This exercise asks you to read an opinion piece on the goals of Islamic extremists, and to relate the author’s arguments to the rise of Germany in the nineteenth century. (After you have read Chapters 3 and 4, you can also try to relate these arguments to the rise of Germany before World War II and to the rise of the Soviet Union.)
The article, although appearing on the Forbes website, was originally posted on the website of Stratfor, a firm that specializes in analyzing international relations.
1. What does the author mean when he says that Islamic extremists are rational? How does their rationality influence their use of terrorism and insurgency?
2. How does the author characterize the ideology of Islamic extremists?
3. The author argues that Islamic extremists seek to create a caliphate. How does the author describe the concept of “caliphate?” How does he characterize the tension between transnationalism and nationalism among Islamic extremists?
4. The author quotes passages from a letter written by Ayman al-Zawahiri, a deputy leader of al Qaeda. How does al-Zawahiri describe al Qaeda’s goals?
5. If al Qaeda succeeds in establishing a caliphate, how do you think it will impact the balance of power both in the region of the Middle East and globally? In what ways is this similar or dissimilar to the way that a united Germany changed the European and global balance of power in the nineteenth century?
6. What causal arrows does the author draw among ideology, terrorist and insurgent warfare, and the balance of power? Can you make an alternative argument by drawing the causal arrows in different directions? What perspective is the author writing from, and what perspective does your alternative argument come from?
7. Do you think the Middle East would be more stable under a single state or divided among multiple states? What arguments from the realist perspective support your argument?
8. Do you think ideology played a similar role in the unification of Germany, compared to the role of ideology in establishing a caliphate? Given your knowledge of the rise of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, do you think ideology played a similar role in the rise of those states?