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Hegemonic Competition, Hegemonic Disruption and the Current War
Unformatted Document Text:  Newmann: DRAFT: Please do not cite without permission colonial powers, from the Mongols of Taymiyya’s time to the Ottomans of Rida’s early 20 th century to the British of Mawdudi and al-Banna’s mid 20 th century. This was not merely political independence, but religious independence as well. As much as colonial powers prevented Arabs or South Asians from achieving self-determination, they also were judged to be stifling the religious freedoms and Islamic- based social, economic, and legal form of societal organization that were the absolute requirements of a truly faithful society. 58 The desire for self-determination was not a nationalistic one in which achievement of the goal could be measure by the territorial outlines on a map. Transnational ideas for a unified Islamic empire, a Muslim empire, defined the ultimate parameters of the mission. This places the ideology within the context of the history of Africa and Asia, a key piece of the mythology that helps sustain and grow the movement. Revolutionary Islam in its current form is today’s incarnation of centuries-old ideas. Al-Qaeda is properly seen as the vanguard of the revolution. Its strength rests in its role as an inspiration for would-be militants. It is the largest network in a series of networks that may be loosely connected or independent groups working toward the same goal. Calling it an alliance of networks may even exaggerate the interconnectivity. The organizational structure of al-Qaeda has been well documented, as has its ability to reconstitute and replicate itself. 59 It is complex and opaque. The alliance born of ideology, however, is clear. Its revolutionary Islamic ideology is something it hopes to spread across the world, to any area where Muslims live. While the Iranian revolution and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan may have provided the initial inspiration for revival of these ideas, it is this revolutionary ideology that provides terrorist recruits and potential scenarios in which these ideas come to dominate the Islamic world. 60 58 Habeck, Knowing the Enemy, pp. 17-105. 59 Gunaratna. Inside al-Qaeda; Burke. Al-Qaeda; and Sageman, Understanding Terror Networks. 60 The question of why these ideas and al-Qaeda’s ability to use political violence to further them has become a factor in international politics at this particular time in history is a crucial one. It is analogous to the question of why Communism collapsed when it did. These are broad historical questions and clearly beyond the scope of this essay. However, scholarly debate on these issues has already begun. In the broadest sense, the resurgence of these ideas, success of al-Qaeda in propagating them through the creation of its network, and its remarkable ability to maintain a steady stream of terrorist activity may best be explained by a confluence of many factors: the continued economic underdevelopment of the Middle East; the oil wealth generated by the 1970’s oil disruptions; the use of that oil wealth by the Saudis to spread Wahabbi Islam; the increase in inequality throughout the Middle East as elites enjoyed their nation’s new found riches even as the general population floundered; the frustrations among the populations of the M idle East when the promise of wealth was not fulfilled; the propaganda of leaders and government-controlled media that blamed all the ills of the Middle East on the West, rather than corrupt leaders; lack of democracy in the Middle East as democratic movements spread throughout most of the globe; the decline 22

Authors: Newmann, William.
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Newmann: DRAFT: Please do not cite without permission
colonial powers, from the Mongols of Taymiyya’s time to the Ottomans of Rida’s early 20
th
century to the
British of Mawdudi and al-Banna’s mid 20
th
century. This was not merely political independence, but
religious independence as well. As much as colonial powers prevented Arabs or South Asians from
achieving self-determination, they also were judged to be stifling the religious freedoms and Islamic-
based social, economic, and legal form of societal organization that were the absolute requirements of a
truly faithful society.
The desire for self-determination was not a nationalistic one in which
achievement of the goal could be measure by the territorial outlines on a map. Transnational ideas for a
unified Islamic empire, a Muslim empire, defined the ultimate parameters of the mission. This places the
ideology within the context of the history of Africa and Asia, a key piece of the mythology that helps
sustain and grow the movement.
Revolutionary Islam in its current form is today’s incarnation of centuries-old ideas. Al-Qaeda is
properly seen as the vanguard of the revolution. Its strength rests in its role as an inspiration for would-be
militants. It is the largest network in a series of networks that may be loosely connected or independent
groups working toward the same goal. Calling it an alliance of networks may even exaggerate the
interconnectivity. The organizational structure of al-Qaeda has been well documented, as has its ability to
reconstitute and replicate itself.
It is complex and opaque. The alliance born of ideology, however, is
clear. Its revolutionary Islamic ideology is something it hopes to spread across the world, to any area
where Muslims live. While the Iranian revolution and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan may have
provided the initial inspiration for revival of these ideas, it is this revolutionary ideology that provides
terrorist recruits and potential scenarios in which these ideas come to dominate the Islamic world.
58
Habeck, Knowing the Enemy, pp. 17-105.
59
Gunaratna. Inside al-Qaeda; Burke. Al-Qaeda; and Sageman, Understanding Terror Networks.
60
The question of why these ideas and al-Qaeda’s ability to use political violence to further them has become a factor in
international politics at this particular time in history is a crucial one. It is analogous to the question of why Communism
collapsed when it did. These are broad historical questions and clearly beyond the scope of this essay. However, scholarly
debate on these issues has already begun. In the broadest sense, the resurgence of these ideas, success of al-Qaeda in propagating
them through the creation of its network, and its remarkable ability to maintain a steady stream of terrorist activity may best be
explained by a confluence of many factors: the continued economic underdevelopment of the Middle East; the oil wealth
generated by the 1970’s oil disruptions; the use of that oil wealth by the Saudis to spread Wahabbi Islam; the increase in
inequality throughout the Middle East as elites enjoyed their nation’s new found riches even as the general population
floundered; the frustrations among the populations of the M idle East when the promise of wealth was not fulfilled; the
propaganda of leaders and government-controlled media that blamed all the ills of the Middle East on the West, rather than
corrupt leaders; lack of democracy in the Middle East as democratic movements spread throughout most of the globe; the decline
22


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