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Jihadism and Revolution

phot rev and jihad

by Gordon M. Hahn

In a recent edition of Foreign Affairs, well-known international relations theorist Stephen Walt argued for applying a revolutionary framework in analyzing the rise and development of the Islamic State from an insurgency to state-building enterprise (Stephen Walt, “What Should We Do If Islamic State Wins?,” Foreign Affairs, Summer 2015, http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/06/10/what-should-we-do-if-isis-islamic-state-wins-containment/). I made a somewhat similar argument in my recent book, The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (MacFarland Publishers, 2014). Moreover, revolution theory has important relevance for thinking through what has been occurring in Ukraine for the last 20 months. I include excerpts from The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin below:

From Chapter 1 “Jihadization and the Caucasus Emirate: Empirical and Theoretical Problems”:

The Structuralist Fallacy in Revolution, Jihadism, and Terrorism Theories

It is relevant if not imperative to view the rise of jihadism, both globally and in the North Caucasus, through the prism of revolution and regime transformation models, with variations defined by unique religious, cultural, social, economic, and political particulars. Additionally, jihadism, and Islamism, like nationalism and even communism, are communalisms – identity and ideological orientations based on religion, ethnicity, nationalism or class.  This makes the extensive literature on the rise of nationalism and nationalist revolution in addition to revolution, political violence, and terrorism relevant.  The body of theory on revolution and these other political phenomena has arrived at a consensus that structural factors cannot by themselves cause such complex phenomena.  To explain complexity, the rise of revolutionary and nationalist movements or well-coordinated and sustained organized violence, a much more comprehensive approach based on complex causality is required.  This means moving beyond simplistic analysis framed by the notion of aggrieved individuals, relatively deprived populations, or, regarding our present concern, a Russian (or other) environment inexorably driving individual Muslims to violence.  Structural causes are necessary but not sufficient for the making of revolutions or even many serious but ultimately failed revolutionary, nationalist and terrorist movements.

Much of the early literature on revolutions emphasized structural factors creating the necessary preconditions for the rise of revolutionary movements: poverty, relative deprivation, dysfunctional authoritarian regimes and state crises, demographic explosions and lack of social mobility: Gurr’s “relative deprivation”, Marx’s or Barrington Moore’s class structuralism, Skocpol’s emphasis on the state and, later, Goldstone’s focus on demography and low social mobility.[i] Structural determinism and the individual level of analysis were challenged by theories and approaches that focused on politically contingent factors such as the elements of the revolutionary or nationalist organizations involved, the political and cultural environment, and international factors.  The literature on systems theory as well as on political contingency, organization, and leadership approaches to revolution and communalism (nationalism) theory point to the pivotal function of politics in producing revolutionary situations and outcomes, which can include both insurgency and/or terrorism campaigns.  The determinism of structuralism was undermined by political contingency.  For example, influenced by transition theory and unconvinced by the Skocpol’s revolution theory concentrating on collapse of the state, McFaul’s “contingency model” emphasized opposition movements’ ability to establish a competing claim of sovereignty to rule over a particular territory and population.  This approach brought political contingency back in and emphasized the “structure of strategic political action” between the various competing state and opposition forces.  It implied the importance of would-be revolutionary organizations’ resources and capacity, but it did not include a clear definition of what would constitute a credible competing claim, a methodology for measuring capacity, or a determination as to which factors facilitated transformational modes such as imposed or negotiated (pacted) transitions and helped to avoid the more dangerous and unpredictable revolutionary modes of regime transformation to a new form of rule.[ii]  Youssef Cohen analyzed structures of strategic political action, arguing that some facilitate revolutionary outcomes.[iii]  This implied that some such structures confound while others may assists transitional transformations as well, but the complimentary fields of revolution and transition studies continued to remain entirely separate.  Paul Brass undertook a similar attempt to incorporate political contingency into the largely structuralist and cultural theories of nationalism.[iv]

