Troy State University at Fort Bragg

Osama bin Laden and the United States Conflict:

Have either responded appropriately?



Lynda M. Reyman Snyder









Thesis Submitted to the Troy State University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirement for the Degree of Master of Science in International Relations



















Fort Bragg, North Carolina


27 June 2001


Troy State University at Fort Bragg

Osama bin Laden and the United States Conflict:

Have either responded appropriately?



Lynda M. Reyman Snyder






Thesis Submitted to the Troy State University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirement for the Degree of Master of Science in International Relations




____________________                  ___________________

Thesis Advisor                         Faculty Reader






Fort Bragg, North Carolina


27 June 2001


            My hypothesis will address two questions: first, is it possible that the bin Laden phenomenon is a manifestation of American tendencies to cast their enemies in the context of a conspiracy theory? And second, what is the relationship between this “phenomenon of bin Laden” and other Islamic Resurgence Movements?  The United States has painted a picture of bin Laden as an “irrational, rag-head fundamentalist terrorist” and most of the academic works supports this notion.  The United States public policy towards this movement has been centered on the notion that the bin Laden phenomenon is a powerful, all encompassing, well- financed, well-structured, intricately organized, fanatic movement that is centered on terrorism, and could not possibly be a political ideology or movement that deserves understanding or credence.  The United States Second Circuit Federal District Attorney in New York has gone as far as to issue a 150 page indictment of bin Laden and his “network” of followers, and the FBI has offered a five million dollar reward for information leading to his capture and the end to this Islamic Resurgence Movement.   Using Louis Krieiberg’s methodology presented in his conflict model, I will analyze who and what is Osama bin Laden, the “bases” of the conflict, escalation and how it has emerged with the United States.  In addition, I will analyze the other Islamic Resurgence Movements that are allegedly associated with bin Laden, and the response of the US towards these movements.


            My insight and understanding of Islam and other “civilizations” different from ours, and the impact that Islam has on millions of people in the world would not be possible without the two years I have spent in the Middle East.  My many friends and close associates to whom this is ultimately dedicated, would fill pages to name individually, nonetheless, they have had a profound impact on my life and I am forever grateful for their knowledge and insights. 

I would like to personally thank the following people; first, my parents, without their dedication, guidance and support that the only limitation in life is myself, this thesis would not have been possible.  Second, Dr. James Rinehart, my thesis advisor, who has given me the encouragement, knowledge, and opened the doors of the academic world for me.  Finally, Colonel Russ Howard for his steadfast mentorship, guidance, genuine concern, and last of all his endless proof reading throughout the year.  I have come to realize that the more we learn the less we really know.

This is dedicated to all those that helped me along the way, in the true spirit in which it was written.  May Peace be upon you.

Table of Contents




Approval Page…………………………………………….…ii






Table of Contents……………………………………………v


Chapter I:  Introduction…………………………………….1


Chapter 2:  Bases of Conflict………………………………39


Chapter 3:  Emergence of Conflict………………………77


Chapter 4:  Escalation of Conflict……………………….105


Chapter 5:  Conclusion…………………………………….115



Chapter 1:  Introduction

            Two simultaneous explosions occurred at the United States Embassies in Dar el Salem, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya, on 7 August 1998, exactly eight years to the date that the United States entered the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with military troops, as part of an international coalition, whose mission was to liberate Kuwait from the hands of the Iraqi “aggressors”.   These two bombings left over 200 people dead, and an estimated 5,000 wounded.  The United States response was swift and immediate.  On 20 August 1998, President Clinton, ordered a military air strike against Osama bin Laden, targeting his camps in both Sudan and Afghanistan.  The President declared: “Our mission was clear: to strike at the network of radical groups affiliated with and funded by Osama bin Laden, perhaps the preeminent organizer and financier of international terrorism in the world today (Bodansky, 1999, IX).”   

This action by the United States was the first time that a leader of a terrorist group had been targeted personally by the military (Bodansky, 1999).  Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen issued the following press statement in the aftermath of the Embassy bombings:

The growing terrorist menace cynically wraps itself in the rhetoric of holiness.  Far from being holy, terrorism—when stripped of its pretense—presents the face of pure evil.  Radical extremists have declared war against America and our friends.  They have slaughtered innocent civilians, as well as soldiers and diplomats, and rejoiced in the agony of their victims.  Armed with their truck bombs, they have demanded that we withdraw from many parts of the world.  This option of retreat may appeal to some, but it is not worthy of our nation (Cohen, 1998).


The bombings were preceded by a statement issued by Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Abu-Yasir Rifa’i Ahmad Taha, Sheikh Mir Hamzah, and Fazlul Rahman on 23 February 1998, known as a “fatwa[1]” urging all Muslims to engage in a “jihad[2]” against all “civilian and military” members of the United States (Ranstorp, 1998).  This was a continuation of bin Laden’s “Declaration of War” which was first issued in 1996 (MSANews Website).  The fatwa was published in Arabic in the Al Quds al-Arabi and later in both Arabic and English by the Committee for the Defense of Legitimate Rights (CDLR), a Saudi Arabian exiled opposition group in London (Miraserve Website).  Bin Laden and his fellow religious leaders incensed over the “crusader armies now spreading in it like locusts, consuming its riches and destroying its plantations (Ranstorp, 1998),” made their edict[3] based on three important points. 

First, the US has been occupying the lands of Islam’s holiest places (Arabian penisula of  Saudi Arabia and two of the three holy sites, Mecca and Medina) for over seven years and the sacred Arabian Peninsula itself (Ranstorp, 1998).  Second, the US and its “Zionist forces” have destroyed over one million Iraqi people, and continue to inflict death on Iraq and its people (Ranstorp, 1998).”  Finally, the US is “greedy” and its involvement in the Arabian Peninsula is based on purely “religious and economic” wars, and “their endeavor to fragment all the states of the region such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Sudan into paper statelets and through their disunion and weakness to guarantee Israel’s survival (Ranstorp, 1998).”  Bin Laden labels the actions of the United States and the foreign policy makers in the international community, specifically numerous Muslim Nations, as a clear declaration of war by the United States against Muslims worldwide.  Bin Laden goes further by calling these activities: “crimes and sins committed by the Americans are a clear declaration of war on God, his messenger, and Muslims (Ranstorp, 1998).”

Bin Laden’s statement and his call to action have emboldened thousands[4] of Muslims to take up arms against the United States. Nonetheless, bin Laden’s activities are not the only acts of terror that the world witnesses today.  Terrorist activities occur worldwide, on a daily basis, and claim the lives of innocent people.  Many of these violent acts remain unsolved by the nation in which they were committed.  An example of this is the number of bombings that occur in the United States.  The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) reported that there were over 1,100 bombings in the United States alone last year (FBI Web Site).  Was each one of those bombings the work of a “irrational” terrorist?  The answer is probably not.  Nonetheless, they occurred, and yet the United States has not singled out each one of the alleged bombers as they have bin Laden.  Why is it necessary for the United States to demonize its archenemies?  Some of the more recent examples of this tactic are: Poncho Villa in the 1910’s, Fidel Castro from the 1960s to the present, the Ayatollah Khomeini from 1979 until his death in 1989, Saddam Hussein from 1991 to the present, Mullah Mohammed Omar, from 1982 to the present, and Osama bin Laden from 1996 to the present.  How then, does the international community, more specifically the United States, deal with such activities?

The methodology I have chosen is to conduct a descriptive analysis of the current conflict between the United States and Osama bin Laden.  This analysis will include the “bases, emergence, and escalation” of the United States foreign policy decisions and the general public’s attitude towards bin Laden using Kriesberg’s model of conflict.  Since there are two parties to the conflict, this paper will also cover the bases, emergence and escalation of bin Laden’s position in the conflict.  

The United States seems to be as enthralled with the hunt for Osama bin Laden, as they are watching the TV show “America’s Most Wanted” on Friday nights.  After all, the label that the United States, specifically the FBI and State Department, have given to bin Laden is that of “common criminal.”   This title is based on the theory that bin Laden has committed acts of terrorism against innocent people and he is just an “irrational” Islamic fundamentalist; much like the US’s impression of the Ayatollah Khomeini and the revolution he led in Iran in 1979.  Or, another example of this demonization is the overall lack of trust of the United States policy makers towards the Soviet Union during the Cold War.  After all, the Soviets were the “evil empire” set out to destroy the world through communism. 

It is easier for the average American to understand the meaning of terrorism and terrorist, more specifically bin Laden, as an irrational, violent psychopath that is randomly committing acts of terrorism against American targets.  Walter Laqueur, a noted scholar on terrorism, concludes:  “furthermore, the West needed the image of an enemy after the end of the Cold War, and Islam, for a variety of reasons, has come to fill that role (Laqueur, 1999, 128).”

Unfortunately, this would make our analysis of Osama bin Laden, and his conflict with the United States and the Saudi Arabian government, an easy study; based on the notion that bin Laden is an “irrational, rag-head, Islamic fundamentalist (Taylor, 1991).” However, Taylor argues that individuals like bin Laden are not “irrational;” in fact, they are extremely rational and are committing acts of terror in a very systematic and methodical manner based on a well-defined ideology.   “This makes it difficult for most people to understand how individuals who are in other respects quite unremarkable can commit brutal acts for political ends, often in the cause of freedom or liberation (Taylor, 1991, 1).”  If we closely examine this conflict using Louis Kriesberg’s scientific analysis of conflict and his “conflict model”, we will discover that Osama bin Laden has done what leaders of nations[5] do against their enemies, declare war to bring about political change.  Why is this “phenomenon of bin Laden” treated differently than actions of other terrorists? 

For example, what was the reaction of the American public when the Oklahoma Federal Building was bombed?  I can remember exactly where I was when it occurred: Naples, Italy.  At the time, I was with some friends and a “special bulletin” came over the TV.  The station reported the events in the Oklahoma City bombing at the Federal Building and stated something along the lines that, “the US was looking for an Arab descent individual that had been seen near the Federal Building on the day of the explosion.”  I turned to my friends, and commented that I did not think that it was an Arab terrorist, but probably an American that was disenfranchised over the incidents at Waco and Ruby Ridge. 

As the events unfolded, an American, Timothy McVeigh was arrested, convicted and executed on 11 June 2001, for his actions.  What would have happened had the Oklahoma City bombing been committed by a Muslim group or organization?  Would the American’s perceptions be different?   Were the American public perceptions and the attitude towards the individuals convicted in the New York World Trade Center bombing the same as they were towards Timothy McVeigh?

When a massive bomb exploded outside the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City on 19 April 1995, killing 169 people, CNN reporters invited experts on terrorism to give their immediate opinions on who may have been responsible.  It appeared to one particular expert that all the signs pointed to Islamic militants.  The heartland of the American Midwest had finally been scarred by the consequences of poor U.S. relations with the militants of the Islamic world and the governments of particular Islamic countries…the readiness with which this particular commentator could reach such a conclusion…was a watershed.  No logical conclusion could be reached other than that the enemies of the West had had their way.  The outcome of the subsequent investigation, trial and verdict is now well known.  What remains contentious is why the Islamic world was the first to be accused (Huband, 1998, xv).


It appears that the United States and general public does not know what to do with terrorism or the whole idea that political change can be less than peaceful; after all, violence was a tool that was used during the formation of the United States.  One such example is the infamous Boston Tea Party, nonetheless, violence was a tool used for political change in both cases.  McVeigh’s actions were simple.  He targeted the Federal building in Oklahoma City where Federal Law Enforcement Agents that had been involved with the Waco Incident and David Koresh’s Branch Davidians Movement, in which ordinary men, women and children lost their lives, and the Ruby Ridge Incident in which a woman and child were killed, all in the name of justice and protection of the innocent (Laqueur, 1999).  McVeigh’s message, albeit a controversial one, was intended to bring about political and organizational change to the Federal Law Enforcement agencies that took part in those two events.

Yet, on the day of Timothy McVeigh’s execution, his lawyers remarked that McVeigh stood fast in his convictions that the Federal Government and various law enforcement agencies engage in the same criminal behavior that he committed.  Right or wrong, is not the context in which I provide the correlation, but the notion of who determines what is the acceptable way to bring about political change.  In addition, in listening to various victims and family members of those killed in the Oklahoma City Federal Building, many still believe that McVeigh was part of a larger organization and a conspiracy set to destroy America (CNN News Station, 10 Jun 2001). 

It is my argument that the United States policy makers demonize its adversaries, such as bin Laden, to promote our foreign policy and justify its actions in the world.  Not everyone in the world would agree with this approach, which is why the Unites States finds itself engaged in this conflict with bin Laden, and other “Islamic Resurgence” groups.  Americans tend to have an ethnocentric understanding of other nations, religions and culture.  Which can be empirically measured in the context of whom the United States Executive and Legislative Branch support in their foreign policy decisions, which tend to focus on nations, people, religion and culture that are similar to Americans in general.  And, in addition, this is exemplified in the American’s “Weltanschauung” towards other countries, religions and cultural aspects that are different from their own. 

American’s have a propensity to view the world through elitist lenses.  A quintessential part of understanding these differences in attitudes between other peoples is the ability to objectively analyze the complex components of conflict and those involved.  This is not a simple process to measure or evaluate.  An important part in understanding the “bases” of this conflict is to define four key concepts that are an integral element of both sides to this conflict: terrorism, identity formation, nationalism, and the rise of religious nationalism.  The significance of these terms are they remain a key ingredient or root of bin Laden’s conflict with the United States and vice versa.     

Maxwell Taylor characterizes terrorism as involving the use of violence to achieve political ends (Taylor, 1991).  Terrorism seems to begin where political dissent stops being peaceful, and where violence starts to be used as a political tool (Taylor and Quayle, 1997, 9).”  Benjamin Netanyahu offers an opposing view to Taylor and defines terrorism as “the deliberate and systematic assault on civilians to inspire fear for political ends (Heyman, 1998).”  Martha Crenshaw offers another observation and concludes that: “terrorism is based on systematic and purposive violence, designed to influence the political choices of other actors more than to inflict casualties or material destruction (Crenshaw, 1986).”  As difficult as it is to define, it is even more difficult to study and develop theoretical perspectives on the behavior of terrorists.  The world demands a template that categorizes all terrorists into a simplistic mold (Taylor and Quayle, 1994).  This is an impossible task and is what makes terrorism such a controversial subject.  Terrorism is a non-conventional method for groups dissatisfied with their political situation to use violence as a means to an end in changing political dissatisfaction (Taylor and Quayle, 1994).   

 If these definitions represent the act of violence, then what type of person would chose violence over non-violent measures to bring about change to their political situation?  Are they acting alone or as a group?  What are the behavior sources of terrorism?  Crenshaw concludes that you cannot “base an argument about motivation on the premise that terrorism is solely a result of a specific personality pattern or trait (Crenshaw, 1986).”  Acts of terror are committed on the basis that there is an intersection between “psychological predispositions” and “external political and social environment (Crenshaw, 1986).”  

The alleged terrorist, in this case bin Laden, has set out to change his environment, and he feels that political violence is the only method for doing so.  He is not alone.  In addition, individuals do not accomplish these acts; instead,  “terrorism…is a result of group interaction as much as individual choice (Crenshaw, 1986).”  The terrorist does not participate in these types of activities because he is “mentally deranged” but because he is “extremely goal oriented but whose goals and means of pursuing their goals are influenced by psychological considerations in interaction with the situation (Crenshaw, 1986).” 

            Terrorists have the need for group affiliation and structure.  Bin Laden’s movement satisfies this need for thousands, if not millions, of Muslims.  Many attracted to this movement are seeking a return to a strictly Islamic State based on the Koran and Sha’ria law. “The group itself becomes the aim of many people…and that many terrorists expressed a need for the structure, discipline, and commitment they found in group life (Crenshaw, 1986).”  The benefits of belonging outweigh the political behavior of the group, in that “joining a terrorist organization was the last of a series of attempts at identity formation.  These potential terrorists were searching for meaning, structure and a stable social role (Crenshaw, 1986).”  Group affiliation is necessary for all people, whether or not it manifests itself in a secular ideology, such as the United States Constitution and system of governance, or in the case of bin Laden, a religious ideology that “can focus on several such groupings, linking together otherwise diverse groups—class-based religious ideology… ideology defines a group to which the member can belong (Taylor, 1991, 89).”  If Taylor’s hypothesis is correct, then how do individuals and groups form identity?  Eric Fromm provides insight into the how identity is formed individually and in groups.

Fromm states:

But inasmuch as man is human, the satisfaction of these instinctual needs is not sufficient to make him happy; they are not even sufficient to make him sane.  The archimedic point of the specifically human dynamism lies in this uniqueness of the human situation; the understanding of man’s psyche must be based on the analysis of man’s needs stemming from the conditions of his existence (Fromm, 1955)


Man has a difficult and confusing time dealing with the fact that he is a fundamental biological being (Fromm, 1955).  He is just here.  Man is different from other animals, in that other animals can’t think about their identity, and man possesses three characteristics that distinguish him from other animals; self-awareness, reason and imagination (Fromm, 1955).  This causes problems as man strives to achieve harmony with nature, to return to this natural state but we are unable.  The more sophisticated we become the more idealistic we become.  We need identity and purpose in life. 

All men are idealists and cannot help being idealists, provided we mean by idealism the striving for the satisfaction of needs which are specifically human and transcend the physiological needs of the organism (Fromm, 1955).


These human type problems are rooted in our mere existence.  We have four psychological needs that must be met, relatedness, rootedness, transcendence and identity (Fromm, 1955).  Man is social, and spiritual, and these things drive us to develop a class-consciousness (Fromm, 1955).  These four psychological needs are the product of our spirituality and social drives.  We want to be part of society, a need to belong, a need to associate with others.  As society has developed over time this has caused man to create norms, rules, and laws to further develop this class-consciousnesses (Fromm, 1955).

