Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda: Reactionary Revolutionaries in the New Political Islam

Nathaniel Madison Cartmell IV


With the events of September 11th, an unfamiliar terrorist organization known as Al-Qaeda announced its presence, its capabilities, and its willingness to engage in massive violence to the world. Americans, generally poorly informed on the history of the Middle East and blithely unaware of serious foreign threats in the post-Soviet era, were not well equipped to assess the threat. This essay, utilizing a critical analysis of Al-Qaeda’s communiqués as well as the increasingly vast body of secondary literature, defines this new threat through an exploration of the sources of its animosity and proposes a more effective means of combating the threat, all while placing the issue in a larger historical context and filling the knowledge gap for non-specialists. Among the most notable findings is the realization that Al-Qaeda’s core objective is a political one and a purely militaristic counterterrorist strategy will have a low probability of success. It may even worsen the situation by contributing to the public appearance of a clash of civilizations. Additionally, there are preliminary indications that the threat posed by Al-Qaeda, though significant, is ultimately self-destructive.


Political Islam

Full Text:


DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15695/vurj.v2i0.2746

Vanderbilt Undergraduate Research Journal is sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the Jean and Alexander Heard Library System, and the Office of Innovation through Technology.