In conceptualizing the collapse of the Soviet regime and state as a revolution from above – the illegal seizure of power by state actors using state institutions – I tried to redress the failure to fashion a unified typology and comprehensive model or theory of regime transformations that included both revolution and democratic transition theories.[v]  No united field of regime transformation theory emerged, and contingency, agency, cultural, ideological, and structural factors were never incorporated into a single systemic model or theory.[vi] In my “multiple constraints theory” I tried to incorporate structural, institutional, and politically contingent or “intentional” factors such as opposition capacity and the structure of strategic action within both pro-government and anti-government forces, arguing that when many or all of these factors acted constrained the opportunities for an imposed or pacted transition, then a revolutionary mode of regime transformation became highly likely.  This theory offers an explanation as to why some regime transformations devolve into revolutionary patterns while others succeed in traversing the path to an imposed or negotiated transition and why some revolutions are led from below while others are led from above.[vii]  In sum, early revolution theories and models overemphasized structural factors and ignored key intermediary factors or intervening variables, such as the quality of revolutionary leadership and organization and the salience of some ideologies over others.  Intermediary political leadership and organizational factors were then brought in but never integrated into a more broad comprehensive systems theory.  Moreover, ideology and culture remained largely neglected.

The same social, economic and political (state repression and breakdown) structural factors emphasized in explanations for the rise of revolutionary Islamism and jihadism locally are a given globally as well, since we know that all of those metrics are generally worse across much of the Muslim world, including Russia’s North Caucasus.  Thus, many studies on the rise of Islamism, jihadism, terrorism, and suicide bombing retread much of the theoretical work on structural causes emphasized in the earlier revolution and regime transformation literature such as relative deprivation or poverty, failed and failing states, lack of political freedom, and human security.[viii]  Structural causes may be necessary, but they are not sufficient.  By themselves neither structural factors nor the grievances engendered by them can yield organizations capable of effective revolutionary, insurgency or terrorism campaigns sustained over a period of many years such as those we see led by AQ, its affiliates and allies.

Ideology is a pivotal intervening variable.  The resonance or competitiveness of an ideological platform in a particular ideational market helps generate viable revolutionary or violent organizations by attracting new members and mobilizing, directing, motivating, and controlling existing ones.[ix]  However, just as structuralist or political factors are insufficient for a full explanation, so too would be a discussion of intervening and precipitating factors limited to ideological factors alone.  Ideology alone cannot operationalize structural factors, mobilize individuals, or make organizations effective.  Local and international cultures and ideologies as well as political contingency factors such as leadership, authority, organization, resources, and recruitment are vital for the operationalization of grievances through articulation of grievances, mobilization of a movement, and successful action aimed at challenging the present order.  These are the sufficient causes for a successful revolution and sustained but ultimately unsuccessful revolutionary challenges.

Taking the presence of domestic structural factors and attending grievances in the North Caucasus as given but nevertheless insufficient for the emergence of a viable revolutionary movement, I will draw a more broader systemic explanation for the rise of revolutionary jihadism globally and locally in the North Caucasus.

A Multicausal Systems Theory, Necessary Causes, and the Global ‘Jihadi Method’

Just as structuralist explanations are incomplete and insufficient in explaining peasant, working class, nationalist, or democratic revolutions, so too they are lacking as a full explanation for the emergence of viable revolutionary insurgencies, terrorist movements, or hybrid insurgent-terrorist revolutionary jihadist networks, whether global or local.  To avoid the structural trap, comprehensive, systems theories or approaches to any political phenomenon pursue equally all levels of analysis – individual, organization, and environment – and prioritize independent variables/causal factors according to their causal necessity and sufficiency.[x]  To understand why alientated, anti-social, sociopathic or otherwise personalities succumb to political extremisms such as revolutionary jihadism one needs to examine the entire complex of potential contributing factors.  These include: structural independent variables (local, national and international political, social, historical, cultural, and religious factors, including state and regime weakness or breakdown) and intervening or operationalizing independent variables such as ideology, agency (authority, leadership, organization and individuals’ psychologies), and politics (the structure of political action between contending actors).  In short, ideology, political contingency and operationalizing factors need to be brought back into our analysis of the emergence of revolutionary jihadist organizations like the CE.  Since structural factors have dominated the discourse on the rise of global revolutionary jihadism, especially when it comes to its emergence of the CE in the North Caucasus, I will confine myself to theory and analysis emphasizing the abovementioned intervening causal factors.