            This development has taken place over the past three centuries and can be readily seen in the “modern capitalistic society (Fromm, 1955).”  Man is supposed to “produce, consume, and enjoy together, in step, without asking questions.  That is the rhythm of their lives (Fromm, 1955).”  The more man works, the more he contributes to society, the more he consumes, which results in the more he is taxed (Fromm, 1955).  This economic capitalism is disrupting the social character of many societies and results in some form of alienation (Fromm, 1955).   Many nations in the world today are on the brink of a highly complex, economically superior, globally linked economy, and yet, man seems to be more and more alienated.  This is especially true of nations and non-state actors who seem to return to religiosity and religious based movements, and in the case of bin Laden is the entire foundation of his religious and political ideology.

            Fromm calls this type of person “estranged from himself (Fromm, 1955).”  Man’s worth is based on approval from society and believes himself as having some sort of value, a type of reward-based conformity (Fromm, 1955).  If a person experiences low levels of approval from conforming to society because society expects this type of behavior, this process of alienation leads to low self worth and eventually results in a rejection of society, fellow man and themselves.  The outcome is some level of alienation and can manifest itself in how man relates to his fellow man, and in his interaction in the political process (Fromm, 1955). 

The necessity to unite with other living beings, to be related to them, is an imperative need on the fulfillment of which man’s sanity depends.  This need is behind all phenomena, which constitute the whole gamut of intimate human relations, of all passions, which are called love in the broadest sense of the world.  There are several ways in which this union can be sought and achieved.  Man can attempt to become one with the world by submission to a person, to a group, or to an institution, to God (Fromm, 1955, 30).


Bin Laden’s ideology has given a group of people hope in belonging as they feel alienated with the “group identity” that was formed for them by others, especially in their respective countries political, cultural and religious structures.   Bin Laden offers an alternative to the current status quo and many in his movement are drawn to the satisfying nature of religion, in this case Islam, in their transcendental needs and fragile identity formation. 

Although Fromm does not address the bin Laden question directly, he provides a framework of analysis into why people are driven differently.  Bin Laden truly believes that he has a legitimate conflict with the United States and Saudi Arabia.  He is highly critical of the Saudi Arabian government and its close association with the United States that has led to open criticism of the Saudi regime.  Bin Laden believes that the government of Saudi Arabia should be held responsible for this injustice that he defines as a religious indiscretion aimed at the destruction of Islam of which he holds in an extremely sacred light.  Clearly, bin Laden is alienated. 

The desired outcome was not the bombings that the United States has stated that bin Laden masterminded, financed and committed, but his ultimate goal was to mobilize the Muslim masses to revolt against their respective government to rid their country of the corruption to the Koran and to prompt the return for adherence to the law of the Shari ‘a (Taylor, and Quayle, 1994).  In addition, bin Laden has clearly stated that he wants the United States military out of Saudi Arabia.  In the words of an Islamic activist:

Political violence is a reaction.  It is not an action against some other incident…   But oppression is the main policy of the Government… These violent actions are a reaction (Taylor, and Quayle, 1994, 180).

These types of movements are clearly estranged from existing governmental structures, and take action that they feel is necessary to facilitate their beliefs, ideas and causes.  Bin Laden and the other Islamic Resurgence Movements believe that they are merely trying to change the social and political structure of their society through a legitimate political process.  This process sees no separation in the role of government and religion, in that; they are one in the same.  And, although it goes against the mainstream of Western society, they feel that they are the “cutting edge” of what the Islamic Resurgence movements really want and need.  “The Resurgence differs from the Reformation in one key aspect.  The latter’s impact was largely limited to northern Europe…The Resurgence, in contrast, has touched almost every Muslim society (Huntington, 1996, 111).”   

            The world is an extremely complex place today, more so than it has been in its history.  The majority of people feel, as Fromm stated, just: “cogs in the wheel (Fromm, 1955,).”  The more globalized we become, the less we feel part of society, man and ourselves.  Many find themselves alienated from the social and political process.  For some, the outcome is to shut themselves off to the world, for others, it is to find another group in which they can identify.  Man can adapt to his environment and the political process in the following ways: through “conformity, reformism, ritualism, retreatism and rebelliousness (Schwartz, 1973).”  All are in response to alienation. 

The reaction of the reformist, ritualist, retreatist and rebellionist is to go against the conventional goals of society to create new ones.  In this case they offer man the feeling of relatedness, rootedness, transcendence and identity, but in a more radical form from his fellow man that is merely estranged, but nonetheless, who continues to conform to the norms and goals of society (Fromm, 1955).  The type of conflict that the United States and bin Laden find themselves in is clearly a “clash of civilizations” due to the differences in culture, which is exacerbated by the differences in their understanding of the religiousness and secularness of each respective society.

Modernization, in short, does not necessarily mean Westernization.  Non-Western societies can modernize and have modernization without abandoning their own culture and adopting wholesale Western values, institutions and practices.  The latter, indeed, may be impossible…Modernization, instead, strengthens those cultures and reduces the relative power of the West.  In fundamental ways, the world is becoming more modern and less Western (Huntington, 1996, 78).


Political change is necessary when an individual, group, or society feels that its growth has become stagnant and there is competition between the structural and socio-psychological conditions within a society and its attempts to modernize.  This change can manifest itself in various forms, from non-violent to violent activities.  

Each society is unique, and based on individual characteristics that bond together a group of people, which is known as a Western notion of the definition of a nation.  Societies bound by the state are drastically different than those societies bound by religion as they transcend arbitrarily defined borders.  This goes against the cognitive maps of many Western countries.  For the average American, religious ideology and violence is a concept that they cannot politically, socially or morally support due to the secular foundation of the United States constitution, which embodies the separation of state and church.  “In places like the United States and Europe, where secular nationalism, rather than religion, has become the dominant paradigm in society, religion is shunted to the periphery (Juergensmeyer, 1993, 35).”

            Religiosity is the primary foundation of bin Laden’s ideology and movement.  In this case, religion is to bin Laden what Nationalism is to most Americans and other Western nations that have similar political systems.  Religion and Nationalism contain three powerful elements: “fraternity, power, and links time and history (Anderson, 1996, 36).”  Both concepts embrace the system of an “imagined community”, and promote a cause to die for in the vernacular that both groups bin Laden and the American public, can relate to in the context of their respective political ideology (Anderson, 1996).

Prior to Benedict Anderson, many scholars believed that nationalism found its beginnings in eighteenth-century France and was based on a popular sentiment that glorified the state or nation.  It was founded on the premise that there was a willingness to work for the nation against all forms of foreign or domestic domination, and its roots came from a group consciousness of shared history, language, race and values, (Anderson, 1983).  Anderson took a very structuralist view, and he stated that nationalism is not a European concept, but found its origin in the Americas, and was an “imagined political community (Anderson, 1983).”

It is imagined political community- and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign.  It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them or even hear of them…the nation is imagined as limited because even the largest of them…has finite, if elastic boundaries, beyond which lie other nations.  No nation imagines itself coterminous with mankind (Anderson, 1983, 6).


These communities exist only in our minds based on a shared history.  It isn’t something that we can feel or touch, but we are willing to die for it (Anderson, 1983). 

Anderson believes the French and English Revolution or the Age of Enlightenment did not cause Nationalism, although they are three key factors, but found its origins in the Americas.  Nationalism rose during a time that four important cultural systems were diminishing or on the decline; religion as the “cosmic center of society”, “scripted languages”, “the dynastic realm, and the “apprehension of time (Anderson, 1983).”  As the European powers explored the world, they became exposed to new people and new languages which “abruptly widened the cultural and geographic horizon and hence also men’s conception of possible forms of human life (Anderson, 1983, 45).”   The state up to this point, centered on a higher authority, “its legitimacy derives from divinity, not from populations, who, after all, are subjects, not citizens (Anderson, 1983, 47).”  States sought ways to link communities together which once had been rather “porous” and undefined (Anderson, 1983).  They accomplished this through the use of “print-capitalism (Anderson, 1983).”  Man could now fuse together his thought, and time, which allowed him to individually be extremely powerful in his world (Anderson, 1983).  This allowed society and man to form the bases for national consciousness, and allowed, “These fellow-readers, to whom they were connected through print, formed, in their secular, particular, visible invisibility, the embryo of the nationally imagined community (Anderson, 1983, 44).”   No longer was religion the center of man’s universe, he was able to think for himself (Anderson, 1983).

Bin Laden and his followers are just that, an “imagined community”, and their belief in Islam is the cornerstone of their shared ideology and their Islamic nation.  Up until the end of the cold war[6], many scholars and academia would agree that religion was on the decline.  States came together in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in an industrial revolution full of mass production, communication and modes of travel, that not only connected them economically but politically as well (Juergensmeyer, 1993).  According to Juergensmeyer this new replacement for religion was known as secularism and was accepted not only by the Americas but the Europeans as well. 

The glue that held all these changes together was a new form of nationalism: the notion that individuals naturally associate with the people and place of their ancestral birth in an economic and political system identified with a secular nation-state.  Secular nationalism was thought to be not only natural but also universally applicable and morally right (Juergensmeyer, 1993, 27).


It was no longer the will of God, but the will of man that made the rules (Juergensmeyer, 1993).  Man adopted this new secular nationalism as its religion and transported it across all boundaries and borders.  The colonial powers imposed this secular and nationalistic ideology on “Asia, Africa and Latin America,” and forced these areas to adopt their religious and political practices.  These practices led to a majority of the indigenous population being exploited by colonial powers (Juergensmeyer, 1993).  For most countries, any political or religious practices were absorbed into this new phenomenon, shedding their old skin for a new cover like those that they had been colonized by (Juergensmeyer, 1993).  Often, however, colonization just pushed the political and religious ideologies underground.  However, these identities did not die off, in fact by considering them subversive movements they became highly idealized and when given the opportunity became revitalized (Juergensmeyer, 1993).

It was not until the post-colonization era that we begin to see a resurgence of religion in many previously colonized countries.  Religious nationalism began to rise due to numerous factors that cannot be overlooked.  First, colonial powers created states that emerged in the aftermath of wars and these new states were culturally fragmented, politically unstable, arbitrarily defined borders, and rapidly growing populations with a diverse economic hierarchy (Juergensmeyer, 1993).  Second, these new states had governments that were politically unstable, and the ordinary people of the state were caught up in their government’s attempts to modernize along Western lines, and at the same time these caused a challenge to their religious and cultural identities (Juergensmeyer, 1993).  Their group needs were not being met by the industrial revolution and modernization, which led to widespread anomie and alienation (Juergensmeyer, 1993).  And, “although the political ties were severed, the new nations retained all the accoutrements of Westernized countries (Juergensmeyer, 1993, 29).”  

Because man was free for the first time in many cases to think for himself, and identify with a nationality, he came to realize that these secular governments were not enough and here is where we begin to see a rise of religion in response to Westernization (Juergensmeyer, 1993).  In fact:

These religious revolutionaries are concerned not so much about the political structure of the nation-state as they are about the political ideology undergirding it.  They are concerned about the rationale for having a state…At the same time, however, they see no contradiction in affirming certain forms of political organization that have developed in the West…as long as they are legitimized not by the secular idea of a social contract but by traditional principles of religion (Juergensmeyer, 1993, 7).


When secular nationalism failed in these new states, many of the religious leaders that had been vocal in the background, came to the forefront with their religious ideas and provided the people with an avenue for their voices to be heard.  They were not satisfied with the status quo of failed and corrupted governments (Juergensmeyer, 1993).  The religious leaders in these states called for religion and government to be one, as was the case in the revolution in Iran, Afghanistan and Indonesia (Juergensmeyer, 1993).  The turmoil caused by the US involvement in the Middle East has fueled the fire for bin Laden and other such similar movements, whose tactics range from political dissention to terrorism to revolutions. 

            Religion emerged from the post-colonization period as an extremely appealing, enduring and emotionally satisfying rule following behavior and group affiliating need, which was in sharp contrast to what these nations had faced in the past (Juergensmeyer, 1993).  Many countries, such as Iran, Afghanistan, and Indonesia saw the secular and communist states that their leaders were trying to impose as corrupt governments modeled after the United States, Great Britain and the Soviets (Juergensmeyer, 1993). 

Two examples of such events occurred in the 1970s that gave way to why secular nationalism gave way to the rise of religion as a reaction to Westernization and had a profound influence on the rise of Islamic Resurgence Movements.  First, was the Iranian Revolution in 1979, which resulted in the creation of a theocracy—“a government of God”, in the name of a Divine leader in response to the alienation that was felt by the people due to the Shah’s inability to respond to a clash between secular ideology, religious nationalism and Westernization (Juergensmeyer, 1993).  The second factor that occurred almost concurrently with the Iranian Revolution was a civil war in Afghanistan between the Soviet installed communist government, and the population of Afghanistan who were predominately Muslim (Juergensmeyer, 1993).  Much like that of the Shah’s, this government was seen as another “puppet regime”, which led to many of the tribes in Afghanistan, including the Taliban, to take up arms against communism.  Bin Laden became part of that fight against the Afghanistan Communist state and once the Soviets were defeated he would then target the next threat to Islam, the United States.  The United States was seen as the second threat to Islam and represented the liberal/Western model secular government that intended to destroy the “nation” of Islam (Frontline, 2000). 

Bin Laden and his “phenomenon” can be considered the “new cold war” and is the result of the collapse of secular nationalism in many Eastern nations, especially Islamic ones, which caused the rise of religious nationalism instead (Juergensmeyer, 1993).  Bin Laden’s movement is a response to what many Muslims feel is a political and cultural ideological dead-end.  Their goal is the same for similar movements found in states that contain Muslim populations: to dismantle the secular states in these countries, and to provide a morally and spiritually based framework to an otherwise extremely alienated group.  Bin Laden, who came from one of the  wealthier families in Saudi Arabia, was inspired by the Iranian Revolution and the Afghanistan war, and was not impressed by being part of a globalized economy if it meant the degradation of the Holy Sites in Saudi Arabia and Israel, and the role of Islam. Despite numerous theories of the success of globalization, only a few countries really participate. One such theorist is Thomas Friedman. 

In Friedman’s book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, he attempts to explain away the importance of religion, cultural and national identities through the use of the analogy that all the world wants is “stuff”, and that because the economy is now globally tied together. The author suggests that everyone in the world wants their own “McDonalds and Golden Arch’s,” which translated means that everyone wants to be like Americans (Friedman, 2000).  I couldn’t disagree more with Friedman’s hypothesis, and it is my assessment that his theory is problematic.  In that, not everyone in the world is tied to property rights, McDonalds and “stuff”, at the expense of losing their cultural identity, nationalism and religion.  Clearly, not everyone wants the Lexus by giving up their olive trees: yes, to  modernization; no, to westernization. 

What is going on in the world today, in the very broadest sense, is that through the process of globalization everyone is being forced toward America’s gas station.  If you are not an American and don’t know how to pump your own gas, I suggest you learn (Friedman, 2000, 364).


To simplify the needs of the world into a system driven by the “American Dream” and a desire to be like the West is not taking into account the structural and socio-psychological factors that are found in conflict today, especially that of Islamic Resurgence Movements.

            Nationalism, religiosity, and ideological differences are the “bases” of bin Laden’s conflict with the United States, and vice versa and have manifested in bin Laden and others, resorting to terrorist activities worldwide.  Neither party to this conflict, bin Laden or the United States, agree with activities of the other side, and, in reality, have declared war on one another.  Although the means are different, the desired outcome is the same: destruction of the enemy.  However, we can not look at this conflict in the terms of a zero-sum game[7], instead we must theoretically analyze this conflict keeping in mind that:

The partisans in the conflict offer explanation for their conduct and that of their enemies.  The explanations they use are important in mobilizing support, in deciding which means will be effective, and in ultimately agreeing to settle the conflict.  Therefore, those explanations cannot be ignored.  But neither can they be accepted as the full truth (Kriesberg, 1998, 31).


Literature Review:

There is a plethora of information on the subject of Osama bin Laden, his espoused ideology, and his activities.   I have found the majority of the details and writers extremely biased against bin Laden because of cultural and religious differences.  This biasness could be attributed to part of the causes that have led bin Laden to find himself on the FBI’s ten-most wanted list, with a five million dollar reward for information leading to his capture (FBI Most Wanted List).  Richard Labeviere concludes in his book, that bin Laden’s network is vast and well financed.  In addition, he states:

The Nairobi and Dar es Salaam attacks could not have been committed without a large organization and complex logistics, which consequently required financing.  The evolution of the Islamist networks, through their transnational racketeering circuits and their offshore companies, also constitutes—in addition to the existing legal apparatus—a specific tool for the fight (Labeviere, 2000, 349).


Various other authors such as Maria Do Ceu Pinto conclude that religious terrorism is on the rise, and the danger in that, is that this type of terror is “more prone to use indiscriminate terror (Pinto, 1999).”  Yet, in her article she contradicts this statement by concluding that bin Laden has clearly defined goals: “to drive US forces from the Arabian Peninsula, overthrow the government of Saudi Arabia, and liberate Muslim holy sites in Palestine (Pinto, 1999).  I disagree with her analysis as bin Laden’s goals are well stated, defined, and publicized, and his actions have been linked, by the United States, in the bombing of Khobar towers in Dhahran, the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and a Navy Ship, the U.S.S Cole docked in Yemen.  And if bin Laden is truly responsible for these activities, how then can Pinto legitimately classify these acts as act of “indiscriminate terror”? 

