 339-352; and Benjamin and Simon, The Age of Sacred Terror, pp.
453-454. Ikle makes the case that the terrorist leader of today may become the Lenin of tomorrow, but he does not specifically
link this to revolutionary Islam. See Fred Ikle, “The Next Lenin,” The National Interest, No. 47 (Spring 1997), pp. 9-19.
13


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