No matter how deprived or alienated a socioeconomic (class), ethnonational, confessional, or other identity group is, if they lack effective leaders and organizations to aggregate interests and settle on an ideological flag around which to rally, the overthrow of the ancien regime becomes unlikely.  The sociopolitical environment and competing ideologies meet through the conduit of protest group leaders and organizations.  The ability of any revolutionary movement to produce a revolutionary situation – defined as credible, competing alternative authority to the potentially ancien regime’s ruling group or groups – no less a final revolutionary outcome (the seizure and consolidation of power), is highly contingent on numerous political factors, including a resonant ideology, effective political leadership and organization, and a favorable structure of strategic political action.[xi]  In short, any revolutionary group hoping to a have a real chance to challenge the power of the authorities must possess authoritative leaders capable of mustering ideological, human, financial, and other resources commensurate with the means it plans to deploy in order to carry out its particular revolution.  More specifically, for an effective revolutionary organization of any kind to emerge and last, grievances need to be effectively framed, aggregated and operationalized, transforming them into organized action and violence.  Even temporarily successful social movements and especially revolutionary ones require: (1) a resonant ideology that has explanatory and mobilizing power for the aggrieved; (2) charismatic authority rooted in the ideology; (3) effective leadership that can effectively communicate the ideology and organize, and (4) a capacious organization that can proselytize the ideology, attract a steady flow of recruits, and deploy significant numbers effectively for violent and other forms of political and military activity in pursuit of the goals the ideology mandates.  These elements were in good part imported into the North Caucasus by the global jihadi revolutionary movement and alliance and comprise what might be called the ‘jihadi method.’

The Resonance of Salafist/Jihadist Revolutionary Theo-Ideology

For any revolutionary movement a resonant ideology that shapes or dominates the ideational dynamics in the given pre-revolutionary or revolutionary situation is a must.[xii]  Winning on the ideational battlefield by effectively disseminating and convincingly propagandizing a revolutionary group’s ideological orientation is a key element in mobilizing supporters from among the aggrieved.  Thus, the anarchists and especially the socialists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century Russian revolution, however much they manipulated and adapted their programs to Russia’s rural conditions, wielded an ideology that was perceived by many in society to offer a reasonable explanation of the world and answers to Russia’s ‘cursed questions’ of that time.  Class identity and warfare resonated among many in an environment of wide wealth disparities, sharp stratification, deep poverty and disaffection.  The democratic capitalist ideology that would have offered an alternative view regarding the importance of private property, distributed so very narrowly in Russia, proved less compelling and less competitive, in part because the Tsarist regime had adopted many of its aspects under conservative reformist Prime Minister Alexander Stolypin’s land reforms and industrial policies.  To be sure, perception of any particular ideology’s resonance is colored by individuals’ psychological, social, and cultural orientation.  The last of these tends to become more radical in times of trouble such as pre-revolutionary or revolutionary situations.  So the argument here is not that would-be revolutionaries are entirely rational actors responding to the iron logic of a demonstrably provable ideological framework.  Rather, the argument is that any ideology if it is to have real potential for helping leaders mobilize society and attract supporters must have some relevance to the particular society and its problems.

Similarly, the Salafist theo-ideology has proven to be sufficiently resonant across much of the Muslim world for forming and sustaining Salafist and jihadist movements, including in post-Soviet Russia’s Muslim republics, especially the North Caucasus.  For a small but significant part of the Muslim populace in numerous Muslim countries spread and subcultures – Arabic, south Asian, Maghrebian, Caucasian –  Islamist, jihadist, and global jihadist tenets have proven to be quite powerful.  The thousands of designated martyrs who detonated their suicide vest, car, truck and plane bombs across the globe in recent years have gone to their deaths with the slogans of the Salafist theo-ideology on their lips and in their hearts.  Given the monocultural structure of most Islamic countries’ populations, it is not surprising that the most resonant ideologies have been Islamic theo-ideologies.  This is especially true after the failure of Arab nationalist and socialist experiments in Egypt, Iraq, and Syria.  The only competitor to religious Islamic thought remaining is democratic capitalism, which has no cultural prerequisites and very shallow roots in the Muslim world.  Thus, the ‘Arab spring’ in Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere is proving to be a Salafist revolution, with a strong jihadist element.


