Monday, January 05, 2015

Spread of Radicalism and Decline of “Nation-Sate”

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Spread of Radicalism and Decline of “Nation-Sate
Ali Asghar Kazemi*
January 5, 2015
Keywords: Radicalism, Extremism; Terrorism, Nation-State, Middle-East. 
Abstract: The main arguments in this short paper are threefold:
1)      The spread of radicalism is causing the gradual decline of the “nation-State” and this in turn paves the way for the rise of terrorism which in the long-run will end up to total extinction of the notion of modern state;
2)      Democratic powerful states cannot counter this dangerous development with sole military means, unless they choose the same tactics and tools used by terrorists groups, which is in contradiction with accepted civilized norms and ideals;
3)     Authoritarian states seem to be better equipped to contain this momentum; but they too may be caught in a whirlpool trap created by terrorist that may imperil their own existence.


Ever since the birth of the “Nation-State[1] in the Congress of Westphalia in 1648 until the collapse of the Soviet Empire[2] in 1991, while the world had experienced major wars and conflicts, the overall structure and the concept of “state” were more or less accepted by world Nations. There is a difference between these concepts. [3] A nation-state differs from a "state" or a "nation" for a couple of important reasons:
A nation refers only to a socio-cultural entity, a union of people sharing who can identify culturally and linguistically. This concept does not necessarily consider formal political unions.
A state on the other hand refers to a legal/political entity that is comprised of the following: a) a permanent population; b) a defined territory; c) a government; and d) the capacity to enter into relations with other states.
The quasi peaceful disintegration of the Soviet Union ushered the doors for similar demands  in multi-ethnic regions where various ethnicities were forced to form a conglomeration of an assorted people dissimilar in cultures, sects, languages, religions etc. This would usually happen after each great armed conflict and the conclusions of wars.
Such is the case of Arab nations of the Middle East and North Africa and ethnic minorities of the Balkan Peninsula that are the products of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire[4]. In other part of the world the colonial powers had to recognize rights to self-determination for territories under their dominion.
During the Cold War[5], leftist movements of varying origins were more or less the only destabilizing forces that threatened the existence of “nation states.”But the West and capitalist front were alert of the danger of communist threats and did all in their capacity to contain their expansion. Perhaps the collapse of the Soviet Union was the result of such awareness. At this very moment the Russian Federation is formed of a number of nations some of which are in pursuit of their autonomy or independence. [6]
The end of Cold War encouraged ethnic groups here and there to claim autonomy or independence in areas where minorities had coexisted in peaceful relations for centuries. Spread of radicalism has started where the central government opposed to such demands and in some cases used force to contain the turmoil. The case of Kurds in Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran is a lucid example of such demands.[7]
 Stability of the “nation-state” depends on a numbers of attributes such as: rule of law, democracy, justice, equitable distribution of resources, sustainable development etc. without which the state becomes susceptible to fall into disarray. In such condition the nation becomes a fertile land for propagation of all kinds of evils and diseases. Radicalism and terrorism like virus and microbes quickly disseminate all over a region even a continent.

Changing Perception of Threat
Until September 11, 2001 [8]the West and particularly the United States of America had no clear notion of the threats posed by radical Islamists not only to few  states they belong to but to the whole modern civilization on earth. The collapse of the twin towers in New York City was a horrible shock to the entire world after which the perception of national security and threat were radically changed in the minds of strategists and defense planners.
American military interventions in Afghanistan and later in Iraq and Libya resulted to the collapse of these more or less established though dictatorial nation-states. That was the beginning of a series of radical changes, and turmoil in the Middle East region and North Africa that resulted to the collapse of incumbent regimes
After the fall of Taliban in Afghanistan we have seen the spread of Al-Qaeda in the region. The defeated Iraq was a fertile swamp to attract elements of Al-Qaeda which quickly recruited the unhappy Baathist pro-Saddam to organize a rather viable force against American coalition and inflicted serious damage to them. Soon after, the crisis erupted in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria and Yemen where terrorist groups ventured to seize the opportunity to deploy to those lands.
Syria escaped this transformation because of foreign interference that to this time has prevented the collapse of the regime. However, this country fell in a decisive civil war that until now has claimed several hundreds of dead and injured and millions of refugees[9].
The continuation of the Syrian crisis, especially because of the backing of Russia and Iran on the one hand, and American support of the opposition groups on the other, rendered this country helpless against terrorists who occupy certain Syrian regions and annexed them to some Iraqi provinces to declare an independent state.( The Islamic Sate of Iraq and Syria ISIS[10])

