I’d like to address the difficulties that I encounter in writing about religion, conflict, and the Middle East and their affect on national security. Given the tremendous diversity and complexity of the subject matter, it shouldn’t be surprising that there are a multiplicity of views concerning these topics. At the forefront is how one should study such issues. The academic avenues afforded to the religious studies adherent are interdisciplinary, and they go deep into history, political science, sociology, psychology, anthropology, and even economics. All of this can seem rather intimidating.

The German scholar Max Weber once argued: “All knowledge of cultural reality is always knowledge from particular points of view.” Conducting research is “determined by the evaluating ideas that dominate the investigator and his age” (Weber 1949). For me, national security issues dominate the hierarchy of my academic agenda. Therefore, how religion and conflict affects security is of primary interest.

In order to tackle the subject of security, it’s important to look for subtexts and to deconstruct- unpack and take apart- meanings embedded in what religious actors say and write and especially in how they act. I have to ask myself the big questions: why does conflict in the Middle East occur? Is nationalism, ideology, or religion the primary cause? Or is it a lack of systemic governments? What roles do ethic, denominational, and tribal differences play?

My aim has been made more difficult by the Arab Spring that began on December 18, 2010. These campaigns of civil resistance have been a novel development within the Middle East. I would argue that such a development is of a qualitatively different order from those dramatic events in the region during previous decades.

The tensions, conflicts, and changes that have occurred due to the waves of revolutionary demonstrations and protests have upset (and in some cases cast aside) long-established and seemingly stable relationships. These developments and many others in the religious, political, and military realms signal far-reaching shifts in regional distributions of power, an unleashing of renewed religiopolitical forces, and a realignment of diplomatic relations.

The conception of religious studies presented in my work, like almost all social science, is not predictive. Most of the theories I present are in fact analytical, descriptive constructs; they at best provide a conceptual framework and a set of questions to help readers analyze and explain the implications of religious conflict.

The overall purpose of my writing is to isolate and examine individual events as well as patterns associated with conflict in the Middle East. Specifically, I look at what role religion does (or does not) play in conflict and violence. My writing is intended to be an analytic device to help order and explain human experience in the context of security analysis.

The position of this blog is that major changes in the Middle East are the consequence of the conjunction of unique and unpredictable sets of developments; however, it may be possible to identify recurrent patterns, common elements, and general tendencies in the nexus where religion and conflict collide.

In order to accomplish my goals, the focus of my blog must be on individuals or groups who seek to transform institutions and systems (the status quo) in order to advance their own interests.

As a consequence of the changing interests in the Middle East after the Arab Spring, and especially because of the growth in power among non-state actors, the Middle East is moving to a condition of disequilibrium. Disequilibrium is defined here as a situation in which political, religious, and military developments have increased the potential benefits and decreased the potential costs to one or more groups seeking to change regional status quo.

My evaluation of religion, conflict, and the Middle East is performed as an attempt to improve the ability of non-religious studies scholars to analyze and account for security issues in a fuller, more holistic fashion. The above-mentioned multiplicity of views concerning religious studies reflects the importance of this research tradition. In my own view, religious studies is a necessary component in a coherent analysis of state security.

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