Towards a Model of Global Jihadi Revolutionary Transformation

There have been various attempts to conceptualize the ‘war against terrorism’ – what is more properly called the war against the global jihadism – but all seem to skirt the most appropriate model – revolutionary regime and global transformation.  Counter-insurgency expert David Kilcullen has provided perhaps the best overview of the competing conceptualizations of the global jihad.[xiii]  Almost all of them describe processes that usually are attributed to revolutions and regime transformation (revolution and transition) theories.  Globalization backlash, Kilcullen’s first model, suggests that the integrating and leveling process of globalization creates a cultural and political backlash against the Western-oriented new globalized world ‘order.’  Structurally and relevant to regime transformation theory, this model stipulates the creation of a system of “‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’.”  Our omnipresent and omniscient communications technology giving the have-nots vivid pictures and information that creates “tension and anger through perceived ‘relative deprivation’”; the latter being an early structural explanation for why men rebel.[xiv]  For agency, globalization offers the opportunity for “antiglobalizers” like AQ and the global Salafist/jihadist movement to integrate across the globe.  Globalization affords anti-globalists “unprecedented access to its tools: the Internet, cellphones, satellite communications, electronic funds transfer, and ease of international movement and trade” and “connected geographically distant groups who previously could not coordinate” and mutually support their actions.  The result is a disorder, one outgrowth of which is the Islamist backlash or “counter-globalization.”[xv]

The second model, “globalized insurgency,” is also derivative of revolution.  The ‘war on terrorism’ is seen as “an extremely large-scale, transnational globalized insurgency,” with insurgency defined as “an organized movement that aims at overthrowing the political order within a given territory, using a combination of subversion, terrorism, guerilla warfare and propaganda” (my italics).[xvi]  The italicized first part of this definition is in fact a definition of revolution, emphasizing the change of the form of rule by illegal means.  Tactics are the focus of the definition’s second part and are of special interest to counter-insurgency strategists and tacticians, but they also are relevant to revolution, informing conceptualization of the type of regime transformation sought – violent revolution from below.  The third model is “a civil war within Islam.”  In this model AQ “uses the West as a target of convenience,” but the real threat is “to the status quo in Muslim countries, through activities directed initially at overthrowing existing political and religious structures in the Islamic world, and only then turning to remake the relationship between the ummah and the rest of global society” under a global caliphate.[xvii]  Again this is a description of revolutionary regime transformation; one to be carried out in two spheres or stages: the local and the global.  Indeed, the Salafist/jihadist revolutionary movement is no less global than the communist and fascist revolutionary movements before it.  Kilcullen’s fourth model, asymmetric warfare, solely regards strategy and tactics.  Ignoring goals of the movement entirely and focusing on means, it argues that “the underlying strategic logic of terrorism, insurgency, internal conflict, and unconventional warfare arises from a fundamental mismatch between U.S. military capabilities and those of the rest of the world” or at least of the jihadists. [xviii]  In short, terrorism and insurgency are strategic and tactical responses determined by the preponderance of conventional military power enjoyed by the U.S., the West, and Russia.

All of the abovementioned models accurately describe one or more aspects of the global jihad.  More importantly, they all touch on, and can be subsumed under models of revolutionary modes of regime transformation.  Regime transformation, change, or replacement includes not just extra-constitutional, non-negotiated revolutionary takeovers and societal transformations, violent and non-violent alike, but also regime change imposed from above by the ruling group or negotiated with opposition forces, so-called imposed and pacted transitions, respectively.  For purposes of conceptualizing jihadi movements, the transitional regime transformation models are largely irrelevant.  Jihadists are unlikely to negotiate their way to power and fundamentally change the form of rule, and nowhere today do they hold power to be in a position to impose a transition to a new form of rule.[xix]  It is therefore best to conceptualize the global Salafist/jihadist movement as one aspiring to revolutionary regime and social transformation on a global scale, with the jihadi element preferring the violent seizure of power and social transformation.

