Scenario: A New Caliphate

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Fictional Scenario: A New Caliphate

Note: Please feel free to edit this scenario to improve its ability to be a meaningful strategic planning tool. We do request you retain the major thrust of the original scenario, but if that is too constraining, by all means develop a new scenario using one of the blanks on the scenario main page.

The fictional scenario portrayed below provides an example of how a global movement fueled by radical religious identity could emerge. Under this scenario, a new Caliphate is proclaimed and manages to advance a powerful counter ideology that has widespread appeal. It is depicted in the form of a hypothetical letter from a fictional grandson of Bin Ladin to a family relative in 2020. He recounts the struggles of the Caliph in trying to wrest control from traditional regimes and the conflict and confusion which ensue both within the Muslim world and outside between Muslims and the United States, Europe, Russia and China. While the Caliph’s success in mobilizing support varies, places far outside the Muslim core in the Middle East—in Africa and Asia—are convulsed as a result of his appeals. The scenario ends before the Caliph is able to establish both spiritual and temporal authority over a territory—which historically has been the case for previous Caliphates. At the end of the scenario, we identify lessons to be drawn.

The original and full scenario for A New Caliphate can be explored at the National Intelligence Council web page.

"Lessons Learned" A Caliphate would not have to be entirely successful for it to present a serious challenge to the international order. This scenario underlines the saliency of the cross-cultural ideological debate that would intensify with growing religious identities.

  • The IT revolution is likely to amplify the clash between Western and Muslim worlds.
  • The appeal of a Caliphate among Muslims would vary from region to region, which argues for Western countries adopting a differentiated approach to counter it. Muslims in regions benefiting from globalization, such as parts of Asia and Europe, may be torn between the idea of a spiritual Caliphate and the material advantages of a globalized world.
  • The proclamation of a Caliphate would not lessen the likelihood of terrorism and, in fomenting more conflict, could fuel a new generation of terrorists intent on attacking those opposed to the Caliphate, whether inside or outside the Muslim world.
This page describes a scenario. The developments outlined here are possible, but unlikely and depend on a number of random factors.

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