Bin Laden has, on numerous occasions, publicly stated that he intends to attack all US military and civilian targets abroad for as long as they remain on the Arabian Peninsula (Frontline, 2000).  How could this be classified as acts of “indiscriminate terror” when he has given the United States advanced warning of his actions, and what steps the United States should take to avoid this situation.  Unfortunately, these two authors offer little scholarly insight into bin Laden’s activities, the reaction by the United States and Saudi Arabia, and fail to address the ideology and political motivations of either side in this conflict.

Louis Kriesberg has written extensively on conflict and conflict resolution.   He is the author of several books on this subject, which concludes that conflict cannot be resolved, but managed in a way that avoids “destructive relations (Kriesberg, 1998).”  In his book, Constructive Conflicts: From Escalation to Resolution, he identifies a “cycle of conflict” that all conflicts sequence through.  In order to effectively bring about a process of manageable conflict, both parties must make a conscious effort to keep the conflict at a level that is socially, economically and politically acceptable to all sides[8] in the conflict (Kriesberg, 1998).  On the surface Kriesberg’s model appears to be circular in nature, however, I believe the model to be at least three dimensional, and closely represents a molecular structure of a DNA chain.  This visualization is important in understanding my approach to using Kriesberg’s model in the analysis of the conflict.

Kriesberg states that the goal of resolution of any conflict is unrealistic; nonetheless, if appropriate measures are taken to identify the “bases” of conflict, both sides can transform it into a managed process

(Kriesberg, 1998).  In the case of bin Laden and the United States, both sides are actively engaged at odds with one another.  This is a result of differences between the United States stated foreign policies and national security, and bin Laden, who has repeatedly espoused his political and religious ideologies.  Although Kriesberg has not specifically addressed this conflict, through his methodology the conclusion can be drawn that both are currently in the escalation phase and will continue in that phase for some time. 

Kriesberg specifies two areas; internal and external factors, that contribute to each conflictor’s development of their “bases” for conflict.  These factors are both structural and socio-psychological based and have contributed to the conflict that the United States and bin Laden find themselves in.  The primary cause of this lack of understanding of the other’s socialization process did not occur over a short period of time.  In fact, one could argue that this factor has taken generations to formulate and is found in how civilizations have transcended through time, as seen through each respective societal lens.  The result is the dissimilarity in the two respective cultures, American and Muslim.  This is exacerbated by the differences in each side’s ability to understand the importance of religion and individual governance of each respective society.

Samuel Huntington’s hypothesis is that the next major conflict will be that of a “clash of civilizations”, drawn along a fault line (of which there are eight major societies), in response to an awareness of forces that are anti-global in nature.  These forces take away from cultural and ethnic identities, and cause a strain on these fault lines, especially centered on those that are predominately Islamic and Asian (Huntington, 1996).  Just as the West desires economic prosperity, modernization and the ability to compete in the global economy, so do non-western societies, however, they do not necessarily subscribe to the Western secular, political, social and cultural ways (Huntington, 1996).  The most important part of Huntington’s book for insight into bin Laden’s ideology and political aspirations, is his section on Islamic Resurgence[9] and why it is not just a phenomenon, but a reality in response to foreign domination of Eastern societies.

Islamic Resurgence is the result of what many Muslims around the world feel in response to alienation towards their governments, economic situation and foreign domination of their cultures (Huntington, 1996).  This mainstream movement is in response to alienation against Westernatization and has resulted in many Muslims return to Islam to capture lost religious and cultural identities.   “It embodies acceptance of modernity, rejection of Western culture, and recommitment to Islam as the guide to life in the modern world…Islam for us is not just a religion but a way of life (Huntington, 1996, 110).”

As stated in the beginning of the literature review, many who have written on bin Laden have bought into the whole conspiracy theory of bin Laden and his movement, and I have found their work incomplete and methodologically unsound. Of the material published specifically on bin Laden only two authors were noteworthy to use in my analysis.  The first, Mark Huband, who outlines Islamic political movements in Asia and Africa, and the other Yossef Bodansky, who researches and outlines bin Laden, his movement, and his activities in a typical anti-Muslim theme.  Bodansky presents non-scholarly work, in that, he relies heavily on open-source material, numerous “confidential” interviews, and does not present any type of methodology for his work.  The only item the two have in common is the study of bin Laden and from there they take polarized approaches.  Although Bodansky does provide a detailed account of bin Laden’s activities, it is written and reads as a sensationalized novel.  Nonetheless, when used in conjunction with a series of reports compiled by the State Department, Frontline, and varies Websites, the majority of his information on bin Laden is accurate for times, places, and movement connections.


By conducting a descriptive analysis of the bin Laden conflict, I will outline the bases for the “phenomenon” of bin Laden’s apparent conflict through escalation with the United States and Saudi Arabia by examining the structural and socio-psychology conditions highlighted in Kriesberg’s model.  Kriesberg identifies six key components in the study of conflict: bases, emergence, escalation, de-escalation, termination, and consequences.  Each phase of his cycle are not mutually exclusive, in fact are linked in nature by time, and the conflict can oscillate between stages (Kriesberg, 1998).  The conflict model is much like a circle in that it begins and ends at the same point, and is three-dimensional.  This model is a framework for analysis of conflict that can categorize and study the patterns of events in any conflict (Kriesberg, 1998).  

When looking at the bases of the “phenomenon” of bin Laden and the US’s conflict we can clearly identify internal and external factors that have contributed to its escalation.  As Kriesberg identifies in his section on “social interaction”:  some members of groups, through their socialization and upbringing can become “prone to conflict (Kriesberg, 1998, 36).”  I will show the connection between bin Laden’s formative years, and his time spent in Afghanistan during the war with the Soviets, as an instrumental process in the development of his ideology.  In addition, the United States repeated history of developing foreign policy in response to events, and those similar in religion, secularity and culture is a similar internal factor that has contributed to this conflict. 

The West’s view of Islam is important.  Western attitudes towards the Islamic world, from precolonial times to the present day, have had an enormous impact upon the direction the religion has taken.  Western attitudes towards Muslims—the people of the Islamic world—have a tremendous influence on the political direction the Islamic world has taken throughout the twentieth century.  But is the impact of Western actions really appreciated by those in the West who form the links—diplomatic, political, and military…it would seem rarely the case.  Although Western countries have their allies in the Islamic world, these alliances are superficial and exposed as such when subject to strain.  It is rare for the United States to accede to the wishes of its Arab “friends” in the Middle East if such accessions are at the expense of Israel (Huband, 1998, xvi).


According to Kriesberg conflict can vary in nature.  However, in all conflicts it is important to keep in mind the following measurable items: “issues in contention, characteristics of the contending parties, relations between adversaries, context in which adversaries contend, means used to conduct the struggle, and the outcome of the struggles (Kriesberg, 1998, page).”  Our study of this conflict will take us through only three of the phases that Kriesberg has identified:  bases, emergence and escalation.  This conflict has just begun the escalation phase, and it will be sometime before it is brought to the de-escalation phase, if it is at all. 

It is necessary to analyze the source of a specific conflict and its processes of escalation, de-escalation, and settlement in order to consider what alternatives might be pursued to minimize the unwanted aspects of the conflict and to maximize what is desire (Kriesberg, 1998, 4).


Structural conditions, along with socio-psychological factors, such as the influence of bin Laden’s family and friends, the Islamic religion and the significant role of his father’s involvement in hosting numerous religious scholars over the years, cemented bin Laden’s formative years.    In addition, another major influence was the result of bin Laden’s assistance to the Mujahdeen and the Taliban Movement during the Afghanistan war.  Yet a third factor, the loss of his Saudi citizenship and his vast financial resource, created massive alienation for bin Laden.  Using Kriesberg’s model in determining the bases for bin Laden’s activities and why he is currently engaged in a conflict with the US and Saudi Arabia, it is important for us to first look at the socio-psychological information on the life, family and schooling of bin Laden.  This insight will assist us in understanding the bases of the “Islamic Jihad” espoused by bin Laden through his numerous fatwa and edicts, and why we seem to be now in the escalation phase of the conflict. 

An important factor in this conflict is the understanding that it will not end with the arrest or death of bin Laden.  In fact, if bin Laden is captured and tried or even killed by the US, I believe that it will lead to a further escalation of the conflict.  I am basing this statement on my research that bin Laden’s fatwa and edicts are symptomatic of a much deeper problem, in that many Muslims feel alienated against what they perceive is “westoxification” much was the case in the Iranian revolution (Rinehart, 1997).

One of bin Laden’s closest associates, Dr. Saad Al-Fagih, head of the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia, revealed in an interview with Frontline:

To explain why bin Laden emerged…one of the two main factors for the emergence of the ‘phenomena’ of bin Laden is the circumstances in Saudi Arabia.  With the pathological rule of the royal family in a country like Saudi Arabia.  But there’s another important factor which is very important…(you’re) creating the picture of America in the eyes of Muslims as (an) arrogant, hostile country to Muslim causes.  Because of those two factors together, you would not be surprised to see a ‘phenomena’ of bin Laden…he’s a product of a new social structure.  A new social feeling in the Muslim world.  Where you have strong hostility not only against America, but against many Arab and Muslim regimes who are allying to America…And that’s why if bin Laden was not there, you would have another bin Laden.  You would have another name, with the same character, with the same role, of bin Laden now.  That’s why we call it a ‘phenomena’ not a person (Frontline, 2000).


Based on this statement and my research on this subject, that by portraying bin Laden as a crazed fanatical terrorist, the US has, as is the case with Saddam Hussein and others, catapulted bin Laden into “hero status” for many Muslims (Bodansky, 1999).  If he were to be arrested or killed, he would gain immediate martyr status in their eyes. I am testing the theory of perceptions: the US overall is inflicted with a lack of understanding of Islamic dissident movements, their bases, emergence and political ideology (The Polling Report).  American’s have a general distrust of Arabs, Muslims and the Middle East as compared to other like groups.  This conflict is based on irrational thoughts instead of a rational methodology and creates a “dissensual” relationship as defined by Kriesberg.  The result of this type of relationship has led the US and bin Laden to take actions that are contrary to finding a resolution in this conflict.

            The US has crafted an enemy in the vernacular that American’s can understand.  How did such an attitude emerge in the American psyche?  What is the reality of this attitude?  Bin Laden has used the American’s perception to build his momentum and status with like-minded Muslims.  What is bin Laden’s systematic goal to carry out his plans of creating a Muslim Nation, governed by the Sha’ria? 

My hypothesis is based on answering two questions, using Kriesberg’s conflict model.  First, is it possible that the bin Laden phenomenon is a manifestation of American tendencies to cast their enemies in the contest of a conspiracy theory?  Second, is there a legitimate relationship between the phenomenon of bin Laden and other Islamic Resurgence movements?  Clearly it takes two opposing views, actions and reactions to create a conflict.  What actions have the US and bin Laden taken during the formation of the “bases” of this conflict to push this movement into the escalation phase?  The result of these actions are what Kriesberg would define as escalatory in nature, and will continue to push this conflict in that direction for some time.

In attempting to answer the two questions that I have posed, I have broken the body of the thesis down into three chapters, which follow Kriesberg’s conflict model.  Chapter 2, 3, and 4 outline Kriesberg’s definition of the “bases, emergence and escalation” of conflict as a general framework.  In each Chapter following the overview of the conflict model, I apply the methodology to bin Laden’s position and then the United States position respectively.  My intent is to conduct a descriptive analysis using Kriesberg’s model of the two parties in this on-going conflict.  The final section, is my conclusion of the analysis and to provide an answer to my hypothesis, and whether or not there is ample evidence to support my argument or not. 

Chapter II:  Bases of Conflict

Perhaps the most important aspect of understanding conflict is the very source or foundation of why there is dissimilarity of wants or needs that could create dissention between individuals, groups, or organizations.  Conflict occurs between people from all walks of life, from husband and wives, to known archenemies, as is the case between bin Laden and the United States on-going conflict.  An important tool for measuring conflict is to analyze the “core” of problem of the parties involved in the disagreement.  Kriesberg defines this core as the “bases” for conflict, which include structural and socio-psychological factors that can be measured:  “internal factors, social system, and relations between adversaries”, in which all members to the conflict, including members outside of the conflict are effected (Kriesberg, 1998, 30). 

“Internal factors” are comprised of both “human nature” and the “social interaction” of a society and are applied to the internal conditions of both members of the conflict and “look for the underlying bases of conflict in universal characteristics of humans and their societies (Kriesberg, 1998, 33).”   These characteristics bind together those conditions that create the interaction of that particular society (Kriesberg, 1998).   The “power” of the society or group poses a problem in the ability to resolve the conflict if one side has more force than the other side and,  “the domination of the state by one communal group reduces the ability for problem solving (Kriesberg, 1998, 42).”  An integral concept of “internal factors” is to understand the meaning of “cognitive map” of society and the importance behind how individuals and societies shape their expectations and images of not only themselves, but others as well.

Laszlo, Artigiani, Combs, and Csanyi in the article “The Cognitive Maps of Society,” outline the importance of cognitive theory in society.  Their theory assumes that people group and categorizes stimulus around them, and focuses their attention on the most prominent aspect of the stimuli (Laszlo, Artigiani, Combs, and Csanyi, 1996).  All people attempt to form a primitive, yet coherent understanding of it and attempt to make a judgment not based on reality but on their perception and understanding of the event (Laszlo, Artigiani, Combs, and Csanyi, 1996).  These writers conclude that many of society images of events in international relations are built on illusions and misperceptions.  Individuals, groups and those that govern them organize information and simplify the world to fit into a neatly organized box (Laszlo, Artigiani, Combs, and Csanyi, 1996).  Behavior is formed by these perceptions and in many cases, misperception.  The danger in this, is many politicians are prone to distort reality in relations to their need to fit their agenda especially in situations that are clear and unambiguous (Laszlo, Artigiani, Combs, and Csanyi, 1996).  This concept is a key element in both the United States and bin Laden’s understanding of the other.

The second condition in the “bases” of conflict is “social systems”, which are comprised of the inter-workings of any society or group of people (Kriesberg, 1998).  These are based on the perceptions of the group and compare to the opposing views of the other group that the party is having a conflict with.  “Relations between adversaries” is the final section in the “bases” of conflict and is the most difficult to measure in conflict (Kriesberg, 1998).  All conflicts have unrealistic and realistic components.  Realistic components are easy to identify and measure.  On the other hand, unrealistic components are not grounded in logical expressions and are based on instinct and irrationality, which create a difficulty in measuring.  The behavior in unrealistic conflict is an end to itself and satisfies the needs alone of the individual and not the group or society (Kriesberg, 1998).  Unrealistic attitudes and perceptions are the hardest to measure in any conflict as they are up to the discretion of the individual and can have an impact on members outside of the conflict known as “constituents (Kriesberg, 1998).”

The end product of “relations between adversaries” can manifest itself in either a consensual or dissensual relationship between the two parties (Kriesberg, 1998).  Consensual relationships are the easier of the two to manage, as both sides of the conflict agree on what they want or the outcome but differ on how to obtain the goal or the means to the end (Kriesberg, 1998).  In comparison, dissensual relationships are much different and more difficult to solve, here they not only disagree over the means, but the ends as well.  They usually are based on cultural, ethnic, and religious ideologies, and those differ widely from group to group.  “If, however, one or more sets of people feel that the other’s religious views are morally outrageous, then an underlying conflict exists (Kriesberg, 1998, 45).”  The key to measuring the conflict between the United States and bin Laden is grounded in a “dissensual” relationship. Both believe that their method for solving the problem is the correct way, and both have taken totally opposite approaches to obtain their goals.  For bin Laden, he advocates violent methods to bring about political and religion change in Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere in the Middle East.  For the United States, it fails to recognize that bin Laden and other’s associated with the movement have a valid, complaint against two legitimate governments, the US and SA, and fail to recognize bin Laden as a political leader. 

Lack of consensus about what is desirable can also be the bases of conflict…this is in the realm of conflicts about differences in religion, culture, values, and lifestyles…having somewhat varying perceptions or backgrounds can engender greatly different visions of reality and right (Kriesberg, 1998, 45). 


In the next two sections, I will outline the “bases” of conflict for Osama bin Laden and the United States.  I will focus on the structural and socio-psychological factors that are found in both the bin Laden and the United States position in this conflict.  It is obvious that there is a clear difference in ideology, political behavior, and the cognitive maps for both parties to this conflict, which has manifested itself in violence and public opinion in the United States and the world.

Bin Laden

The factors in the “bases” of conflict that bin Laden has with the United States and the Saudi Arabian government can be measured through the three components in Kriesberg’s model: “internal factors, social systems, and relations between adversaries (Kriesberg, 1998).”  First, bin Laden’s upbringing in Saudi Arabia, his religious training, and formal university education caused him to develop a strong sense of religious ideology in the Islamic faith. Second, bin Laden was driven by his upbringing to engage with known “Islamists[10]” who espoused strict interpretation of Islam and the duties bound by Muslims.  This caused bin Laden to seek out a method to engage with other like-minded Muslims to bring about change in their respective countries using Iran’s Revolution and the Ayatollah Khomeini as the Islamic model for all others to follow.  The war in Afghanistan provided this opportunity. This was the first time that “Islamists” felt as if they had defeated the West by crushing the Communist State in Afghanistan.  Third, as bin Laden developed his loyalty in the religious ideology of Islam, and this well-entrenched belief, which was challenged by the actions of the Royal Family and the Saudi government during Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.  The result was for bin Laden to form a critical disapproval and condemnation to the Saudi leadership, specifically King Fahd (Huband, 1999).  Since the Saudi government accepted Western military forces, specifically the United States and Britain, on the soil of the Holy Sites in the Arabian Peninsula, bin Laden’s cognitive map was severely tested.  Fourth, bin Laden had trained over the years in Afghanistan and after the war in Sudan, with hundreds, if not thousands, of Muslims from around the world that held similar beliefs in the return to strict Islamic states wherever there was a Muslim population.  These associations became part of what I would characterize as the “loyal compatriots” of bin Laden, and are part of the Islamic Resurgence Movements found in the world today.