The Pre-Revolutionary and Revolutionary Muslim World

Thus, “transnational takfirist terrorism,” as Kilcullen refers to it, needs a more comprehensive title and conceptualization.  The global Salafist revolutionary movement, which includes within it a violent global jihadi revolutionary alliance, is an informal confederation of local and global Salafist and jihadist groups and networks dedicated to the overthrow of all non-Islamist religious, political, social and economic orders and their replacement by radical Islamist emirates locally and an Islamist caliphate globally.  The global Salafist revolutionary movement and the violent global jihadi revolutionary alliance within it are imbedded within what is a pre-revolutionary or revolutionary situation across much of the Muslim world.

There no longer can be any doubt that much of the Arab and larger Muslim worlds are in a pre-revolutionary and, in some countries, already a revolutionary situation.  The latter  is defined by dual or multiple sovereignty within a given territory.  Dual or multiple sovereignty exists when there is one or more credible alternative claims to sovereign rule over a given territory and its populace.  The credibility of such a claim rests on the organizational, political, military, leadership, and resource (human, material, and financial) capacity of a revolutionary group, coalition, or alliance.[xx]  We easily can discern the revolutionary pattern in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, and even in Pakistan’s FATA.  Pre-revolutionary situation may be the best way to describe the conditions in Algeria, Morocco, Jordan, and parts of Russia’s North Caucasus (in Chechnya in the 1990s and early 2000s and Dagestan today).  Post-Soviet Russia’s Muslim North Caucasus cannot be isolated from this turbulent ummah; hence, the potential influence of jihadism in the region as a general proposition and the ultimate emergence of the CE with its ties to AQ and the global jihadi revolutionary alliance.  As during the anti-monarchical and anti-communist democratic revolutionary waves and anti-colonial nationalist and more recent Islamist revolutionary waves (Iran), the old regimes in Egypt and Libya were overthrown by revolutionary coalitions from below.  Other revolutions from below occurred in 19th and early 20th century America, France, Russia China and in late 20th century Iran and many but not all communist countries in the late 1980s.  Some of these were peaceful revolutions from below (Czechoslovakia, Philippines), some were not revolutions (non-negotiated or coercive seizures of power) but negotiated ‘transitions to democracy’ (Poland and Hungary).  However, in earlier waves in the Third World, several in Muslim countries, revolutionary overthrows often occurred through coups and revolutions from above as in the Meiji Japanese, Ataturk’s Turkish, Nasser’s Egyptian, the Baathist revolutions in Iraq and Syria.  Revolutions from above also occurred in Peru, Greece, and later (1990s) the USSR/Russia.[xxi]

Regardless of the vector (from above or below) or even the mode (revolutionary or transitional), almost all regime transformational movements are coalitional, consisting of some combination of democratic, socialist, communist, nationalist and/or religious groups.  The revolutionary drive in today’s Muslim world is no different, often comprised of religious, nationalist, democratic, socialist and communist forces.  Disagreement over whether the Egyptian revolution will lead to a regime defined by the Salafist ikhwan or Muslim Brotherhood, whether the new Libya will see Salafist/jihadist rule, or whether Russia’s emerging white revolution will be hijacked by ethnic Russian chauvinists derives from this fundamentally coalitional nature of successful revolutionary and even transitional takeovers.  Some coalitions are explicit, and some are implicit; the latter existing as a matter of fact and involving loose coordination and mutual support rather than a matter of negotiation and well-organized united fronts.  The ummah’s revolutionary condition consists of two coalitional elements that are peculiar in their strength to the Islamic world: a Salafist movement encompassing jihadist organizations.  On the international level the revolutionary situation includes the global Salafist revolutionary movement within which is embedded a smaller global jihadist revolutionary alliance.  The globalized nature of the revolutionary situation, the Salafist movement, and the jihadist alliance each are facilitated by global communications and travel that allow the free flow, interaction and multilateral influence of varied ideas, methods, and people.  In sum, global jihadi movement is a subset of a global Salafist revolutionary movement that in turn is part of a broader revolutionary movement creating pre-revolutionary or outright revolutionary coalitions across the Arab and larger Muslim worlds.