Extremism Gaining Momentum
Among militant radical movements, the most violent who have been targeting the West and American interests in the past three decades, are Islamist fundamentalists. These groups, who have been rather dormant in the past century, revived after the Islamic revolution in Iran around 1979. Militant Islam has now operational bases in Algeria, Egypt, Somalia, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Pakistan, to name just a few countries. [11]
Islamic extremism refers to two related and partially overlapping but also distinct aspects of extremist interpretations and pursuits of Islamic ideology: [12]
-an extremely conservative view of Islam, which doesn't necessarily entail violence even though it may have an emphasis on Jihad.
-the use of extreme tactics such as bombing and assassinations for achieving perceived Islamic goals.
Recent terrorist attack in Pakistan that left more than hundred innocent pupil dead and many more injured is a vivid indication that radicalism is dangerously gaining momentum in a state with nuclear capability. Indeed the world should be alarmed of this critical development. It is almost unthinkable what would happen if terrorists put their evil hands on Pakistan nuclear arsenal.[13]
Islamist extremist groups  have been  spreading in almost all corners of the world . In the African continent thousands of members of Nigeria’s home-grown Boko Haram[14] radical Islamist group set out kidnapping women and children and selling them as slaves on the market. Farther north, Boko Haram employing recruits from neighboring Chad are instigating Islamic uprising in the region.
Islamic terrorism consists of terror attacks by Islamic fundamentalists to further a perceived Islamic religious or political cause. It has occurred globally, in practically every continent, including in Africa, Australia, the Middle East, Europe, South and South-east Asia, South America, The Caucasus, The Pacific and North America. Terrorist organizations have been known to engage in tactics including suicide attacks, bombings, spree killings, hijackings, kidnappings, and beheadings.[15]
The roots of militant Islam run deep and may take many years to eradicate. Accordingly, the West must prepare itself for future confrontations. More importantly, Americans should realize that the war they are actually engaged in the Middle East against the ISIS is not really leading to anywhere. They must understand that this is not a war on terrorism, since, terrorism is only a tactic, a way of achieving sublime objectives of a faith. This struggle is against a radical, utopian ideology and those who carry out violence in its name.[16]
Beside illegal terrorist groups and insurgents, there are a number of extremist entities that under the guise of regular “state” commit or promote act of terror. An example of this kind may be the defunct Libyan Ghaddafi who for a period of time tried to destabilize certain regions in the Middle East and North Africa.[17]
Democratic states, no matter how powerful, are inherently incapable to effectively fight radicalism since to do so they have to choose the same instruments of terror which is against their claimed ideals. They may use authoritarian states to achieve this objective but this option too has its own weakness. They may risk compromising the overall security and survival of vulnerable states that are susceptible to disintegrate totally.

The Fate of the “Nation-State”
The more weaken became the pillars of the traditional “nation-states” the more instability resulted and the larger became the spread of Islamic radicalism in the world. Amid these turmoil we witnessed the birth of the most radical and savage groups like the self-claimed “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” (ISIS)[18] that later changed to “Islamic Caliphate” that seeks its origin in past centuries Islam.[19]
Now the world is facing an unprecedented threat from radical groups who for sake of simplicity we call them “terrorists.” These people, who commit daily crimes and unprecedented atrocities, come from around the world of a variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds among which Western Christians and non-believers are most active. Some of them appear to be criminal by nature for whom fighting and killing is a sort of mental pleasure.
It is most plausible that terrorist elements coming from Europe and elsewhere in the world to fight in Syria and Iraq will sooner or later go back to their homeland and with the experience they gained could pose a serious danger to the stability and security of states of their origin.[20]
The spread of terrorism is an alarming threat to the peace and order of the international system.    The world in general and vulnerable regions such as the Middle East should urgently guard against the consequences of this dangerous development before it is too late. The fate of the “Nation-State” depends on the proper management of this impending crisis and its wider implications./

*Ali Asghar Kazemi is professor of Law and International Relations, Faculty of Law and Political Science, Science & Research Branch- Islamic Azad University Tehran-Iran. 