The majority of the information I found on the life and family of Bin Laden supports the fact that Bin Laden is from a self-made family of Yemeni descent.  His father, Mohammed bin Laden, founded a construction business, which is now one of the most powerful businesses in Saudi Arabia, and is the wealthiest non-royal family inside the Kingdom (Jane’s Intelligence Review, 2001).  The elder bin Laden assisted the King in repairing one of the Holy Sites and all future government construction contracts were automatically given to the bin Laden family.  Osama was one of fifty-seven children, and his father, a profoundly religious man of Sunni following, died when he was twelve.  Hosted by his father, bin Laden’s early life experiences centered on being exposed to many Islamic religious clerics, Hajiz pilgrims, and religious meetings and studies (Frontline Report, 2000). 

Bin Laden studied Engineering and received a degree from the University of Jeddah.  His time at the University, coupled with his earlier exposure to Islamic thinking, led Osama to be a devoutly religious man.  During his time at the University he was exposed to the radical thinking of the Muslim Brotherhood and two key figures in his life, Abdullah Azzam and Mohammed Qutb (Jane’s Intelligence Review, 2001).  This experience is key to understanding how he gained his future religious inspiration, and led him to eventually assist the fighting in Afghanistan, both as a well-known fighter and financier.  The University of Jeddah is known as a gathering place for Islamic groups, many of whom advocate radical Islamic thought.  A critical piece in our understanding is to discuss the foundation of the Muslim Brotherhood, and how it later impacted on Bin Laden’s actions (Frontline Report, 2000).

The Muslim Brotherhood or “Al-Ikhwan Al-Moslemoon” is based on what many Islamic Scholars have called a ‘declaration of war’ against Islam that took shape in 1924 with the collapse of the “Khilafa[11]’ by Mustafa Kemal who created a secular state in Turkey (Huband, 1999).  Khilafa is a line of successors to the Prophet Muhammad and without a named Khilafa the fate of the Islamic people and religion is in jeopardy (Huband, 1999).  The movement’s ideology is based on the principle of regaining the Khilafa, spreading Islam, and has six identifiable goals which include: “building the Muslim individual, family, society, state, the Khilafa and mastering the world with Islam.”  This movement has over seventy branches throughout the world, and has advocated the “liberation of Muslim lands” by whatever means necessary to return to a rule of government based on the Sha’ria law (Huband, 1999).  

The theme of the Muslim Brotherhood is best described in the following passage: “Allah is our objective. The messenger is our leader.  Quran is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope (Muslim Brotherhood,”   According to a well-known scholar on Islam, Henry Massé, the Caliphate is important because:

It is not necessary to dwell on the political aspects of these modernist tendencies…in one way or another they have usually taken the form of nationalism; and since the abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate by the Angora Assembly and the fall in 1924 of the Great Sherif of Mecca who had proclaimed himself Caliph, these nationalist movements have been based on some realization of historical forces…in Turkey, the Swiss code has replaced the traditional Muslem Law; the religious Brotherhoods are suppressed (Masse, 1966, 259).


Bin Laden spent a great deal of time, money and effort in the war effort against the Soviets during 1982 to their withdrawal in 1989.   Bin Laden did not initially spend much time in Afghanistan during the early years of the war, but returned to Saudi Arabia to lobby for money and fighters to assist the Mujahedeen and the Taliban (Huband, 1999).  In 1984, he used his engineering background to assist in building camps in Peshawar for the Mujahedeen fighters, working once again along side Azzam who was engaged in raising money and gaining the media’s attention in the conflict.  In 1986, Bin Laden decided that he would build camps in Afghanistan for Arab fighters to use as a base of their operations, which was later termed as “Al Qa-edah” which, translated into English means, “the base.” 

Bin Laden also gained the majority of his fighting experience in the later years of the war in Afghanistan.  During this time Bin Laden saw a need for establishing a documentation system for family members to learn about their loved ones.  Al-Qaedah became the entry point for all Arab fighters, and was used to record their names prior to entry into the war, and when they returned from fighting, if they returned (Frontline Report, 2000). 

After the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, bin Laden returned to Saudi Arabia with the intention of assisting fellow Afghans, led by Sheik Abdallah bin Hussein al-Ahmar, who were starting a similar movement against the secular government in Yemen in the early 1990’s (Labeviere, 2000).  Bin Laden and Sheik Abdallah believed that the movement could be as successful in Yemen as they were in Afghanistan, and boasted of his “Afghans killing 158 leaders of the Yemeni Socialist party between 1990 and 1994 (Labeviere, 2000, 89).”  Bin Laden has a vision upon his return from Afghanistan that Saddam Hussein was planning an invasion against Kuwait, and he both publicly and privately speaks of the vision in his religious circles (Frontline, 2000).  Bin Laden met with Prince Sultan, the Minister of Defense for Saudi Arabia, and outlined a ten-page proposal that called for the use of Afghan fighters from the war against the Soviets, and warned the Kingdom not to invite the American’s (Bodansky, 1999).  The King was not pleased with his activities and Bin Laden was asked to keep a low profile (Frontline, 2000).  Dr. Fagih stated during his interview with Frontline that Bin Laden’s response to the King’s willingness to allow US troops in Saudi Arabia, was that Bin Laden had “lost hope altogether with the regime… and regarded the country from that moment forward as occupied (Frontline, 2000).”   Bin Laden’s popularity with the “Islamists” continues to grow during this time, as he is extremely critical of the “House of al-Saud (Bodansky, 1999, 31).”   Bin Laden’s continued criticism of King Fahd and the decision to allow American military forces into Saudi Arabia unites a coalition of supporters at the “grassroots” level (Bodansky, 1999).  Fearful of this mounting opposition against the Saudi Royal Family invokes a serious response from the Kingdom to bin Laden (Bodansky, 1999).

King Fahd ordered Bin Laden under house arrest, threatened to drive the family business into bankruptcy, so he left Saudi Arabia and eventually found refuge in Sudan (Bodansky, 1999).  Bin Laden stayed in Sudan as until the Sudanese government caved into the demands of the US and asked Sudan to expel bin Laden.  However, during his short time in Sudan bin Laden put his engineering degree and background to work and built much needed infrastructure projects, such as roads, bridges and schools in Sudan (Huband, 1999).  Bin Laden is blamed during his time in Sudan for two anti-American incidents in Yemen and Somalia that occurred in 1993.  In Reeve’s book he quotes bin Laden as saying:

It is true my companions fought with Farah Adid’s forces against the US troops in Somalia…but we were fighting against US terrorism.  Under the cover of the United Nations, the United States tried to establish its bases in Somalia so that it could get control over Sudan and Yemen.  My associates killed Americans in collaboration with Farah Adid.  We are not ashamed of our Jihad (Quoted in Reeve, 1999, 182).


The Saudi government went on the offensive against bin Laden by freezing his assets, conducting several assassination attempts and withdrew his citizenship (Reeve, 1999). In addition, he is linked to the bombing of the New York World Trade Center, where an “alleged associate” of his, Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, was determined to be the mastermind behind the attack (Reeve, 1999).  From 1995 forward, bin Laden became very vocal in the world and espoused a strong ideology, through his edicts and controversial fatwa (Frontline, 2000).  Are these statements a source that can be studied using Kriesberg’s model of conflict as a method for determining whether the “phenomenon” of Bin Laden is a legitimate conflict or not?   It is my assessment that these statements provide the most accurate method of discovery of Bin Laden’s ideology and what activities he has engaged in, supports and promotes in the Islamist world today.

Clearly, bin Laden’s activities during the initial stages of the formation of his ideology, and steadfast belief in Islam, has led him to promote political and cultural changes with like-minded Islamists that transcend the Western concept of the State.  Bin Laden has come to think, as many other like minded Muslims, that the West is corrupting Islam and the way of life that many mainstream Islamists want to live.  Bin Laden also considers the Royal Family and the Saudi Arabian government as having facilitated the destruction of Islam, and the way of the Koran and Sha’ria law because they have become a “puppet” regime under the control of the United States and its foreign policy (Bodansky, 1999).  Bin Laden believes, which is clearly evident in the statements he has issued, that the United States is using Saudi Arabia, its oil and others as well.  In addition, he has publicly stated that there is a strong parallel with the Shah of Iran and the Iranian people prior to the Iranian Revolution and King Fahd and the Saudi government (CDLR Website).  Bin Laden is not alone in these views and for many in the “Islamic Resurgence Movement”, the differences in ideology and religion is the focal point of why others are drawn to the rise in religiosity.  Huntington outlines the success’s in these types of movements as a more well defined sense of group identity and affiliation.  For bin Laden and other Islamists, the affiliation with these “grassroots” movements that center on religion provide an outlet for these groups dissatisfaction towards their existing governments. 

Islamic Resurgence Movements and their activities are a direct result of the existing political, religious, and social structures failure to meet the needs of the people (Huntington, 1996).  In case after case, from Algeria to Indonesia these organizations have provided for the basic needs of many Muslim societies, where the legitimate government has failed (Huntington, 1996).  These organizations have opened schools, hospitals, and mosques and in the case of natural disasters were often the first respondents and “were on the streets within hours, handing out food and blankets while the Government’s relief efforts lagged (Huntington, 1996, 112).”  The pervasive attitude of these movements centered on one of the five basic pillars of Islam in that all Muslims should strive to take care of ones less fortunate (Gibb, 1964).  The failure of these governments was seen as “success” for the activities of these alternative movements, and many young people were drawn in (Huntington, 1996).  Bin Laden cognitive map of himself, his religion and his duties allowed him to find comfort in the rise of Islamic Resurgence as a way to meet the needs of not only himself, his family and but others Islamists as well.

The success of Islamist movements in dominating the opposition and establishing themselves as the only viable alternative to incumbent regimes was also greatly helped by the policies of those regimes (Huntington, 1996, 114).


Bin Laden’s ideology, religiosity and association with the Islamic Resurgence created the “bases” for his conflict with the United States and was exacerbated by the Saudi Arabian governments inability to meet the goals of such groups.

In the next section, I will show the “bases” of the United State’s conflict, which adds to why this conflict is classified by Kriesberg as a “dissensual” relationship, in that, the United States and bin Laden have conflict over the method and the end point to bring about political change. Or do they?   

United States

            Similarly, the factors in the “bases” of conflict that the United States, in conjunction with the Saudi government can also be measured through the three components in Kriesberg’s model: “internal factors, social system, and relations between adversaries.”  First, the United States throughout its history has been marred in violence, which is exemplified in its participation in numerous wars, battles and engagements since it was founded in 1776.  Second, since the end of WWII the United States policy makers have conditioned the American public to accept as the status quo antagonistic relationships with our adversaries, and in the last twenty years the United States has had such relationships with North Korea, the Soviet Union through out the Cold-War, Cuba, Iran, and Iraq, to name a few.  Third, the very nature of the United States participation in the international community, and organizations dictate that the policy makers and the American public recognize the legal definition and concept of “States.” This involves recognition of boundaries and territories, despite the fact that many of the borders in the world today were arbitrarily defined after WWI and WWII.  Fourth, Americans cognitive map of the proper method for governance is grounded in the principle that there is a clear separation of church and state.  This implies that governments similar to the United States are the only ones that are successful, and that any country that deviates from this type of governance is ineffective.  Finally, these attitudes towards other countries, religions, foreign policy issues, and crime and punishment manifest itself in a well-defined American culture, and value system, which is found in behavior and socialization attitudes.  This results in the mind-set that anyone not like Americans is seen as inferior and is less likely to receive support from the United States, its policy makers and the general public at large.

            A snapshot of the American ideology since the beginning of its formation can be found in the theory of William Appleman Williams.  Williams supports the hypothesis that American foreign policy is based on the premise that the world wants Western democratic capitalism.  From the very beginning of the concept of the “American Nation” has been an Anglo-American persona bent on the pursuit of the American dream with a goal to promote the power of American business worldwide and to create an environment to promote capitalism (Williams, 1972).  The flaw in this thinking resulted in “elitist” governance throughout its history.  The rise of “elitism” began to develop under President William McKinley after the war with Spain and the “acquisition of the Philippines” and the “military intervention in China”, which was a private decision made by a few politicians in power (Williams, 1972).  Next, came President Theodore Roosevelt’s sole decision to intervene in the “control the Panama canal route” is best summarized by Roosevelt himself as “I took the Canal Zone (Williams, 1972, 6).”  Followed by the activities of President Woodrow Wilson during WWI, in which he independently made the decision to change the “policy on loans to the Allies, and intervening with force against the Bolshevik Revolution (Williams, 1972, 6).”  This type of independent decisions didn’t end with these two presidents, and continued with President Harry S. Truman with a renewed sense of governance by a select few, and “elitism consolidated those gains, and took new ground, during the Korean War crisis of 1950-1952 (Williams, 1972, 7),” which took place after WWII.  The result of these decisions in all three cases was the promotion of democracy at the price of countries less powerful than the United States to ensure big business and economic success (Williams, 1972).  The decisions of the Presidents were not the only secretive programs to foster economic success, in fact,

During those years, moreover, the Central Intelligence Agency enlarged its power and freedom to undertake various self-selected interventionist projects around the world.  It deposed premiers, installed counter-revolutionary governments, and in all probability assassinated various men and women it considered dangerous or troublesome (Williams, 1972, 7).


            This type of activity in world affairs created an environment of bi-polar superpower rivals, and the Soviet Union step up to the plate to protect its interests in Eastern Europe (Williams, 1972).  In real terms the cold war was a conflict between ensuring economic western capitalism and those countries not able to protect themselves (Williams, 1972).  American policy at this time was grounded in three fundamental principles.  First, American’s are genuinely concerned and wanted to help people “solve their problems (Williams, 1972, 13).”  Second, is a “principle of self-determination applied at the international level” that seeks to assist people to overcome their difficulties (Williams, 1972, 13).  Third, the naïve thought that the people of the world are really incapable of accomplishing anything on their own and if they are to be successful they must “go about it in the same way as the United States (Williams, 1972, 13).”   The real problem for the United States and this type of foreign policy is that it has and continues to create an extremely “antagonistic” type of relationship with countries that it involves itself in. 

Other societies come to feel that American policy cause them to lose their economic, political, and even psychological independence…that inclines them to resort to political and economic retaliation, which only intensifies and further complicates a problem that is very complex at the outset (Williams, 1972, 16).


            The United States desired to make other sovereign societies like their own, especially core values, norms and ideologies (Williams, 1972).  This resulted in an “open door policy[12]” with the Soviet Union and led to the onset of the Cold War.  The United States had three basic perceptions, 180 degrees out from the Soviet’s, which manifested itself in a nuclear and economic race against one another (Williams, 1972).  First, the attitude towards the Soviets after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, was that not only were the “Russians weak they were evil” as well (Williams, 1972, 229).  The main purpose of the United States was to keep the Soviets from establishing a “stronghold economically and politically in Eastern Europe (Williams, 1972).”  Second, the United State’s own impression of itself, its societal cognitive map, which was publicly defined by its leaders as “the symbol and the agent of positive good as opposed to the Soviet evil and assumed that the combination of American Strength and Russian weakness made it possible to determine the future of the world in accordance with that judgment (Williams, 1972, 232).”   And finally, paramount to America’s economic success, was based on the outlook that it would “suffer a serious depression if it did not continue to expand overseas (Williams, 1972, 232).”  This attitude was articulated by President Harry S. Truman who stated that:  “Russia would soon be put in their places, and that the United States would then take the lead in running the world in the way that the world ought to be run (Williams, 1972, 240).”

            President Truman did not stop there with his outspoken attitude or policies toward the Soviet Union.  Truman blamed “all the troubles of the world on the Soviet Union and American leaders in and out of government bombarded the American people with a ‘hate the enemy’ campaign rarely seen in our history; never, certainly, in peace time (Williams, 1972, 273).”   Despite attempts by a series of Presidents since the American Revolution to promote its economic and political freedoms and to obtain “sole superpower” status in the international community,

The United States found itself persistently thwarted in its efforts to inspire, lead and reform the world.  This supreme paradox of American history becomes comprehensible when viewed as a direct result of the nation’s concept of itself and the world in terms of open-door expansion.  For American’s weakness in strength was the product of its ideological definition of the world.  The United States not only misunderstood the revolutions in economics, politics, color and anti-colonial nationalism; it asserted that they were wrong or wrong-headed and that they should be opposed in favor of emulation of the American example…by concentrating on the communist so much, for example, American’s under-estimated or discounted such realities as world poverty, the fantastic increase in world populations, western society’s persistent discrimination against other races and ideas, and the continued vigor of man’s ancient urge towards self-definition and creative activity (Williams, 1972, 278, 289).


The attitudes of Truman were passed on to Kennedy and his foreign policy endeavors in the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the war with Vietnam (Williams, 1972).  And, although Williams hypothesis was originally published in 1959, again in 1962 and finally in 1972 and does not address more recent events, his ideas have merit both historically and academically in establishing a pattern of the development of American foreign policy and the attitudes of the American public.  By using his argument in the “bases” of the conflict the United States finds itself with bin Laden and other such enemies, Williams’s argument shows that there is a clear connection with the foundation of American foreign policy and nations that are not Western or American enough. 

Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has found itself as the only superpower in the world.  And, until very recently with the events in China, no other state challenged that role.  The United States and China are at odds with one another over the continued collection of intelligence and the emergency landing of a United States military plane.   These activities have created an adversarial relationship between the respective governments and the American public’s attitudes towards China.  This is not the first conflict since the Cold War that the United States has found itself engaged in, however, the majority have been with other “state” actors, but in the case of bin Laden this seems to be a conflict with a “non-state” actor. 

This particular conflict is not based on the economic differences highlighted by Williams, but a religious one instead.  Religiosity has added a new dimension in conflictual issues found in world events today and the United States has not seemed to respond appropriately to develop policies that incorporate this religious “phenomenon.”  In ideological terms Religious Nationalism as defined by Juergensmeyer is the replacement for the Soviet Union and anti-communism sentiment found during the Cold War.  The attitudes of the American public towards other countries, religions, foreign policy and crimes are a good method for supporting the argument that American’s in general have distrust for others that are not like them. 

Polling data is a good source of information to analyze American public opinion on a variety of issues.  I did not conduct any polling myself, however, several research firms such as the Gallup Poll, Roper Poll, CNN and USA Today have asked questions that are relevant in this study.  I looked at several issues, to include, American’s attitudes towards other countries, religions, crimes, conspiracy theories, and foreign policy.  Overall, American’s are more likely to be supportive of those that are like us.  The survey results will be presented in the graph format.

Table 1: Attitudes towards foreign countries

Source: Gallup Poll (see note 10)

In a survey conducted by the Gallup Poll[13] on 1-4 February 2001 measured American attitudes towards other countries can be best summarized as the top sixteen countries are non-Muslim governments, while the bottom four represent governments that are Muslim.


Table 2: Attitudes towards foreign countries





Source:  iPoll  (see note 11)

            In a survey conducted by Gallup/CNN/USA Today[14] on 20-21 April 2001, American’s were asked whether or not a specific country was considered an ally or not of five countries.  Similar results are found as were found in table one, of the two countries that are not considered an ally, China and Iraq have on-going conflictual governmental relations.


Table 3:  American Attitudes towards Religion




Source:  Princeton Survey Research Associates (see note 12)

            In a survey conducted by Princeton Survey Research[15] on 5-18 March 2001, American’s were asked whether or not they were favorable or not towards a specific religion.  In general American’s have distrust towards religions outside of Christian, Jewish or Orthodox based religions.

Table 4:  American’s support of religious groups applying for governmental funding to provide social services





Source:  Princeton Survey Research Associates (see note 13)

            In the same survey conducted in Table 3[16], the question was asked of whether or not “American’s supported or opposed groups applying for governmental funding to provide social services to people in need.”  Similar results were found as the question of religion.  Only 38% supported Muslim Mosques receiving funding.

 Table 5:  Sympathies in the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict


Source:  Poll Track (see note14)

In a survey conducted by CNN/Gallup/USA Today[17] on 4-6 December 1998, American’s were asked whether or not the United States should support the Israeli’s or the Palestinian side, or take neither.  Although a majority of responded in favor of not taking either side, however, of those that chose a side, 17% supported the Israelis as compared to only 2% supporting the Palestinians. 

Table 6:  Israeli and Palestinian Attitude (10-year period May 88 – Dec 98)


Source:  Poll Track (see note 15)

In the same poll taken in Table 5[18], the question was asked whether or not they were sympathetic to the Israelis or the Palestinians, or neither, and polling data was provided over a ten-year period.  Consistently, with the exception of February 1991, during the Gulf War crisis, overwhelmingly most were more sympathetic to the Israelis then they were towards the Palestinians.

Table 7:  Israeli or Palestinian Sympathies in July 1999

Source:  Poll Track (see note 16)

In a survey conducted by CNN/Gallup/USA Today[19] on 22-25 July 1999, American’s were asked again, whether or not their sympathies were towards the Israelis or Palestinians.  From the date provided in Table 5, a shift from the majority of the people polled not supporting or taking either side, to less than 30%.  The support for the Israelis rose from 17% in the poll in December 1998, to 43% in July 1999.

Table 8: Oklahoma City Bombing and attitudes towards Timothy McVeigh



Source:  Poll Track (see note 17)

In a survey conducted by ABC/Nightline[20] by Chilton Research on 2 June 1997, Americans were asked on their opinion of whether or not Timothy McVeigh should receive they agreed with the guilty verdict or not.  Overwhelmingly, 89% felt that McVeigh was guilty.


Table 9:  Death Penalty attitudes towards Timothy McVeigh




Source:  Poll Track (see note 18)

In the same survey taken in Table 8[21], the question was asked whether or not McVeigh should receive the death penalty for his actions in the Oklahoma bombing, and 67% felt that he should receive the death penality.
Table 10:  Oklahoma City Bombing Responsibility


Source:  Poll Track (see note 19)

In a survey conducted by Yankelovich Partners[22] on 16-18 April 1997, the question was asked whether or not all the people involved in the Oklahoma Federal Building bombing had been captured and identified, over 76% felt that not all those involved had been captured or identified. 
Table 11:  Public Opinion Missile Strikes Against Afghanistan and Sudan




Source:  Poll Track (see note 20)

In a survey conducted by Chilton Research[23] on 20 August 1998, a question was asked whether or not they approved of missiles strikes in response to the US Embassy bombings in Africa, against suspected terrorist sites.  A majority of those polled supported President Clinton’s decision.
Table 12:  Effectiveness of Missile Strikes Against Afghanistan and Sudan


Source:  Poll Track (see note 21)

In a survey conducted by Chilton Research Services[24] on 20 August 1998, the question was asked whether or not the missiles strikes against Sudan and Afghanistan would increase or decrease terrorism.  The results were split between the two sides.  In this same poll the question was asked whether or not they supported the missile attacks, and interestingly 80% support the strikes, even though they felt it might increase terrorism.


Table 13:  Is President Bill Clinton trustworthy to make foreign policy decisions


Source:  Poll Track (see note 22)

In the same survey as Table 12[25], the question was asked whether or not they felt that President Clinton was trustworthy to respond to terrorism in light of the ongoing scandal surrounding the affair with Monica Lewinsky.  A majority of those surveyed felt that President Clinton was trustworthy to respond to terrorism. 


Table 14: Reason for Missile Attacks against Afghanistan and Sudan



Source:  Poll Track (see note 23)

In the same survey as Table 13[26], the question was also asked whether or not they felt he launched the missile strikes in order to fight terrorism or divert attention away from the scandal, over 64% felt that he was attempting to fight terrorism, while only 30% felt he was attempting to divert attention away from the scandal. 


 Table 15:  American Public Opinion whether or not victim of Terrorism

Source:  Poll Track (see note 24)

In a survey conducted by Gallup Poll[27] on 20 August 1998, the question was asked whether or not they worried whether or not they or someone in their family would be the victim of a terrorist act.  Over half, felt not worried, or not worried at all that.  Yet, in the same survey the question was asked whether or not the missile strikes would increase or decrease terrorism against the United States, over 47% felt that there would be an increase in terrorism against the United States.

            When it comes to American attitudes towards other countries, there is a positive correlation between countries that are similar in values and identities, and an unfavorable attitudes towards those countries not similar in value and identities.  When it comes to the question of religion, there is a positive correlation between a favorable attitudes towards religions similar to American’s, and an unfavorable attitude towards non-Christian, Jewish or Orthodox religions.  Likewise, with regards to the events surrounding the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing, a majority of American’s feels that not all were caught and convicted, and that there is a positive correlation to support the attitude of a “conspiracy theory” behind the attack. 

            The whole premise behind including this polling data, is to support one of the questions in my hypothesis that American’s are distrusting of those that are not like us, which leads policy makers to demonize its enemies to fit their cognitive maps of what the world should look like.  This is evident, especially when it comes to individuals that are different from us not only in looks, but in religious attitudes and background as well.  A majority of American’s are extremely distrusting of Muslims in general.   


            The “bases” for the conflict between the United States and bin Laden are grounded in a fundamental difference of ideology, religiosity and the cognitive maps of the individuals and the groups themselves.  These differences have led both groups to develop a well-defined sense of political, religious, and cultural identities.  In the case of bin Laden, his adherence to Islam, coupled with his upbringing, religious training, and life, led him to become involved in a movement to rid another Muslim state from communist rule and that was accomplished, he and other like-minded Islamists sought out to bring about political change[28] starting with Saudi Arabia. 

            Likewise, the United States throughout its entire history was based on the premise that it has the responsibility to be exceptional in world affairs.  This is evident in the development of the general attitude of American’s towards others, and in the way politicians go about making foreign policies towards other countries.  This ethnocentric and elitist approach is the internal factors that have formulated the “bases” of its conflict with bin Laden and the others involved in the Islamic Resurgence movement.  In the next section, I will cover the emergence of this conflict. 

  Chapter III:  Emergence of the Conflict

The measurement of the “emergence” of conflict is based on four conditions that need only be “minimally satisfied”: identity formation, grievance, formation of contentious goals, and ideology (Kriesberg, 1998, 58).  Only when a party to the conflict believes that they have an equal chance at resolving the conflict in accordance with their ideology can the “escalation” phase be avoided (Kriesberg, 1998).  As in the case of the “bases” of the conflict these four conditions are not mutually exclusive, and depending on the conflict one can be more important than the other.  Each will be outlined in detail. 

First, “identity” varies from person to person, is not time dependent, and can be “long enduring.”   This is the case when conflict transcends generations (Kriesberg, 1998).  The key point in understanding the importance of identity is that it involves a conscious-raising event, is relative to the position of the group, is a product of experiences, and is not only a learned behavior but a cognitive one as well (Kriesberg, 1998).  If the group believes that they have suffered an injustice and that they have a legitimate grievance against another group, here is where when the group begins to pull together in identifying the source of the problem and what measures can be taken to change the situation, this can be the group as a whole, or individuals within the group.  (Kriesberg, 1998).  It is not necessary that others outside the group identify the grievance as legitimate, only the group members themselves.  “Grievance” is directly related to identity (Kriesberg, 1998).

Second, “grievance” is measured in the context of the magnitude of the deprivation that the members of the group identify with and what is the source of the deprivation.   If the source of their complaint, inequalities or differences equate to an identifiable adversarial group, the result is the formation of goals that intend to create a conflict with the other group.  Often, the result of the impingements are measured by a of a self-defined injustice and does not have to be recognized outside the group (Kriesberg, 1998).

Third, the move from grievance to “formulation of contentious goals” is a difficult decision for any group that believes that it has a legitimate complaint, and this is where leadership, culture and social system, and the relationship of the adversary of the two opposing group is critical.  A “conflict” that has goals that are more alike in nature are more likely to result in the resolution of the existing conflict.  Whereas, groups that are dissimilar based on structural or socio-psychological differences result in a more enduring, utopian, and apocalyptic agenda.  Finally, the result of the leadership to shape and mobilize the group manifests itself in a clear cut, well-defined ideology that can become highly institutionalized and ritualized, especially in the cases of religious or nationalist conflicts (Kriesberg, 1998).  

These four measurable factors can be found in the current conflict between the United States and bin Laden.  First, are each party’s definition of who they are; their self-awareness and identity, for the United States that definition is “American Superpower”, and for bin Laden, the definition is Arab.  The second issue, centers on the “dissensual” relationship the two parties have with one another.  In the case of the United States and its policy makers, the United States feels that its role is that of “world protector” and “promoter of democracy”, and for bin Laden he sees himself as the “underdog”, and “a devout Muslim that has taken on the role of spokesman and leader” for others associated with his cause, and who can stand up to United States aggression and imperialism that is promotes worldwide (Frontline, 2000).  Third, is the development of their respective goals, the United States develops its terrorism policy as a “denial strategy” and “military supremacy strategy” through the “use of force”, such as the missile attacks against targets in Afghanistan and Sudan.  In the case of bin Laden, his goals are obtained through the “use of force” that equates to his “declaration of war” against the United States, terrorist tactics, and the disruption of peaceful methods for resolving this conflict.  A concept that is worth exploring is the current “denial strategy” of the United States towards terrorism.

Jeremy Ginges identifies two strategies that attempt to deter terrorism, Denial Strategy and Reintegrative Punishment Strategy. The Denial Strategy, specifically an Israeli and US approach, deals with the problem of terrorism in three ways.  First, the government does not negotiate with terrorists, and there will be no open dialog or lines of communication.  Second, governments need “increased police powers (Ginges, 1997)”.  Finally, some governments engage in retaliation against known terrorists or their communities (Ginges, 1997).

 Israel and the United States are two good examples of states that engage in the Denial Strategy.  However, there are two major problems with this approach; it is extremely restrictive and it is unsophisticated.  The US and Israeli governments feel that if they open the lines of  communication they will legitimize the terrorist organization, and that is the last thing these governments want to do.  Instead they would rather ignore the problem or deny that one exists, throw money or massive amounts of missiles/munitions at “the bad guy/nation” and hope that terrorism will go away.   This approach totally ignores the root cause of terrorism.  If a terrorist is caught, then the response is to treat the act as a criminal act, and if the punishment is “certain, swift and severe” it will deter normal “rational” people from committing such act (Ginges, 1997).  There is scientific evidence to show that this approach does not work (Ginges, 1997).  When applied to this conflict between the US and bin Laden it is clear that “denying” there is a problem, and only superficially attempting to resolve the issue by indicting, attempting to arrest, or militarily targeting bin Laden has intensified the conflict and pushed it further along in the conflict model.  In the next two sections I will cover bin Laden and the US’s perspective in the “emergence” of the conflict.

Bin Laden 

 The factors in the “emergence” of conflict that bin Laden has with the United States and the Saudi Arabian government can be measured using Kriesberg’s model.  First, bin Laden’s religious identity is easily measured in his commitment to bringing about political change in Saudi Arabia and other countries.  He has surrounded himself with other like-minded Muslims that are as strong in their convictions as he is.  Second, bin Laden movement, as well as other Islamic Resurgence Movements, have, on numerous occasions, issued statements that vocalize their grievance with the United States, and other governments such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Afghanistan on the premise that those governments are committing atrocities against Islam.  The magnitude of the crisis for many involves the complete destruction of the existing political, social and religious structures of their respective country.  Third, bin Laden stands as an icon and well-respected leader to many Muslims around the world.  US’s actions against him have generated much of his notoriety among Islamists.  And finally, due to bin Laden and the Taliban’s success against communism in Afghanistan, he, like many others, believes that if they could defeat the Soviet Union, at the time one of the most powerful countries in the world, they can also defeat the United States and the West. 

In Chapter 2, I have shown that the connection between bin Laden’s identity and ideology is founded in Islam.  Bin Laden was deeply involved with religion and known Islamists during his early experiences at the University of Jeddah.  This formal university training built on his childhood associations with his father’s many religious contacts and this had a profound “Islamic” effect on bin Laden.  This type of religious environment that bin Laden found himself in was conducive to “imitation, modeling, and reinforcement” in his religious convictions and caused him to associate with like-minded followers.   Kriesberg outlines this type of behavior as:

Conditions that foster emotions and cognitions driving members of social systems to externally directed attacking behavior.  The characteristics include cultural values and norms that foster antagonistic behavior towards members of other social systems; and they include institutions and social structures that engender external conflict (Kriesberg, 1998, 37).


Clearly, bin Laden’s activities in Afghanistan fit the pattern that Kriesberg has identified as the necessary conditions for an individual to express their ideological framework.

Although there is evidence that bin Laden had issued communiqués to the King of Saudi Arabia and his religious circles between 1989 and 1995, I was unable to find anything prior to 1995.  These statements are really the only information that clearly identifies his ideology and his intent.  I believe these statements are the bases for his conflict.  However, his conflict is only part of the problem as the US has interpreted them and further escalated the conflict without much analysis or attempts to de-escalate the conflict (Kriesberg, 1998).   In April 1995, in an interview with a French journalist, bin Laden describes his fight with the Taliban against the Soviets.  Bin Laden states that they were not his only targets:

For us, the idea was not to get involved more than necessary in the fight against the Russians, which was the business of the Americans, but rather to show our solidarity with our Islamist brothers.  I discovered that it was not enough to fight in Afghanistan, but that we had to fight on all fronts against communist or Western oppression.  The urgent thing was communism, but the next target was America…This is an open war up to the end, until victory (Frontline, 2000).


The war with the Soviets was seen as the first time that the Muslim people had been victorious against the one of the two evils, first, communism and second, the West, and would provide strength in their future activities.  Later that year, bin Laden openly criticized the King and the Saudi government and accused the King of “lack of commitment to Sunni Islam, inability to conduct a viable defense, and squandering of public funds and oil money (Frontline, 2000.)”  Bin Laden called for a “guerilla war” to rid the peninsula of US forces.  Shortly thereafter, he issued another statement, and the result was an attack on the Saudi National Guard compound where five US personnel were killed.  Within months of that attack, a massive truck bomb was detonated in front of Khobar towers, a US Military Housing Compound, killing twenty-four US personnel.  Bin Laden issued an interview shortly afterwards stating that these two attacks were:  “ The result of American behavior against Muslims, its support of Jews in Palestine, and the massacre of Muslims in Palestine and Lebanon (ADL Backgrounder, 1998).” 

            On July 10, 1996, bin Laden issued a statement to a British newspaper and claimed the attack on the American forces was necessary to help drive them out of Saudi Arabia: 

The ordinary man knows that SA is the largest oil producer in the world, yet at the same time is suffering from taxes and bad services.  Now the people understand the speeches of the ulemas in the mosques—that our country has become an American colony.  They act decisively with every action to kick the Americans out of Saudi Arabia.  What happened in Riyadh and Dhahran when 24 Americans were killed in two bombings is clear evidence of the huge anger of Saudi people against America.  The Saudis now know their real enemy is America (Frontline, 2000).  