Politically, the ummah’s grievances are translated by Islamists and their violent counterparts, the jihadist alliance, into effective leadership and organizational capacity through the merging of charismatic authority and fundamental modern communications such as the Internet and global travel.  In our globalized world, global jihadism is possible wherever: (1) its theo-ideology can be marketed to appear relevant to some and (2) its leadership cadres, modes of organization, insurgency, and terrorism can create or be inserted into and transform a local nationalist or Islamic movement among Muslims.  Ideological competitors, much like Gulliver, roam the lands in search of effective conduits able and willing to conduct them through propaganda into a particular pre-transformative or transformative situation.  To succeed an ideology must answer the cursed questions burning among the aggrieved in the particular sociopolitical environment and political and economic cultures in which the ideology’s purveyors seek to establish or join a revolutionary or “regime transformative situation” and alternative sovereignty by staking a credible competing claim on the authority to rule.

Jihadism/takfirism is one of the many ideologies competing for hegemony within the Islamic revolutionary movement.  Its conductors or conduits are groups such as AQ, the CE, Islamic Jihad Union, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan/Turkestan, Jamaat Islamiya, and Lashkar-e-Taiba that comprise the global jihadi revolutionary alliance.  As part of the leadership imperative – whether charismatic, complex or otherwise – would-be leaders must be able to fashion, compellingly proselytize, and effectively disseminate their ideology.  Like the overall struggle to establish a credible alternative sovereignty and ultimately to seize power, these activities require organization and resources.  Bin Laden brought a compelling theo-ideology, charismatic leadership, effective organizational know-how, and considerable financial resources to bear in his effort to redress his grievances.  Other Arab and Muslim sheikhs, scholars and businessmen have further contributed to the cause in the same ways.  Thus, AQ, its affiliates and the attendant global jihadi revolutionary alliance did not emerge simply because bin Laden or other atomized Muslims felt aggrieved over the U.S. presence on the Saudi Arabian peninsula, U.S. support for Israel’s supposed violation of Arab Muslim sovereignty over Jerusalem and Palestinians, the nature of the regimes, socioeconomic deprivation or psychological drives.  Bin Laden in particular who inspired, recruited, organized, financed, supplied and ultimately commanded a far-flung network of jihadi groups and cells.  Most importantly, he allowed the jihadi movement to spread into a global alliance through an often loose coordination of operatives and assistants, who were able to infiltrate and transform in whole or in part local Muslim insurgencies into AQ affiliates and allies.


From Chapter 11 “The Caucasus Emirate in Comparative and Theoretical Perspective”:

The CE in Comparative Perspective

            We have already shown that the CE closely resembles the rest of the global jihadi revolutionary alliance in its theo-ideological, aspirational, organizational, leadership, and authority modalities, all of which were borrowed by the CE from the global jihad to one extent or another.  In terms of strategy, tactics, and capacity as well, the CE falls well within the global jihaid revolutionary alliance’s mainstream.  Its own goals function hand-in-glove with those of the global jihad; the emirate is viewed as a building block in constructing the global caliphate.  The strategy is to create dual sovereignty and then, by mercilessly attacking infidels and their supporters, consummate the revolution by seizing power and establishing state sovereignty based on Shariah law.