[1] The terms nation, state, country and nation-state are used to refer to political, economic, social and cultural actors in the international system. The modern nation-state refers to a single or multiple nationalities joined together in a formal political union. The nation-state determines an official language(s), a system of law, manages a currency system, uses a bureaucracy to order elements of society, and fosters loyalties to abstract entities like "Canada," "the United States," and so on. Cf,  :

[2] The informal term "Soviet Empire" is used by critics of the Soviet Union and Russian nationalists to refer to that country's perceived imperialist foreign policy during the Cold War. The nations said to be part of the "Soviet Empire" were officially independent countries with separate governments that set their own policies to some extent, but those policies had to remain within certain limits decided by the Soviet Union and enforced by threat of intervention by Warsaw Pact (Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia 1968, Poland 1980). Countries in this situation are often called satellite states.Some scholars hold that the Soviet Union was a hybrid entity containing elements common to both multinational empires and nation states., Maoists argued that the Soviet Union had itself become an imperialist power while maintaining a socialist fa├žade. Cf.
[3] Ibid

[4] Ottoman Empire, empire created by Turkish tribes in Anatolia. One of the most powerful states in the world during the 15th and 16th centuries, it spanned more than 600 years and came to an end only in 1922, when it was replaced by the Turkish Republic and various successor states in southeastern Europe and the Middle East. At its height the empire included most of southeastern Europe to the gates of Vienna, including modern Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia, Romania, Greece, and Ukraine; Iraq, Syria, Israel, and Egypt; North Africa as far west as Algeria; and most of the Arabian Peninsula. The term Ottoman is a dynastic appellation derived from Osman the nomadic Turkmen chief who founded both the dynasty and the empire. See:
[5] The Cold War (1947–1991) was a state of political and military tension after World War II between powers in the Western Bloc (the United States, its NATO allies and others) and powers in the Eastern Bloc (the Soviet Union and its allies in the Warsaw Pact).Cf.
[6]  Russia comprises 21 republics (states) which enjoy a high degree of autonomy on most issues and which correspond to some of Russia's numerous ethnic minorities. The Russian Federation is home to as many as 160 different ethnic groups and indigenous peoples, although the majority (81 percent) are ethnic Russians. Russia has from 10 to 20 million Muslims, constituting the largest religious minority. See:

[7] The Kurds  are an Iranian ethnic group in the Middle East, mostly inhabiting a region known as Kurdistan, which spans adjacent parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. The Kurds are an Iranian people and speak the Kurdish languages, which form a subgroup of the Northwestern Iranian branch of Iranian languages.

[8] On September 11, 2001, 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda hijacked four airliners and carried out suicide attacks against targets in the United States. Two of the planes were flown into the towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, a third plane hit the Pentagon just outside Washington, D.C., and the fourth plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.

[9] The Syrian Civil War also known as the Syrian Uprising is an ongoing armed conflict taking place in Syria. The unrest began in the early spring of 2011 within the context of Arab Spring protests, with nationwide protests against President Bashar al-Assad's government, whose forces responded with violent crackdowns. The conflict gradually morphed from popular protests to an armed rebellion after months of military sieges. As of April 2014 the death toll had risen above 190,000 . More than 6.5 million Syrians have been displaced, more than 3 million Syrians have fled the country to countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, and Iraq and become refugees, and millions more have been left in poor living conditions with shortages of food and drinking water. See:

[10] See below

[11] See: Jonathan Schanzer, “ At War With Whom?
A short history of radical Islam
In Middle East Forum Spring 2002.