Although bin Laden may not have directly ordered the attack on either the National Guard Headquarters in Riyadh, or Khobar towers, his espoused ideology and fatwa’s incited like-minded Islamists that believed in the same call to an Islamic Nation (Huband, 1999).  An important factor that is known about the bombing in Riyadh in 1995 is that the four men that the Saudi Arabian government tried and executed were former soldiers of the Mujahedeen, and fought with bin Laden in Afghanistan for at least three years (Jane’s Sentinel Security Assessment, 2001).  The four to six members of this group were all under the age of 25, not employed and had secondary or religious schooling.  They formed their group in September 1995, and two months later attacked the site at the Saudi National Guard Compound (Jane’s Sentinel Security Assessment, 2001).  During Dr. Fagih’s interview with Frontline he concludes:

Well, the Saudis did not say he’s involved…I think that Saudis don’t like to say he’s involved because they don’t want to give him credit…it was proof that a man can do what he claims he can do.  He did it.  It was an actual incident.  There was a bomb.  There was Americans killed.  And then it happened again in Khobar…it happened twice.  So it was very significant.  So this man has the role and has the eagerness but also has the capacity to do the job.  Now, he has not said that he is behind the bombings, 100 percent.  But all the circumstances lead to the belief that he is indirectly or directly responsible for those two incidents (Frontline, 2000).


            Bin Laden was forced to leave Sudan because of US and Saudi pressure on the Sudanese government.  Soon after his expulsion, bin Laden issued one of his most important statements, known as the “Declaration of War Against the Americans Who Occupy the Land of the Two Holy Mosques (MSANews, 1996).”  The text is over twelve pages long, and bin Laden himself best summarizes his conflict and the bases of his conflict:

Muslims burn with anger at America.  For its own good, America should leave Saudi Arabia…there is no more important duty than pushing the American enemy out of the Holy Land… The presence of the USA Crusader Military forces on land, sea, and air of the states of the Islamic Gulf is the greatest danger threatening the largest oil reserve in the world.  The existence of these forces in the area will provoke the people of the country and induces aggression on their religion, feelings and prides and pushes them to take up armed struggle against the invader occupying the land…Due to the imbalance of power between our armed forces and the enemy forces, a suitable means of fighting must be adopted i.e. using fast-moving, light forces that work under complete secrecy.  In other words, to initiate a guerilla war, where the sons of nations, and not the military forces, take part in it (MSANews, 1996).


Soon after issuing his “Ladenese Epistle,” he conducted an interview with Nida’ul Islam magazine.   Bin Laden reiterated his feeling towards the US and the Saudi Arabian governments:  

As for their accusations of terrorizing the innocent, the children and the women, these are in the category of accusing others with their own affliction in order to fool the masses.  The evidence overwhelmingly shows the Americans and Israeli killing the weaker men, women and children in the Muslim world and elsewhere.  A few examples of this are seen in the recent Qana massacre in Lebanon, and the death of more than 600,000 Iraqi children because of the shortages of food and medicine which resulted from the boycotts and sanctions against the Muslim Iraqi people, also their withholding of arms from the Muslims of Bosnia-Herzegovina leaving them prey to the Christian Serbians that massacred and raped in a manner not seen in contemporary history.  Not to forget the dropping of H-bombs on cities with their entire populations of children, elderly, and women, on purpose, and in a premeditated manner as was the case with Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Nida’ul Islam, 1996).


Magnus Ranstorp, attempted to understand and explain bin Laden’s meaning behind his interviews and statements.  He concludes that these ‘fatwa’ are:

Calculated decisions to maximize both the distribution of his message among broader segments of the Muslim community…is illustrative of bin Laden’s general political astuteness and awareness of local, regional and global issues…Bin Laden has forged tactical alliances with other ‘like-minded’ mainstream as well as radical Islamic groups (Ranstorp, 1998).”  


In the article Ranstorp includes bin Laden’s latest fatwa that he issued with four other known Islamic groups: 

The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies—civilians and military – it is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it, in order to liberate the al-Aqsa Mosque and the holy mosque (Mecca) from their grip, and in order for their armies to move out of all the lands of Islam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslim (Ranstorp, 1998).


Sheikh Mir Hamzah, the leader of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Pakistan, which is considered to be a “mainstream Islamic movement;” was one of the signatories to the fatwa and in addition to the fatwa a new movement was named:  The International Islamic Front for Jihad Against the Jews and Crusaders (Ranstorp, 2001).  Excerpts from bin Laden’s fatwa include the following important statements:

For over seven years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and turning its bases in the Peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples…despite the great devastation inflicted on the Iraqi people by the Crusader-Zionist alliance, and the huge number of those killed, which has exceeded one million…despite all this, the Americans are once again trying to repeat the horrific massacres, as though they are not content with the protracted blockade imposed after the ferocious war or the fragmentation and devastation.  So here they come to annihilate what is left of this people and to humiliate their Muslim neighbors…if the American’s aims behind these wars are religious and economic the aim is also to serve the Jew’s petty state and divert attention from its occupation of Jerusalem and murder of Muslims there.  The best proof of this is their eagerness to destroy Iraq, the strongest neighboring Arab state, and their endeavor to fragment all the states of the region…into paper statelets and through their disunion and weakness to guarantee Israel’s survival and the continuation of the brutal Crusade occupation of the peninsula…the ruling to kill the Americans and their allies—civilians and military—is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it, in order to liberate the al-Asqa mosque and the Holy Mosque (Mecca) from their grip, and in order for their armies to move out of all the lands of Islam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslims (Ranstorp, 2001).


Six months after the “declaration of war” was issued, two embassies were bombed in Africa, exactly eight years to the date that US troops entered Saudi Arabia.  The attacks on Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam left hundreds dead, including twelve Americans.  Although bin Laden was in Afghanistan the US has since linked and indicted bin Laden in US Federal Court, as the mastermind behind the attack (Frontline, 2000). 

            Bin Laden has since given several other interviews, all with the same theme and message; a united Arab nation based on Shari’ a law, the return of the Al-Asqa Mosque from Israel and the US presence out of Saudi Arabia.  The undertones of bin Laden’s message is two-fold.  First, that not only does he want US forces out of Saudi Arabia, he is advocating the removal of the King of Saudi Arabia, to be replaced by a leader, government and legal system similar to Iran’s Islamic theocracy (Bodansky, 1999).  Second, bin Laden is calling for the destruction of the US and Israeli coalition which includes the destruction of the State of Israel (Ranstorp, 2001).   The bases for his conflict with the US and Saudi Arabia are quite clear, as long as US forces occupy[29] the lands of Saudi Arabia and that the Holy Mosque in Jerusalem remain in the hands of Israel, he will continue to call for “jihad” against both the US and Israel.   The US has responded to these terrorist activities on several occasions by attempting to kill bin Laden, and his fighters in Afghanistan by launching several cruise missile attacks on their camps (ABCNEWS Website).  The US was unsuccessful and immediately after the last attack in 1998, bin Laden made another statement that he was still alive and well, but several of his fellow soldiers were killed.  The US’s action only intensified bin Laden’s activities.  In fact, he publicly acknowledged to John Miller of ABC during an interview, that he is attempting to gain access to weapons of mass destruction to be used in his jihad against the US; “if I seek to acquire such weapons, this is a religious duty.  How we use them is up to us (Frontline, 2000).”

            Using Kriesberg’s model for conflict, my analysis is bin Laden has defined the bases for his conflict with the US and Israel.  He has issued statement after statement with regard to his ideology and his intent.  Obviously religion is the foundation of bin Laden’s identity, ideology, and cognitive outlook towards non-Muslims.  Bin Laden’s identity has taken on a series of conscious raising events, and by doing so he has informed not only his followers, but also the world of his position.   An analysis of bin Laden’s publicly stated identity has resulted in a set of well-defined published grievances that contain formulated goals, and a specific ideology that he shares with a nation, an Islamic nation.  Samuel Huntington highlights the importance in understanding the “Islamic Resurgence:”

This Islamic Resurgence, in its extent and profundity is the latest phase in the adjustment of Islamic civilization to the West, an effort to find the ‘solution’ not in Western ideologies but in Islam.  It embodies acceptance of modernity, rejection of Western culture, and recommitment to Islam as the guide to life in the modern world…as a top Saudi official explained…foreign imports are nice…but intangible social and political institutions imported from elsewhere can be deadly—ask the Shah of Iran…Islam for us is not just a religion but a way of life…Islamic Resurgence is the effort by Muslims to achieve this goal…the Resurgence is mainstream not extremist, pervasive not isolated (Huntington, 1996, 110).


This “Islamic Resurgence” movement is taking shape across Asia and Africa, from Algeria to Indonesia, in countries that have an active Muslim population.  These movements include well-known groups such as the Muslim of Brotherhood, al-Jamaa al-Islamiyya, and various unknown groups with ties to terrorist activities.  Who then, are the people attracted to bin Laden’s movement and why?  Are those involved in his call to arms from one country or is there a connection in his original activities in Afghanistan?  Is there a divergence of the Shi’ite population of countries such as Iran, and Iraq that have forged their espoused ideological differences?  Do these other groups play an important role in carrying out bin Laden’s fatwa against the US and Israel?  Due to the scope of this paper I will concentrate on two countries, Afghanistan, and  Egypt.  Although, similar movements and activities can be found in other countries to include: Indonesia, the Philippines, Sudan, Algeria, Lebanon, and Israel.

The first movement and country to consider is the role of Afghanistan in this conflict.  Thousands of Arab fighters from outside of Afghanistan fought during the war against the Soviets.  The camps established by bin Laden and other Muslims promoted the idea of “pan-Islamic” resurgence that spread from Algeria to Indonesia (Labeviere, 2000).  Bin Laden, as well as other Islamists such as Azzam, felt that it was “their obligation” to create an armed struggle against “un-Islamic” regimes to bring a return of the establishment of the Khilafah (Bodansky, 1999).  As stated early in the paper, bin Laden recruited thousands of fighters from these countries to participate in the war, and once the war was over many returned to their original countries only to find themselves in what Ted Gurr would call “aspirational deprivation.”  This was caused by many of the fighters finding hope that they could also achieve Muslim Government in their own countries (Rashid, 1999). 

Despite the Taliban’s insular nature, bin Laden and the current leader of the Taliban, Omar Massoud, struck up a friendship during bin Laden’s early years in Afghanistan.   There is no indication that either is threatened by the other’s presence.  In fact, the Taliban has continued to provide bin Laden a safe haven during his exile from Saudi Arabia, and there is no indication that the UN, the US, or any type of sanctions to turn bin Laden over to the US will influence them (Frontline Report, 2000). 

Striking up a friendship with Omar, the Taliban Chief, bin Laden moved to Omar’s base in Kandahar in early 1997.  Bin Laden reunited and rearmed Arab militants still remaining in Afghanistan after the war against the Soviets…recent Taliban statements reflect a bin Laden-style outrage, defiance, and pan-Islamism that the Taliban had never used before his arrival (Rashid, 1999).


These movements, and their respective leaders, seem to be drawn to this grassroots attempt at bring about political change to their current governments.  Although a majority of them served in Afghanistan with bin Laden, in some fashion, there does not seem to be a clear “hierarchy” that the United States insists that exists that bin Laden is the mastermind behind all of these groups (Huband, 1999). 

According to Jane’s Sentinel, several other countries, to include Egypt, have groups opposed to its secular style of governance. 

It is likely that there would have been Islamic eruptions whether or not there had been Arab veterans of the Afghan war or not.  But what is undeniable is that these combat experienced zealots have given the fundamentalists a powerful arm that they would not otherwise have had (Jane’s Intelligence Review, April 1995).


Egypt has been embroiled in a fight with several hundred Egyptian “guerilla” fighters who fought in the Afghan war along side bin Laden (Frontline Report, 2000).   Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, a known Islamic spiritual leader and known member of the al-Jamaa al-Islamiyya movement against the state of Egypt, stated in his 1985 autobiography:

The state allows adultery and creates the opportunity for it, the state organized nightclubs and prepared special police to protect adulterers and prostitutes.  Liquor factories are built by the state.  Doesn’t this deny Gods laws (Heyman, 1998)? 


Rahman’s group took their “religion seriously” and used it for the “framework for social change” in their belief of Islam and their interpretation of both the Koran and of the Shari ‘a (Taylor, and Quayle, 1994).  The assassination of President Anwar Sadat on 6 October 1981, by two groups of the al-Jihad Group, Rahman and Mohammed Abd al-Salem Faraj’s group, both felt that they were cleansing Egypt from the non-Islamic forces that had polluted their country and government (Taylor, and Quayle, 1994).  They felt that Egypt had denied God’s law, and that the government should be held responsible.   In the words of an Islamic activist:

Political violence is a reaction.  It is not an action against some other incident… Abbud al-Zumur and his followers are committed to debate for the good of the country, and to prevent bloody violence.  But oppression is the main policy of the (Egyptian) Government.  These violent actions are a reaction (Taylor, and Quayle, 1994, 180).


The connect between bin Laden and Rahman occurred when the Taliban hosted Rahman in Jalalabad, and one of Rahman’s sons fought along side of bin Laden during the early 1990s and “were believed to have established bases in Afghanistan from which to conduct campaigns elsewhere (Huband, 1999, 14).” 

The momentum of these groups, whose ties go back to Afghanistan and their association with bin Laden, gained speed after the end of the Soviet invasion.  Those that had fought during became motivated in the cause, and emerged from their experiences in Afghanistan charged with political change. These types of organizations are clearly alienated from their governments, and take action that they feel is necessary to facilitate their beliefs, ideas and causes.  They believe that they are “chosen” to change the social and political structure of their society through a legitimate political process.  And although it goes against the mainstream of society, they feel that they are the cutting age of what the masses really want and need (Huband, 1999).   

The “pan-Arab movement,” the desire to use the “Iranian theocracy” as a model and overall discontent with the current political structures in their own respective countries, are a few examples of the connection between those who fought in Afghanistan and bin Laden’s movement.  In the majority of the countries with a large Islamic population, the rise of “Islamic Resurgence” has become a way of life and many are drawn bin Laden’s cause because he provides the voice for the world to hear.  Although they may not receive direct orders from bin Laden, they too are in engaged in a conflict within their own countries because of their experiences in the war.  Bin Laden has given them the necessary ideological framework to mobilize and attempt to bring about change within their governments. 

United States

Similarly, the factors in the “emergence” of the conflict that the United States has with bin Laden and the other Islamic Resurgence Movements can be measured using Kriesberg’s model.  First, the United States, its policy makers, and the general public, as shown in Chapter 2, truly believe that they alone are responsible to bring about peace and stability in the world.  This has led Presidents and policy makers since the inception of the United States, to create an identity based on this premise.  Second, the United States does not recognize states that it classifies as rogue states, or non-state actors such as bin Laden, the Ayatollah, or Fidel Castro, and goes to great lengths to publicly humiliate and destroy them in the international community.  As shown in Chapter 2, the United States and general public have this attitude towards those countries and individuals that are different politically, socially, culturally, and religiously.  Third, based on these types of attitudes the United States and its policy makers go out of their way to form adversarial relationships and aggressive foreign policies towards those countries not like them.  And finally, the United States believes that bin Laden is the leader of a well-financed, well-organized group that is set in the destruction of America, and that if they simply remove him from the equation, in whatever way, that the movement will end.  However, this type of redress with its adversaries is unrealistic and naïve.  The United States, its administration, and general public must consider the differences in culture and religion and begin to formulate a foreign policy that attempts to minimize these types of conflict, instead of escalating them.

            As stated in the introduction, the United States ordered a series of military air strikes against targets in Afghanistan and Sudan, 20 August 1998, two weeks after the Kenya and Tanzania Embassy bombings.  And, despite the strong support of the American public as shown in the polling data from Chapter 2, the success of the response is questionable, and perhaps has caused the conflict to escalate further.  In Afghanistan, over thirty missiles fell on a camp associated with bin Laden, killing twenty-one people, of which fifteen had “alleged” ties with bin Laden and his movement (ABCNEWS Website).  The sentiment of those living near the camps is remarkably the same as bin Laden, and “are more determined than ever to stand up to the United States (ABCNEWS Website).” 

            Regarding the bombing of the pharmaceutical plant in Sudan, ABCNEWS investigated a report that the United States might have targeted the wrong site.  In an interview, the owner of the plant, Salal Idris, stated that “one can understand the legitimate right of the U.S. government to go after terrorists and to control terrorism…but they need to have legitimate targets.  I am not the right target (ABCNEWS Website).”  Idris denies that he has ever met with bin Laden, works for him, or knowingly worked with any of his agents (ABCNEWS Website).  In addition, the United States Defense Intelligence Agency has conducted an investigation into the soil samples taken from the plant, and concluded that it was the “wrong target based on bad information (ABCNEWS Website).”  Idris and his lawyers conducted their own investigation, and had soil samples taken from various sites around the plant, and three independent laboratories concluded that there was no chemical being produced that contained the deadly nerve agent that was reportedly being produced there (ABCNEWS Website). 

            In a 150-page indictment, United States Attorney Mary Jo White has charged Usama Bin Laden[30], along with sixteen others, with 308 various counts to include over 200 counts of murder, for their alleged activities in the two embassy bombings and other events worldwide.  Calling the activities of this group: “an international terrorist group…dedicated to opposing non-Islamic governments with force and violence (FBI Website).”  Although only four of the total charged in the indictment have been extradited to the United States and put on trial.  The four were found guilty, and are awaiting sentencing for their participation in the US Embassy bombings.  FBI Director Louis Freeh praised the work of Mary Jo White and the federal law enforcement agents that participated in the investigation and subsequent verdict in the trial (FBI Website).