It remains unclear whether the global jihad’s seeds in the form of its various and globally dispersed fronts will yield a harvest anywhere in the revolutionary umma.  AQ, the CE, or any other jihadi force is unlikely to seize full power and establish a sovereign Islamist state, except perhaps as part of a revolutionary coalition.  In that way, a jihadi group could subsequently seize full power, as Ayatollah Khomeini and the mullahs in the first Islamist revolutionary takeover in Iran in 1979 or the Bolsheviks in the first communist takeover 1917-21 were able to do.  The best candidates for such a scenario are not the CE in Russia or even in one of its North Caucasus regions but rather Pakistan or one of the states now experiencing the all too narrowly titled ‘Arab spring’ or fig tree revolutions.  The Muslim world is no longer in a pre-revolutionary situation but has entered a revolutionary or regime transformative situation in which credible competing claims to sovereignty over the territory of numerous states have emerged from Tunisia to Pakistan.  Revolutions are messy contingent things, and violent revolutions are even more so – highly susceptible to being hijacked by the best organized and most daring members of the revolutionary coalition that destroyed the old regime.  Nevertheless, embattled jihadi organizations like AQ and the CE can deliver much violence and do much damage.

Towards a Systems Theory for the Rise of Jihadism

            The revolution model is a better framework than the insurgency and/or terrorism model for conceptualizing the global jihadi alliance.  For ultimately it is goals and ideology that best define any movement or organization as opposed to their tactics or strategic approach. – insurgency, as Kilcullen proposes – or their use of a particular tactics such as ‘terrorism’ as the “War on Terrorism” nomenclature suggests.  Neither AQ nor the global jihadi revolutionary alliance should be reduced to either their preferred tactics or strategic approach, any more than it would be apt to refer to Nazism as ‘blitzkreigism’ or communism as ‘infiltrationism’ or ‘subversionism.’  The CE and the larger global jihadi revolutionary alliance are in turn part of the larger revolution developing across the Muslim world.  This argues for a multicausal explanation, since the rise of major revolutionary movements (not just finished revolutions) is a grand, complex phenomenon.  This is even moreso the case when we are taling about such an extreme revolutionary movement such as jihadism, with its horrific violence and incomprehensible suicide operations.

Complexity requires a broad, systems approach that encompasses the entire panoply of causes.  A systems theory or at least comprehensive explanation of complex phenomenon such as the rise of jihadi and revolutionary movements must acknowledge the importance of both structural and contingent causal factors, both necessary and sufficient causes.  Contingent political and ideological factors become sufficient causal factors by operationalizing the necessary causes or ‘structure of grievances’ – historical, political, and socio-economic.  Without a resonant ideology and effective leadership able to communicate that ideology, recruit followers, organize, supply, train and lead them in battle, not even the most robust combination of historical, political and socio-economic grievances can produce a viable revolutionary insurgent and terrorist movement or organization.  On the other hand, without a critical mass of grievances and deprivations, no amount of leadership and resources will be overcome the dearth of motivation to risk life and limb even for a seemingly great cause.  Similarly, the resonance of even a powerful and well-communicated ideology will be limited without a set of grievances and deprivations for it to explain and address.



[i] See Ted Robert Gurr, Why Men Rebel (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2007); Barrington Moore, The Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World (Boston: Beacon Press, 1966); Theda Skocpol, States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia and China (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979); Ellen Kay Trimberger, Revolution from Above: Military Bureaucrats and Development in Japan, Turkey, Egypt, and Peru (New Brunswick: Transaction Books, 1978); and Jack Goldstone, Revolution and Rebellion in the Early Modern World (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991).

[ii] See Michael McFaul, “Revolutionary Transformations in Comparative Perspective: Defining a Post-Communist Research Agenda,” in David Holloway and Norman Naimark, eds., Reexamining the Soviet Experience: Essays in Honor of Alexander Dallin (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1996), pp. 167-196.

[iii] Youssef Cohen, Radicals, Reformers, and Reactionaries: The Prisoners’ Dilemma and the Collapse of Democracy in Latin America (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1994).

[iv] Paul Brass, The Production of Hindu-Muslim Violence in Contemporary India (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2003).

[v] Gordon M. Hahn, Russia’s Revolution From Above: Reform, Transition, and Revolution in the Fall of the Soviet Communist Regime, 1985-2000 (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 2002), Chapter 1.

