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A Clash of Systems: An Analytical Framework to Demystify the Radical Islamist Threat

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Journal article

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In the Winter 2004-05 issue of Parameters, Philip Seib makes a laudable effort to establish the imperative for journalists, policymakers, and the American public to undertake a more sophisticated analysis of how the world works. This is critical because the analytical framework adopted by the media and policymakers has a direct effect on how they approach news coverage and frame discussions regarding the threat posed by radical Islamist extremists. This in turn directly affects public opinion in the United States and the world, which in the context of a war of ideas is directly related to the success or failure of both sides. Professor Seib also pointed out the fact that the clash of civilizations theory espoused by Samuel Huntington has been widely criticized, and this article rejects it as an appropriate analytical framework. Our purpose is to provide an alternative framework that portrays the current global conflict as a clash of systems, not civilizations. The central danger of accepting Huntingtons model as a basis for analysis is that it is the chosen model of radical Islamists, who in turn use it to mobilize support. If a clash of civilizations is accepted in the West--or worse, accepted by the populations in Muslim states--then the forces attempting to overturn the global system could eventually succeed. Success, however, is not battalions of extremist Islamists marching down Pennsylvania Avenue rather, it is the replacement of apostate regimes with an Islamic Caliphate, which can occur only once the current US-led global system is destroyed. Therefore, it is imperative that the wider global war on terror focus on the systemic implications of the struggle, which provides a credible methodology to address and mitigate the root causes that fuel the ideology of extremist Islamism.

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  • Unconventional Warfare

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