            Although the official transcripts of the trial and the evidence presented is not yet available, I was able to obtain a copy of the indictment, and will provide a summary and analysis of its contents.

Suffice to say, that a majority of the information presented in the indictment is unsubstantiated and uncorroborated in the actual indictment itself.   What it does show is the American “identity”, and the “grievance” towards terrorism and religious movements.  Interestingly in the second paragraph the District Attorney lays out four primary reasons for bringing the case forward:

Al Qaeda opposed the United States for several reasons.  First, the United States was regarded as ‘infidel’ because it was not governed in a manner consistent with the group’s extremist interpretation of Islam.  Second, the United States was viewed as providing essential support for other ‘infidel’ governments and institutions, particularly the governments of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the nation of Israel and the United Nations organization, which were regarded as enemies of the group.  Third, al Qaeda opposed the involvement of the United States armed forces in the Gulf War in 1991 and in Operation Restore Hope in Somalia in 1992 and 1993, which were viewed by al Qaeda as pretextual preparations for an American occupation of Islamic countries.  In particular, al Qaeda opposed the continued presence of American military forces in Saudi Arabia following the Gulf War.  Fourth, al Qaeda opposed the United States Government because of the arrest, conviction and imprisonment of persons belonging to al Qaeda or its affiliated terrorist groups or with whom it worked, including Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman (FBI Website Indictment).    


The entire document is based on these four statements, and presents evidence to support the primary fact that bin Laden is the leader of a “conspiracy” and “well-organized”, “extremist group” whose goal is to “unlawfully, willfully and knowingly combined, conspired, confederated and agreed to kill nationals of the United States (Indictment).”  The “overt acts” taken to accomplish this contained over 200 examples of the activities those charged have taken in order to carry out their activities.  Many of the examples provided are in part due to activities taken by the United States itself in its “cold-war” against the Soviets in the early part of 1980. 

First, the issue of the base camps and the purpose for establishing them are considered part of the “conspiracy”.  In addition part two of the charges include the idea that these camps where used to train members of al Qaeda.  “At various times from at least early as 1989, the defendant…providing training camps and guesthouses in various areas, including Afghanistan…for the use of al Qaeda and its affiliated groups…Mamdouh Mahmud Salim managed some of these training camps and guesthouses (Indictment).”  A point not brought out in this indictment is the United States involvement initially in the establishment of these sites (Huband, 1999).  It has been established by various sources that the United States Central Intelligence Agency had provided not only money and training to establish these sites in Afghanistan and Pakistan, they had encouraged these groups to fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan from early 1977 (Huband, 1999).  “Support for the Afghan Mujahideen was a key element in this strategy, coinciding with the U.S. determination to actively confront the Soviet forces through surrogates.  American and Saudi financial assistance…where channeled through Pakistani Intelligence…where the Afghan parties had their headquarters in exile (Huband, 2000, 9).”

Second, the indictment charges that the defendants “engaged in financial and business transactions on behalf of al Qaeda” that provided money to purchase military equipment and explosives (Indictment).  During 1980 to 1985, the United States provided in excess of $250 million dollars in aid to the Mujahideen in “Operation Cyclone (Huband, 1999).”  This figure reached over $1 billion dollars from 1986 to the Soviet’s withdrawal in 1989 (Huband, 1999).  “The United States also began supplying the Mujahideen with shoulder-held, laser-guided Stinger missiles (Huband, 2000, 10).”   The Mujahideen would not have been successful without the support of both the United States and Saudi Arabia.  Saudi Arabia matched dollar for dollar during this time and encouraged men, including bin Laden, to participate in the war against the Soviets (Huband, 1999).  This created a “social movement” that the United States decided that it was no longer convenient to be part of (Huband, 1999).

The entire indictment follows the same theme, and although the four defendants that have been convicted did participate in the bombings of the Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, it is my assessment that the “conspiracy theory” presented with regards to bin Laden and his associates is just that, a conspiracy theory, crafted in the context that puts the American public at ease that the “evil” terrorists will be punished.  In Chapter 2, I highlighted the polling data in regards to whether or not American’s feel that during their lifetime they will ever be a target of terrorism, and over 70% were not worried about it (Roper Poll).  The American general public attitude can also be found in the United States foreign policy towards the Middle East as well. 

An example of this is found in the “imbalances in favor of Israel” over the Palestinians, both in the policies of the United States and its influence over resolutions in the Security Council (Huband, 1999).  As highlighted by William Applemen Williams, the policy towards the Middle East region, is one grounded in an economic double standard and results in them “feeling that they are being harmed rather than helped (Williams, 1972, 15).  This type of policy has since continued, and is a “feigned equanimity” in that the US policies towards Israel are less imposing, compared to the policies towards the Palestinians (Huband, 2000.)  Israel is authorized under Resolution 242, in the name of peace, any means necessary, including nuclear weapons, to instill peace and security in the region (Huband, 1999).  American policy makers have a clear agenda with their policies in the region and are exemplified in this resolution to allow Israel, which most Americans and policy makers consider to be more like them. 

Another example of this double standard is the economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations, at the request of the United States, against Iraq.  The success of these sanctions against the Iraqi government can best be described in their child mortality rates, which has risen from “3.7 to 12 per cent” since pre-Gulf War (Huband, 2000, 167).   Apparently, the sanctions have only had an effect on the population and not the Saddam Hussein, or the government of Iraq.  In Huband’s book, Edward Said is quoted as saying:

It would be a mistake, I think, to reduce what is happening between Iraq and the United States simply to an assertion of Arab will and sovereignty versus American imperialism, which undoubtedly plays a central role in all this.  However misguided Saddam Hussein’s cleverness is not that he is splitting America from its allies, but that he is exploiting the astonishing clumsiness and failures of U.S. foreign policy (Huband, 2000, 171).


International opinion does not support the United States foreign policy in either of these cases, and was denounced by “Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman during an Arab league meeting in January 1999 (Huband, 2000, 178).”  The United States policy makers inability to recognize that they are not objective when it comes to the policies in the Middle East through the “formulation of their goals” is adding fuel to the fire for Islamic Resurgence Movements, and bin Laden.  


The importance of understanding both the structural and socio-psychological conditions of conflict formulates the bases and emergence of bin Laden and his movement, as well as the United States.  The conflict between the United States and bin Laden is centered on religion, and the cognitive maps of each individual and the group as a whole.  What we have is a fundamental ideological difference in the goals of each group, and neither is willing to change their position.  One is based on the individual, which violates the principles of the other, which is opposed to individual needs at the expense of the group (Juergensmeyer, 1993).  These ideological differences will be hard to overcome and are “deep and abiding” (Juergensmeyer, 197).  In this case, both sides are unwilling to accept the other’s beliefs, and are extremely intolerant of each other, which has resulted in violence.  In the case of bin Laden, he is attempting to create a system of politics and religion that works for people that share his views.

They are creating something new: a synthesis between religion and the secular state, a merger between cultural identity and legitimacy of old religiously sanctioned monarchies and the democratic spirit and organizational unity of modern industrial society.  This combination can be incendiary, for it blends the absolution of religion with the potency of modern politics.  Yet it may also be necessary, for without the legitimacy conferred by religion, the democratic process does not seem to work in some parts of the world.  In these places, it may be necessary for the essential elements of democracy to be conveyed in the vessels of new religious states (Juergensmeyer, 1993, 202).


Likewise, in the case of the United States, it is attempting to hold onto its secular form of governance.  There in lies the root of the problem.

            Whether or not bin Laden is ultimately responsible for the bombings of OPSANG, Khobar Towers, the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, or the attack on the U.S.S Cole, is not the source of his activities or those Islamists associated with him.  Understanding this conflict in the context in which it is founded is the dimension in which both parties must come to terms with in order to bring this conflict to the de-escalation phase.  These two—very different—cultures and ideologies are bound to be conflictual.  Just as it is the responsibility of the US and its policy makers to understand bin Laden and his political and cultural requirements, it is also bin Laden’s responsibility to understand the US and Saudi Arabia’s position in world affairs.  Without this understanding, the conflict will continue in the next phase that Kriesberg identifies as the “escalation” phase (Kriesberg, 1998).  The “escalation” phase is exactly where we find this conflict in and will for some time until the two parties find common ground to resolve their differences.

Chapter 4:  Escalation of the Conflict

The key to understanding and defining the “escalation” phase of conflict is simple, if you have violence, then you are in “escalation” (Kriesberg, 1998).  The measurement then becomes two-fold: scope and severity (Kriesberg, 1998).  “Scope” is the adversaries’ attitudes towards one another, and can be measured by hostility and hatred (Kriesberg, 1998).  It is increased participation by the members associated with the group.  The strength of the scope can be measured in the number of those participating or associating with the entire movement such as those attracted to the “Islamic Resurgence movement” and not just bin Laden.  It is clear that in the case of bin Laden and this conflict, that he is not alone and that a number of other parties and groups are involved.  Take for instance the kidnapping of twenty tourists in the Philippines in May 2001, by members of an “Islamic Resistance Movement” in the Philippines, a rebel group with “alleged” ties with bin Laden (ABC News Website).  Yet, the very nature of the action shows that more and more people are attracted to bin Laden’s ideology, and the number of conflicting issues is expanding (Kriesberg, 1998).  Bin Laden’s increased public statements are more acrimonious each time and in turn, the United States responds by increasing the reward, and increasing the number of people wanted in connection with bin Laden, who may or may not really have an active association with bin Laden. 

There are several structural factors that are clearly identifiable in the escalation phase of this conflict which include political and economic sanctions.  These factors have resulted in the United States Judicial Branch’s indictment of bin Laden and his associates in the Second District Federal Court in New York for the two embassy bombings in Africa, and the recent indictment of fourteen individuals in United States Eastern District Court for the Khobar Tower’s bombing (FBI Website).  Another factor in the escalation phase is the United States Ambassador to the United Nations has pushed the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions against Sudan and Afghanistan in hopes that this will induce the governments to turn bin Laden over to the United States (Huband, 1999).  However, this type of continued pressure only leads to reactions by bin Laden’s movement to take on more severe and frequent violent activities and renewed sense in their cause.  I will analyze both bin Laden and the United States action in the escalation phase.

Bin Laden


The “phenomenon” of bin Laden, his movement and the United State’s response indicate that these two groups are clearly in the escalation phase of Kriesberg’s conflict model.  Each time bin Laden issues a fatwa or edict, fellow Muslims around the world are motivated to take action.  Although bin Laden may not be directly involved in the action, his ideology affects those who are experiencing similar relative deprivation in their current situation.  Bin Laden and his followers are motivated by their interpretation of the Koran.  Right or wrong, their interpretation leads them to take action that has manifested itself in violent action against the United States, and other countries (Kriesberg, 1998). 

Bin Laden clearly wants the United States out of Saudi Arabia, and the return of the mosque in Jerusalem. Until the United States and Israel adhere to this request bin Laden will continue to engage in behavior to encourage them to listen to his demands.  This is in direct conflict to what the United States and Israel believes is in their best interest.  The United States refuses to discuss these issues with bin Laden because they do not recognize him as a leader of any nation and United States public policy demands that we will not “negotiate” with any known or identified terrorist (Quoted in United States State Department).  In addition to bin Laden’s grievance with the United States, Saudi Arabia is the target of bin Laden’s conflict as well, and he believes that the King has “mismanaged the country, and turned the people against Islam and Shari’ a law and has called for a return to Islam (Frontline, 2000).”  The Saudi government responded by denouncing his citizenship and freezing his assets (Frontline, 2000). 

In a recent interview with Time Magazine immediately after the United States bombed Iraq in February 2001, bin Laden broke his silence that had been requested by the government in Afghanistan.  Again, he called for “jihad” against the United States and Israel in order to liberate the holy sites and rid the Arabian peninsula of the “Crusader forces.”  A new message has appeared in his interview:

Winds of change have blown in order to lift the injustice to which the world is subjected by America and its supporters and the Jews who are collaborating with them.  Look at what is happening these days in Indonesia, where Suharto, a despot who ruled for 30 years was overthrown.  During his reign, the media glorified him, depicting him as the best president.  The media in Arab countries, regrettably, is doing the same these days.  But things will change.  The time will come, sooner than later, when criminal despots who betrayed God and His Prophet, and betrayed their trust and their nations, will face the same fate…Fighting is part of our religion and our Shari’ a…Those who sympathize with the infidels—such as the PLO in Palestine, or the so-called Palestinian Authority—have been trying for tens of years to get back some of their rights.  They laid down arms and abandoned what is called violence and tried peaceful bargaining.  What did the Jews give them? They did not give them even 1% of their rights..Osama Bin Laden is confident that the Islamic nation will carry out its duty (Time Interview, 2001).


            In response to the conviction of the four individuals that were found guilty for the Embassy bombings in Africa, bin Laden in a “recruitment video” taunts the United States over the attack on the U.S.S Cole (CBS News).  Although bin Laden does not take responsibility for the attack he states “we thank God for granting us victory the day we destroyed the Cole in the sea (CBS News).”  Bin Laden initially starts the video by reciting a poem:  “and in Aden, they charged and destroyed that fearsome people fear, and one that evokes horror when it docks and when it sails (CBC News).” 

So where does that leave us?  Is the “phenomenon” of bin Laden, the self-appointed leader of his newly formed International Islamic Front for Jihad Against the Jews and Crusaders a group with a legitimate conflict?  If so, what other constituent groups might play a role in this conflict?  Are the leaders of those groups threatened by bin Laden and his activities?  Are other legally recognized states at risk, as was the case when the Ayatollah Khomeini[31] motivated students, the ulama and others in Iran into a revolution that ultimately led to the fall of the Shah in Iran (Munson, 1988).  Is Osama bin Laden a dilettante?  Or, are his activities and involvement of the alleged terrorism that has been linked to him by the United States government valid?  Or is he a true leader, and in reality, the mastermind behind all of the violence?  It would appear that he is using the US and its zealousness in his capture to capitalize on the momentum of the people? 

Bin Laden, is not alone in the escalation phase of this conflict.  Each time the United States takes action, he responds by inciting fellow Muslims that believe in his ideology and his cause.  He may or may not be the person that makes the ultimate decisions that lead to violent activities by others associated in his political and religious ideology.  The scope of his conflict reaches thousands, if not millions of like-minded Muslims, and the severity of the conflict, has caused hundreds to lose their lives.  Clearly, bin Laden’s escalation on his part can be measured according to Kriesberg’s model.  Next, I will examine the United States actions in escalating this conflict.

United States


The response of the United States and Saudi Arabia: to treat bin Laden as a criminal and avoiding any type of diplomacy with him, further pushes the conflict into a continued escalation.  The United States reaction has created a zero sum relationship with bin Laden.   This lack of any form of communication between the United States and bin Laden has created a situation in which both parties have nothing to lose and everything to gain by continuing their fight with each another (Kriesberg, 1998).

In a special report issued by Rand, Bruce Hoffman describes the current policy of the United States towards terrorism as a strategy of economic and military sanctions.  He concludes that the policy has not prevented attacks from occurring.  He goes further by pointing out that the United States might not need larger budgets and more resources dedicated to the prevention of terrorism, but a more coherent, clear-cut, well thought out policy that has an appreciation of the threat and of those behind the activities (Rand Website).  Hoffman, like Kriesberg, feels that perhaps taking military action, or indicting terrorists have the opposite effect on the activities of the terrorist, in fact, “as satisfying or cathartic as retaliating against terrorism may be, it can have the opposite effect:  provoking an escalation rather than curtailing terrorist attacks (Rand).”  Hoffman highlights this with the example of the effectiveness of using military air strikes against Libya in the early 80’s, and concludes that it was probably the catalysis that provoked the Pan Am 103 attack a few years later (Rand).

Hoffman concludes that the “long reliance on the use of military force and economic sanctions to counter terrorism”, might be effective against “state” terrorism, but has little effect on terrorists such as bin Laden as they are not reliant on a state for any support, in fact, can move from country to country with minimal effort.  In addition, they normally have the support of the community in which they reside, which is the case for bin Laden, and the more defiant he is with regards to the United States, the added martyr status, additional followers and attention worldwide he gains. 

There is a thin line between prudence and panic.  A prerequisite to ensuring that the U.S. resources are focused where they can have the most effect is a sober and empirical understanding of the terrorist threat, coupled with comprehensive and coherent strategy (Rand).  


            In response to the guilty verdict issued in Federal District Court on the 29 May, 2001 in the case against those responsible for the Embassy bombings in Africa, the State Department issued a warning to all American’s abroad to take precautions against a perceived threat in response to the verdict.  The four defendants were found guilty on all 302 counts, and the maximum sentence could bring the death penalty for the defendants.   And, to add fuel to the fire, the United States Eastern District Court of Virginia has indicted fourteen individuals, thirteen Saudis and one Lebanese, on twenty-six counts to include murder, for the Khobar Towers incident (FBI Website).  Although bin Laden was not part of the indictment, he is still believed to be the mastermind behind the attack.  In anticipation of the response by the Islamic community at large and the five year anniversary of the Khobar Towers bombing, the United States has ordered all of its Navy military ships to sea that are normally based in the Gulf region.  In addition, all ground forces have been put on a higher state of alert (ABC News).   The United States must protect its citizens, to include military personnel.  However, when it uses tactics that are perceived as increasingly hostile, to bring about change, often this results in further escalation.

            The United States political policies have caused this conflict to escalate further.  The rise and sheer magnitude of individuals involved in “Islamic Resurgence Movements” can be empirically measured in response to the context of policies, activities and sanctions imposed on behalf of the United States towards bin Laden, and those associated with his movement.  By continuing to draw media attention, demonizing bin Laden and others, promoting military responses as non-retaliatory in nature, and economic sanctions in the International Community, increase the very “scope and severity” of this conflict. 