[vi] Useful contemporary studies of revolution include Mark N. Katz, Reflections on Revolution (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999) and Jack Goldstone, Ted Robert Gurr, and Farrokh Moshiri, eds. Revolutions of the Twentieth Century (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1991).  On transitional or negotiated regime transformations see Guillermo O’Donnell and Philippe Schmitter, “Tentative Conclusions About Uncertain Democracies,” in Guillermo O’Donnell, Philippe Schmitter and Laurence Whitehead, eds., Transitions from Authoritarian Rule (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), Part IV and Juan J. Linz and Alfred Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation: Southern Europe, South America, and Post-Communist Europe (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.

[vii] Hahn, Russia’s Revolution From Above.

[viii] Alberto Abadie, “Poverty, Political Freedom, and the Roots of Terrorism,” National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 10589,” October 2004, http://www.nber.org/papers/w10859; James A. Piazza, “Rooted in Poverty?: Terrorism, Poor Economic Development and Social Cleavages,” Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 18, No. 1, 2006, pp. 219-237; James A. Piazza, “Incubators of Terror: Do Failed and Failing States Promote Transnational Terrorism,” International Studies Quarterly, Vol. 52, Issue 3, September 2008, pp. 469-488; Alan B. Kreuger and David Laitin, Kto Kogo: A Cross-Country Study of the Origins and Targets of Terrorism (New York: Russel Sage, 2003); and Rhonda L. Callaway and Julie Harrelson-Stephens, “Toward a Theory of Terrorism: Human Security as a Determinant of Terrorism,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Vol. 29, Issue 8, December 2006, pp. 773-796.

[ix] Edward W. Walker, “Islam, Islamism, and Political Order in Central Asia,”  Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 56, No. 2, March 2003 and Edward W. Walker, “Ethnic War, Holy War, War O’War: Does the Adjective Matter in Explaining Collective Political Action,” Berkeley Program in Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies Working Paper, Spring 2006, http://iseees.berkeley.edu/bps/publications/2006_01-walk.pdf.

[x] Assaf Moghadam, “The Roots of Suicide Terrorism: A Multi-Causal Approach,” Paper for the Harrington Workshop on the Roots Causes of Suicide Terrorism, University of Texas at Austin, May 12-13, 2005, http://tamilnation.co/terrorism/sri_lanka/moghadam.pdf and Assaf Moghadam, The Roots of Terrorism, (New York: Chelsea House, 2006).

[xi] Charles Tilly, European Revolutions, 1492-1992 (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993), pp. 10-15; McFaul, “Revolutionary Transformations in Comparative Perspective: Defining a Post-Communist Research Agenda”; and Cohen, Radicals, Reformers, and Reactionaries.

[xii] Walker, “Islam, Islamism, and Political Order in Central Asia” and Walker, “Ethnic War, Holy War, War O’War: Does the Adjective Matter in Explaining Collective Political Action.”

[xiii] Kilcullen, The Accidental Guerilla, pp. 7-27.

[xiv] Gurr, Why Men Rebel.

[xv] Kilcullen, The Accidental Guerilla, pp. 7-10.  See also Olivier Roy, Globalized Jihad: The Search for a New Ummah (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004); Yacov Ro’i, Muslim Eurasia: Conflicting Legacies (London: Routledge, 1995); Maris Gillette, Between Mecca and Beijing: Modernization and Consumption Among Urban Chinese Muslims (Palo Alto, CA.: Stanford University Press, 2002); Akbar S. Akhmed, Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution Press, 2007); and Engseng Ho, The Graves of Tarim: Genealogy and Mobility across the Indian Ocean, (Berkeley, Ca.: Univ. of California Press, 2006).

[xvi] Kilcullen, The Accidental Guerilla, p. 12.

[xvii] Kilcullen, The Accidental Guerilla, pp. 16-17.

[xviii] Kilcullen, The Accidental Guerilla, p. 22.

[xix] For a comparison of the four types of regime transformation and a review of the relevant literature see Hahn, Russia’s Revolution From Above, Chapter 1.

[xx] Adapted from Hahn, Russia’s Revolution From Above, p. 6.

[xxi] Hahn, Russia’s Revolution From Above.

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