The Smiling, Scented Men: The Political Worldview of the Islamic State of Iraq (2003-2013)
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Political psychologists have identified patterns in the use of cognitive categorization for the structuring of the political worldview of foreign policy decision makers. This dissertation uses a case study approach to investigate the political worldview of the Islamic State of Iraq from 2003 and validate the use of Image Theory for a non-state actor for the purpose of explaining their strategic targeting. Discourse analysis is used to examine almost 3,000 messages from the group for clues to other group images. Social Identity Theory is presented as an intervening variable to explore how sectarian language is used to reinforce and sustain images of other groups, as well as identify threats to the group's own base support. Hypotheses based on both theories are tested and evidence found to support the impact of social competition and the necessity of group survival on the process of image creation and maintenance over a ten year period. The dissertation expands on the findings and discusses ways that social competition and demographic changes are impacting societies in the Middle East and South Asia, as well as around the world. The conclusion presents practical policy advice for communities facing these challenges in order to prevent the spiral effects seen in the Iraq case study.