It is my assessment that neither the US or bin Laden has responded appropriately.  What has been the result of the response of both the US and SA to bin Laden’s activities?  Each time a terrorist activity occurs, the United States responds with military and economic sanctions, and as Hoffman has concluded have not been effective, in fact, have increased the “scope” and “severity” of the conflict to become much more intense and “long-enduring.”   It is my analysis that this conflict will continue in the escalation phase for some time, unless measures are taken by the US and SA to address bin Laden’s concern and his call to arms of the Muslim world.  Listening to bin Laden’s concerns does not mean that the US must agree with the movement or activities or even make any type of concessions.  Nonetheless, sitting down and discussing each side’s position, at this point, could do no greater harm than is already being accomplished by continuing to escalate this conflict. 

Bin Laden’s goal of removing the United States forces from Saudi Arabia is well stated.  Nonetheless, I am not sure if moving troops out of SA is the right answer, but since neither the United States nor Saudi Arabia has an open dialog with bin Laden, bringing this conflict to the de-escalation phase is not likely.  Avoidance of the subject or of bin Laden continues the escalation and his movement.  Each time the United States imposes a sanction, or takes military action against a Muslim government or group, bin Laden issues a “fatwa.”  These statements have encouraged other Islamists to take action against the United States, and whether or not there is a clear hierarchy and bin Laden is the supreme leader or not is questionable.  Nonetheless, one thing remains the same, violence is the outcome, and as long as there remains a difference in ideology and the method for political change, there will be a continued campaign of bloodshed, which will target US installations and citizens abroad, and perhaps on American soil.  Is the present approach the correct one? 

 Chapter 5:  Conclusions


The United States and bin Laden are currently managing their conflict with one another as a win or lose situation.  How many more lives need to be lost before steps are taken to bring this conflict to the de-escalation and termination phase?  The United States can no longer stand behind their policy of “no negotiations with known terrorists,” as every time we pull US military forces out of a country, like in Lebanon after the Beirut bombing in 1983, or in Somalia after the incident with the US Rangers in 1993, whether or not the US will acknowledge that this type of response is in reality negotiating with terrorists.  The policy makers of the United States might not agree that negotiation occurs regardless of whether or not a dialog is present, but the action and reaction mode is just that; negotiation.  After all, the expected result of the removal of US military forces was perhaps the ultimate goal of the violence and by not sitting down at the bargaining table the United States did not effectively manage either conflict.  

            There is a clear connection that Osama bin Laden has declared war with the United States and Saudi Arabia.  From the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York to the latest bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen, and numerous foiled attempts of violence, bin Laden’s activities, either directly or indirectly linked, have accounted for several hundred military and civilian people to lose their lives.   The structural conditions placed on bin Laden; i.e. the loss of his family income, loss of his citizenship, and in conjunction with those social factors identified by Taylor, anomie and alienation, have caused bin Laden to react in an extremely logical manner in his actions, activities and statements.  Although his actions are ideologically different from the United States approach, are they?  In that, the United States has taken military action by targeting sites in Afghanistan and Sudan, which in reality, is no different than bin Laden taking military action against legitimate US targets.  The US and SA have added fuel to the fire by targeting him, labeling him as a criminal, and attempting to assassinate bin Laden and his followers.  In the eyes of many Muslims around the world his defiance to the United States, is their call to arms. 

            As was the case in Iran, the overwhelming feeling of the Iranian people against the Shah’s indignation and abuse[32] of Islam created a condition where a charismatic leader could mobilize the masses in search of a government created in the context that they felt comfortable, religion (Rinehart, 1997).  Although not specifically addressed in this paper, there is evidence to support the statement that the majority of the youth and religious clerics (some of them in prison) in Saudi Arabia, are experiencing alienation and relative deprivation due to the economic and political situation in Saudi Arabia. They are not alone; from Algeria to Indonesia the rising youth population has also become disenfranchised and alienated with their current economic and political situation (Huntington, 1996).  Bin Laden’s fatwa and edicts have mobilized these groups, and even mainstream religious institutions are joining the ranks.  This “phenomenon” is more than one man carrying out random acts of violence.  It is the rise of “Islamic Resurgence movements”, and as long as many people, especially the youths of these countries, feel anomie and alienation, they will continue to be attracted to these types of movements and the activities of these movements, even if it includes violence.

            It is my conclusion that the US must understand the impact of religion, specifically Islam, and recognize that many countries, and nations whose population is predominately Muslim are searching for their identity and a method of governance that fits into the role of Islam.  Islam is not just a religion; it is a way of life.  My first trip to the Middle East was made in 1990 during the US involvement in the Gulf War.  My primary mission was to process enemy prisoners of war.  As our unit prepared to depart the US and head for Saudi Arabia, we were given cultural and religious briefings on the people that we would soon be encountering.  For the first time I learned of the cultural differences between the Saudis, Iraqis and Kuwaitis, and despite the majority being from the Arabian Peninsula, and of the Islamic faith, they were not all the same religion, culture or nation; nonetheless, the one common item the majority shared was their belief in God, the Prophet Mohammed, the message he delivered on behalf of God and the Sha’ria. 

An enlightening moment I had in the Gulf was my experience in Riyadh, in the center market place.  I can remember the first time I heard what is known as a “call to prayer” by one of the religious men, umman, and as he was singing Arabic over the loud speaker at the nearby mosque, the majority of the men from the shops[33], closed their doors and headed towards the mosque.  A sign was put in their door, “back in twenty minutes, closed for prayer,” in English and Arabic.  Not only did this happen once a day, it happened five times a day, and all five times the same shop-keeper would leave to go to pray.  My initial thought centered on the security of the store itself, as many did not lock their doors. They truly believed that no one would bother their shop for two reasons, first, we should all be at prayer call, second, stealing is punishable by the Koran and would result in your right hand being chopped off under the Sha'ria law, motivation enough to leave those things that did not belong to you alone.  My next emotion was a bit more complex, and centered on the notion of how so many people could be driven by the “phenomenon” of religion, that I have never witnessed or experienced living in the US or in Europe.  What could be so empowering that would drive people from their day-to-day activities and lead them to prayer? 

            During my time in the Gulf in 1991 and 1999, I have come to realize the importance of religion, family, and culture, in that order, is to the people of the Middle East.  A concept that often is underestimated in importance when foreign policy is developed.   “In places like the United States and Europe, where secular nationalism, rather than religion, has become the dominant paradigm in society, religion is shunted to the periphery (Juergensmeyer, 1993).”   These experiences have opened my eyes on the importance of religion and nationalism in rest of the world, and from living there nearly two years, I have a unique understanding of the Arab identity, how he thinks and feels, what is important and why religion is the center of their being.  There is an Arabic expression that I learned during my stay in the Gulf, paraphrasing it as its origins are unknown but it centers on “first God and my family, then my clan, then my nation, then the Gulf, then the Arab states, then the rest of the non-Arabic Muslim world, and then those of the Holy Book[34].”   Belief in God is paramount as the first five groups listed are expected to be Islamic.     

            For most Americans, this understanding is why we respond to “Islamic Resurgence” naively.  One would hope after the Iranian Revolution that we could learn to tolerate those that are different from the West, but it is my opinion based on the United States’ response to the continued situation with Iran, the Kurds in Turkey and Iraq, Iraq and the Palestinian/Israeli situation, that the lesson has not yet been learned. One would think that through this knowledge and the lessons they have brought, the United States would develop its foreign policy with a bit more cultural, religious and political sensitivity. 

            At the end of the day, the United States must protect its own citizens, interests and borders. Yet, this could be costly if the rest of the Islamic countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Algeria, Indonesia, and the Philippines find themselves in an Islamic revolution and continued conflict that manifest itself in violent means, and terrorist activities.  These actions will result in a religious upheaval of the current governmental systems that might have been prevented if the US had attempted to resolve the issues identified by bin Laden early in the escalation phase.  How many more innocent lives have to be lost before the US realizes that their action might only be furthering the fight?   Perhaps Samuel Huntington is correct, that the next conflict will be a “clash of civilizations.”  Are we ready? 

            It seems as if we have painted a picture of bin Laden in the vernacular that fits US foreign policy.  Which as Mr. Richard Cheney stated on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on national TV on 20 May 2001; “often US politicians create foreign policy on conspiracy theories notions, and not on facts or what is in the best interest of the United States (Personal Notes from CBS interview.)”  He went further by indicating that often foreign policy is created to satisfy what the populace of the United States wants to hear, not what is necessary best or rational.  It appears that this is the current approach of the policy makers and the judicial branch of the US, and yet, bin Laden remains in the mountains of Afghanistan, protected by the people that believe in his espoused ideology, and are not interested in a five million dollar reward leading to his arrest or capture.  Perhaps it is time to change tactics.

The success of co-existence lies in understanding the differences and not being afraid of the things that we don’t understand.  In addition, the West should learn to respect the role of religion, and the voices of those countries that are different: politically, culturally and religiously.  The continued conflict of “Islamic Resurgence movements” is directly related to the US’s insistence that those states govern like them, a separation of politics and religion.  Perhaps it is time to re-look US foreign policy.  In the case of Islam it draws together a group of people that does not follow state borders or boundaries, a powerful force in the world today.  If we continue to force secular governance on these states, they will continue to rise up in defiance.  In Kriesberg’s definition we continue the spiral of escalation because both sides fail to understand the other’s “bases” for conflict. 

            It wasn’t until I experienced a different culture and religion that I began to understand the world outside of my cognitive map and the view from my lens of being an American.  These experiences have changed my perception of Islam and of other religions that are found in the world today.  In a secular world we pride ourselves on individual, economic, and political freedoms, and we are comfortable with those ideologies, enough to die for them.  For some, these secular ideals do not provide a sense of belonging and identity, and they look to a higher authority, religion.  Both fulfill the ultimate need just in different ways.  If we fail to recognize this and learn to appreciate the differences we will continue to see the violent religious backlash that is currently going on in the world today.  Finally, in the current political environment it appears that we will continue on this road of conflict with the “phenomenon of bin Laden and Islamic Resurgence”, and more than likely, more lives will be lost. 

If the United States cannot accept the existence of such limits without giving up democracy and cannot proceed to enhance and extend democracy within such limits, then the traditional effort to sustain democracy by expansion will led to the destruction of the democracy (Williams, 1964, 312).


Something to keep in mind when the United States formulates its foreign policy, and when it attempts to resolve this on-going escalation with bin Laden and others.  It is clearly necessary in this conflict to view the world through a variety of different lenses and outside of the normal dimension, in order to bring about management of this conflict.  Two thoughts come to mind; first, the United States doesn’t seem to know enough about this topic, as we should. Huband states that: 

These complexities are apparently lost on U.S. strategic planners, whose preference for scientific assessments of U.S. needs and strategy reveals a major tendency to ignore the cultural, historical, and religious history of the region, as if, ultimately, it simply does not impinge on politics (Huband, 1999, 180).


Second, because of this lack of understanding, perhaps the US should not engage in such aggressive public and foreign policies towards issues that it has little understanding in.  It seems, that despite these intensive policies towards bin Laden and the Islamic Resurgence movements, has not reduced the activities of these groups, in fact, one could argue, it has only just begun.



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[1] Fatwa is a written religious decree, which should be followed by those believers of Islam.  A type of religious edict that derive its authority from Islam, the Koran, and Sha’ria law.

[2] Jihad is defined by H.A.R. Gibb, a noted scholar on Islam as found in the Koran, Sura ii, vv. 186sqq: “fight in the Way of God against those who fight against you, but do not commit aggression…Slay them wheresoever ye find them, and expel them from whence they have expelled you, for sedition is more grievous than slaying…Fight against them until sedition is no more and allegiance is rendered to God alone; but if they make an end, then no aggression save against evildoers (Gibb, 1964, 67).”  Gibb further highlights that it is permissible to kill your aggressor, if he is against God.  Much has been written in scholarly and religious circles on the meaning behind ‘Jihad” and whether or not it is the intent of the word of Mohammed to use ‘violence’ or if it is a figure of speech only.  There are two distinct camps, one being it is permissible, the other, it is not.

[3] Edicts or Fatwa’s may only be issued by the proper Islamic Cleric or religious authority. 

[4] The number can not be determined as a finite number, yet this might be an understatement. 

[5] Benedict Anderson defines a ‘Nation’ as:  An imagined political community—and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign.  It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion (Anderson, 1991, 6).

[6] Despite the religious upheaval during the Iranian Revolution, which was seen as merely a rogue fundamentalist group taking over a fully democratic government a thousand years.

[7] Kriesberg defines a zero-sum relationship as:  “one side wins, the other loses (Kriesberg, 1998, 8).”

[8] Kriesberg highlights that besides the normal two parties to a conflict, constituent groups also influence the parties in the conflict.  This can clearly be seen in the case of the Palestinian and Israeli conflict, the two main parties to this conflict, however, it is clear, that other constituents such as Hamas, play a role in determining the outcome of the resolution or continued escalation to this conflict.  As in this case, the impact of constituents can clearly be seen, and are absent in the attempts to bring the conflict to de-escalation will not be met until they are brought into the process.

[9]The Islamic Resurgence is the effort by Muslims to achieve this goal.  It is a broad intellectual, cultural, social, social and political movement prevalent throughout the Islamic world.  Islamic ‘fundamentalism,’ commonly conceived as political Islam, is only one component in the much more extensive revival of Islamic ideas, practices, and rhetoric and the rededication to Islam by Muslim populations.  The Resurgence is mainstream not extremist, pervasive not isolated (Huntington, 1996, 110).”

[10] Mark Huband defines Islamists as: “Islam is a living religion, and intrinsic to it are practices that enforce the renewal and review of beliefs.  Far from being a religion written in stone 1,300 years ago, which so-called ‘fundamentalists’ are seeking to return to, Islam is a religion whose internal variety is a source of dynamism as well as a source of conflict.  It is also important to personalize and characterize a religion that, to most people in the West, remains a mystery…I have generally avoided using the word ‘fundamentalist’ largely because it has lost any real meaning other than as a convenient label used by the media.  Instead, I have used the phrases “Islamism” and “Islamist,” which both distinguish the practitioners of political Islam from the conservatives and highlight the fact that the Islamist is not just a religious believer but also a politician (Huband, 1999, xviii).”

[11] The term Khilafa is written as Caliph in English, and its importance is that of ‘one who replaces someone else who left or died.’  The movement itself is not the topic of this paper, nonetheless it adds, when studied in detail a understanding of the religiosity felt by many mainstream and Islamists who are searching for a return to the pure Islamic Theocracy and governance of Shari’a and the Koran.     

[12] The whole premise behind the ‘open door policy’ was for the United States to promote “economic strength would enter and dominate all underdeveloped areas of the world (Williams, 1972, 45).”   

[13] Source:  Gallup Poll Survey based on 494 National Adults in form A ±5 percent points (

[14] Source:  iPoll (Gallup) based on 1,015 National Adult samples, with a margin of error rate of ±3.…/Summary_Link?qtsn_id=44174

[15] Source:  Princeton Survey Research Associates, 5-18 March 2001, Survey based on a National adult over sample of 2,041, the oversample consisted of 197 African-Americans.



[16]  Source:  Princeton Survey Research Associates, 5-18 March 2001, Survey based on a National adult over sample of 2,041, the oversample consisted of 197 African-Americans.


[17] Source:  Poll Track.  Survey based on 1,070 Adults, with a margin of error rate of ± 3. wysiwyg://90/ 

[18] Source:  Poll Track.  Survey based on 1,070 Adults, with a margin of error rate of ± 3. wysiwyg://90/ 

[19] Source:  Poll Track.  Survey based on 1,021 adults sampled, with a margin of error rate of ± 3.


[20] Source:  Poll Track.  Survey of 514 adults, with a margin of error rate ± 4.5.


[21] Source:  Poll Track.  Survey of 514 adults, with a margin of error rate ± 4.5.


[22] Source:  Poll Track.  Survey taken of 1,040 adults with a margin of error rate of ± 4.5.


[23] Source:  Poll Track.  Survey of 1,105 adults with a margin of error rate of ± 3.


[24] Source:  Poll Track.  Survey of 510 adults with a margin of error rate of ± 4.5.



[25] Source:  Poll Track.  Survey of 510 adults with a margin of error rate of ± 4.5.


[26] Source:  Poll Track.  Survey of 510 adults with a margin of error rate of ± 4.5.


[27]  Source:  Poll Track.  Survey of 628 adults, with a margin of error rate of ± 4.


[28] Many Middle Eastern scholars do not want to admit, but the political change is that of revolution, from Algeria to Indonesia, in every country that has a Muslim majority and whose government is seen by the focal minority as corrupt, and “puppets of the US”.

[29] Occupying is the term that bin Laden has used with regards to US Military forces remaining in Saudi Arabia at the request of the Saudi government and King Fahd.  The forces remain in Saudi Arabia for the purpose of the protection of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait from Iraq.

[30] Spelling of Usama Bin Laden, as written in the indictment.

[31] Which the Ayatollah remained outside of the country until the Shah’s departure as an exile, but like Bin Laden was very vocal in his statements against the Shah and his government.

[32] Similar feelings of many mainstream Muslims as what the US is currently engaging with in their current foreign policy towards Muslim countries.

[33]  I also learned that not only do the shop-keepers close down their business, so do the bus drivers, the taxi drivers, the truck drivers, the government offices, etc.  Their world stopped five times a day.   


[34] Muslims believe that those of the Islamic, Christian, and Jewish faith are believers of the Holy Book and of God.