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    Council Member AmericanPride's Avatar
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    "Turn left at Greenland." - Ringo Starr


    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    AP I don't understand why Westerners at this point in time deny that much of this conflict is certainly about religion. The Sunni and Shia divide was certainly over interpretation of religion, as was the jihad that established the original caliphate which extended into Spain. There is always politics involved, but I think it is a mistake to believe we will solve the current conflict between Shias and Sunnis through a combination of political and economic structural changes.
    Bill - in my analysis, religion (and other forms of identity) are frames through which to view political and economic structures. Between 1948 and 2014, the structures in the Middle East have remained remarkably resilient - minus the revolution in Iran and the destruction of Iraq. What has changed however is that the post-War frames of colonial-anticolonialism, nationalism, republicanism, and of course the Cold War have all disappeared. This started in 1973 with the defeat of the Arab republics of Syria and Egypt, spelling the death of Arab nationalism. What has occurred since then? 1979 was the seminal year for the emergence of militant Islam - seizure of the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia; the Iranian revolution; the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. These events set into motion the strengthening of Islamism as an organizing principle and so the structural conflicts that were present before (i.e. Iranian-Saudi animosity) took on a religious tone. This is not to say that religion is unimportant - it absolutely is important. But I think it's difficult to argue that it is the cause of the current strife in the Middle East when the problems existed long before the emergence of militant Islam as a credible movement in its modern incarnation.

    There are clearly two major sets of actors in this conflict, states and non-state. State actors leverage religion to pursue political ends, while non-state actors leverage states to pursue religious ends.
    This is true in the post-1973 period. Who here remembers the communist Palestinian terrorist organizations like the PFLP and the DFLP or consider them serious threats to international security today? The paradigm has shifted from nationalism to religion but that doesn't mean the nature of the base conflict has also fundamentally changed.

    The politics is always local argument tends to fall apart when you see Islamists (and others) coming from around the world to support their particular religious sect (or extremist group based on religion).
    I agree - religion is a powerful organizing principle. But even during the Cold War, ideological militants also behaved similarly, just not on the same scale.

    Politics are ultimately about identity groups, and if the identity group is based on religion and transcends state borders, and the goals of those identity groups (in some cases) are get everyone to submit to their particular religious view then how can we rationally deny it is a religious war? Are other factors, important factors involved? Most certainly, but we can't erase the religious aspect just to make it conform to our theory about conflicts and war.
    I don't think religion can or should be ignored. But I also don't think (1) resolving whatever religious grievance is presumably at the heart of the conflict will actually end the conflict or (2) that understanding the nuances of the theology is helpful in understanding a path towards conflict termination. Twenty years ago ISIS did not exist. Ten years ago it was in its infant stages. Now militants are flocking to its banner - what has changed? I don't think it's because people are any more zealous than usual or because the ISIS message is more relevant now than previously; this is a path of conflict escalation created by the break down of civil society in Iraq framed by religion. The Arab world has been an ideological desert since 1973 and Arab nationalism is virtually non-existent, so that leaves religion as the only credible organizing principle with which to frame conflict. Minus the semantics, would the grievances and justifications be fundamentally different if religion was replaced by, say, nationalism or communism? I doubt it. The disputes between Iraqi-Iran, KSA-Iran, Israel-Arabs, etc would still be present.
    Last edited by AmericanPride; 08-10-2014 at 07:23 PM.
    When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles. - Louis Veuillot

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