Speaker: Moghaddam, F.
Date: 11 December 2019
SMA hosted a speaker session presented by Dr. Fathali Moghaddam (Georgetown University) as a part of its SMA CENTCOM Speaker Series. Dr. Moghaddam’s brief focused on the topics discussed in his book, entitled Mutual Radicalization: How Groups and Nations Drive Each Other to Extremes. He first explained that there is a collective aspect of radicalization. The process of radicalization involves collective movements wherein an individual is pushed in particular directions irrespective of their individual cognitive processes and judgment. In other words, the group takes over, and individuals can no longer fully think for themselves. He further explained that mutual radicalization can be symmetrical, particularly when it comes to nations that are convinced that destructive conflict is the only way in which they can resolve their issues. Dr. Moghaddam then discussed the three stages within his model of mutual radicalization: 1) group mobilization, 2) extreme in-group cohesion, and 3) agnostic identity transformation. Group mobilization occurs when two groups become increasingly aware of their differences, categorize in- and out-group members in a harsher way, feel injustice and unfairness, and begin to perceive the other group as being not just unfair but evil. Extreme in-group cohesion occurs when there is more aggressive leadership on both sides, greater conformity and obedience, and additional cognitive convergence. Finally, antagonistic identity transformation occurs when each group becomes simply “the group that hates the other group” and takes more extreme actions against the other. Next, Dr. Moghaddam applied his model of mutual radicalization to the situation in Syria. He stated that there are three levels of relationships within Syria: 1) national relationships among Alawite Shiites (the very small minority; includes Bashar al-Assad and his supporters) and among Sunni Arabs (the large majority, ruled by the Shiite minority); 2) local relationships with Syria’s neighbors, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the Kurds; and 3) international relationships with the US, Russia, and China. For the remainder of his brief, Dr. Moghaddam explained how the three stages of mutual radicalization have been reflected during the Syrian civil war.