Profiling Nasir al-Wahishi
The author of this research proposal deigns to cover two basic research questions and issues within this report. First is the general subject of political profiling of current or possible future political leaders and the second is the more specific focus on the case of a man by the name of Nasir al-Wahishi. That particular man is the current proclaimed leader of al-Qaida in the Arab Peninsula, often referred to as AQAP for short. The research problem to be address in this proposal and, by extension, the approved study is the vexing nature of profiling political leaders, what they are capable of, how they control and motivate the people they proselytize to, how to predict who people will glom onto and who will be ignored and so forth. There is also the question of how to deal with "stateless" regimes and groups that exist. Some of these groups are recognized and more established (e.g. Palestinians) while others are terrorist and/or otherwise disparate in nature. Examples of the latter would include the current ISIS/Levant group, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban since their forcible eviction from Afghanistan in the years after 9/11 and a few others. To be specific about what this study aims to do, it would be to profile the aforementioned Nasir al-Wihishi and ascertain what level of power he has, what level of power he could have and the literature that exists that defines and verifies this to be the case. Some of that very literature will be touched upon within this report. What will also be defined will be the theoretical framework(s) involved, the research design that will be used and a strong reference list of scholarly sources that shows that the research proposal contained within these pages is well-researched and well-covered. There has been a lot of material covered already and it will be explained and fleshed out in the following sections.
Perhaps one of the more seminal and advanced works reviewed for this literature review was that of Jerrold M. Post. In his book, he explains political profiling and calculation in general and does real-time and real-world profiling of famous world politicians Bill Clinton and Saddam Hussein. Post starts off his book by stating one of the gaps and theories that pervades a lot of books and journal articles about the subject of political profiling. In short, he states that the influence of a world leader's personality upon the course of the political events around him (or her) is a subject of much debate. He cites the noted author Thomas Carlyle who espoused the "great man" view of world and national history. Indeed, Carlyle asserted that word history is a "march" and that it is passed along its path by the actions of the world leaders that are present at the time. Carlyle has and would still offer the fact that George III and Lord North, both of Great Britain leadership history, lost what became the American colonies by "virtue of their stupidity and arrogance." Another world history example, and perhaps the easiest one to point to when speaking of a single man or world leader blazing a path of world history, is Adolf Hitler. Of course, the actions of Hitler resonate to this very day even though his actions and he himself have been gone for the better part of a century (Post, 2003).
Post immediately offers a counter-argument to the above. He states the personal interpretations and implications above run counter to the idea that world leaders who blaze such a glorious or destructive...
As an example, if Hitler was eliminated in the aftermath of World War I, what happened in the 1940's would have obviously been very different. However, since Hitler was still in the mix and since Germany was allowed to re-arm and re-prepare, not to mention the fact that many world leaders tried to appease him despite what he was obviously doing, he was able to wreak the havoc that he rendered. That was, however, until the noose finally started to tighten, he was left powerless and he ended up killing himself. Post explains that the withdrawal of American troops in 1918 did not help. Further, Post states that Hitler was certainly not unique. As explained in a block quote in the book, his foreign policy was that of the people that preceded him. He ideas and aggressiveness were not new and novel. Indeed, they existed in other people and in many forms. It was just that Hitler had the gumption, the passion and perhaps a little bit of luck so far as he was able to take advantage of the passivity of others (Post, 2003).
Post then plots a compromise and blend between those two extremes. Post cites the work of Greenstein from 1969 which states that a leader's personality can absolutely be especially important but only under some circumstances. Those circumstances would include when the actor occupies a strategically advantageous position or area, there is no clear precedent or pattern that the leader must follow, when the overall situation is ambiguous or unstable or something else along those lines. The author of this report would offer the example of United States President Barack Obama after he replaced George W. Bush. A lot of what was promised by him during the 2008 campaigns was pushed back or forgotten about once he took office. Perhaps an explanation for that can be found in Post in that there was clearly at least some reasons why Bush was told to do those things or himself chose to do those things. There were surely also things Obama did not know before he entered office. That would mean that Obama might be swayed by what he came to know after entering office and he had to change course based on precedent and/or what was expected of him as the President. This is all not known for sure and is subject to conjecture, but it would seem to jell with what was stated by Post roughly five years before Bush left office in 2008. One could say the same thing about Saddam Hussein and his insistence to push the proverbial envelope to the very end as far as weapon inspections, invading Kuwait, his country being invaded by the United States in 2003 and so on (Post, 2003). However, even American Presidents do some things that probably throw personality theorists for loop such as some of the things that George W. Bush said about Vladimir Putin and Russia circa 2007 (Wall Street Journal, 2007) (Hiatt, 2005).
The two general theories above lead to a basic duality in the words of Mr. Post. That duality is that there is one side that is concerned with the academic inter-discipline of political psychology and the other pertains to the policies that do or do not exist within any government sphere. When it comes to the actual personalities of leaders, regardless of the gravity given to them, there are three stands of psychological profiles that are looked at. Those strands are cognitive, personality traits and comprehensive qualitative case studies. Regardless of their overall effect and gravity, there are absolutely recurrent themes in political behavior and power structures. They are quite easy to spot over history if one simply looks at what has happened, when it happened and why it probably happened. It is often not possible to know all of the details but the known facts are what they are (Post, 2003).
When it comes to personality in psychology, it is admitted up front by many scholars in the sphere that personality is a linchpin and central part of the subject. Cottam notes in a 2009 text that personality is put at the "bottom" of the psychological tree because it is part of the "roots" of what leads to the person acting and thinking they way they do. Their mindset, their upbringing and their perceptions as they move through life are what guide them and lead them to do (or not do) what they end up deciding upon. Even with the volume that personality takes up in the political equation, it is a vexing part of the equation because coming to an acceptable definition of "personality" is not the easiest thing to do in a lot of cases and/or for a lot of leaders. For example, reclusive leaders and/or police states in general would make it quite hard for people to define a leader because of the choreographic and otherwise limited amount of material there is to work with. Even when the "material" is there, defining it is still hard to pull off. One reason why is because there are twenty defined personality theories and those twenty fall into about nine different categories. The nine somewhat smaller categories are psychoanalytic, neo-psychoanalytic, interpersonal, trait, developmental, humanistic, cognitive, behavioristic and limited domain (Cottam, 2009).…
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