[12] See:
[13] Terrorism in Pakistan has become a major and highly destructive phenomenon in recent years. The annual death toll from terrorist attacks has risen from 164 in 2003 to 3318 in 2009, with a total of 35,000 Pakistanis killed between September 11, 2001 and May 2011. According to the government of Pakistan, the direct and indirect economic costs of terrorism from 2000–2010 total $68 billion. See:  - Hassan Abbas. Pakistan's Drift Into Extremism: Allah, The Army, And America's War On Terror, M.E. Sharpe, 2004   - Tariq Ali. Can Pakistan Survive? The Death of a State, Penguin Books Ltd, 1983

[14] Boko Haram ("Western education is forbidden"), officially called Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'Awati Wal-Jihad (People Committed to the Prophet's Teachings for Propagation and Jihad), is a militant Islamist movement based in northeast Nigeria. The group was designated by the United States as a terrorist organization in November 2013. Membership has been estimated to number between a few hundred and a few thousand. Boko Haram killed more than 5,000 civilians between July 2009 and June 2014, including at least 2,000 in the first half of 2014, in attacks occurring mainly in northeast, north central and central states of Nigeria. Corruption in the security services and human rights abuses committed by them have hampered efforts to counter the unrest. Since 2009 Boko Haram have abducted more than 500 women and children, including the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok in April 2014. Nearly 650,000 people had fled the conflict zone by August 2014, an increase of 200,000 since May.

[15] See:
[16]  Cf. Ibid
[17] Libya was behind many terrorist actions among which the destroying of  Pan Am Flight 103 scheduled transatlantic flight from London's Heathrow Airport to New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport is most notable. On Wednesday 21 December 1988, the aircraft -a Boeing 747–121 was destroyed by a Libyan agent  bomb, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew members. Eleven people in Lockerbie, southern Scotland, were killed as large sections of the plane fell in and around the town, bringing total fatalities to 270.
[18] While extremist groups are generally amorphous organizations, ISIS can trace its history directly back to the Sunni terrorist organization al Qaeda, specifically the Iraq faction, al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). AQI, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was responsible for scores of bombings, kidnappings and beheadings in Iraq following the U.S. invasion there. After al-Zarqawi was killed in 2006 by an American airstrike, leadership of the group eventually fell to an experienced Iraqi fighter, Abu Du’a, better known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

[19] Caliphate, the political-religious state comprising the Muslim community and the lands and peoples under its dominion in the centuries following the death (632 ce) of the Prophet Muhammad. Ruled by a caliph  “successor”, who held temporal and sometimes a degree of spiritual authority, the empire of the Caliphate grew rapidly through conquest during its first two centuries to include most of Southwest Asia, North Africa, and Spain. Dynastic struggles later brought about the Caliphate’s decline, and it ceased to exist with the Mongol destruction of Baghdad in 1258. The concept of the caliphate took on new significance in the 18th century as an instrument of statecraft in the declining Ottoman Empire. The caliphate was abolished in 1924, following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of the Turkish Republic. See:
[20] . Belgium has been put on edge over potential Islamist terrorist attacks for the second time in four months amid reports that a man and woman who had returned from the war in Syria via Turkey were plotting an assault on the European Union's main offices in Brussels. With governments across Europe increasingly preoccupied by the risks arising from the return of nationals who have joined gone to Syria and Iraq to join Islamic State (Isis), concern is particularly high in Belgium. Four-hundred Belgians are said to have travelled to Syria to join the extremists, usually via Turkey and its long, porous border into the war zone. While that figure is much lower than the estimates for Britain, France or Germany, proportionately and in per capita terms Belgium is believed to have the highest number in Europe of would-be jihadists travelling to Syria. See :

* Ali Asghar Kazemi is professor of Law and International Relations in Tehran-Iran. Students, researchers, academic institutions, media or any party interested in using all or parts ‎of this article are welcomed to do so with the condition of giving full attribution to the author, Scholar -Journal and the ‎Middle East Academic Forum. ©All Copy Rights Reserved.‎