A curious question arising from the impact of the jihadist mini-state in the Levant was its ideological base and impact. With the renaming of this captured territory from a geographical designation to the totalising 'Islamic State', we see the ambitions writ large. No longer is this an Islamist expression, it has now declared itself the Caliphate, the direct successor to the Porte and the only political expression of Islam allowed.
The most immediate outcome of this declaration is the demand that jihadist groups pledge their loyalty to the new state, undercutting Al-Qaeda's aging leadership in Waziristan. It also becomes an explicit rejection of Westphalian politics and presents an ideological competitor to the West for Muslims. No longer do extremists have to moderate their responses to the political systems in which they operate; they can claim obeisance to another master; a totalitarian sitting in Tikrit and Mosul.
Most important is the long-term consequence of this new direction for fundamentalism in the Middle-East. Just as the sovereignty of Middle Eastern states is undermined by political and ideoligical current such as pan-Arabism that cut across existing borders, the new concept of the Caliphate could add a further transnational perspective that undermines the countries in this febrile region. The process of radicalisation has deepened in the last three years under the pressures of war and economic decline, which have weakened the traditional ties of tribe, nation and party.
There are echoes of the past in this process, though the story is not yet complete. A totalising ideology, the breakdown of traditional societies and a people haunted by grievances, impotence and defeat. As jihadists have increasingly rushed down that path to the extremes, we see further signs such as a single Manichaean worldview and the implementation of an eliminationist rhetoric with an emphasis on purity or death.
We should be thankful that, so far, they have been unable to seize the resources of a strong state machinery that could multiply their dark fantasies tenfold. Just as the symbols of hammer, sickle and swastika were attractive to one generation, so black flags and the AK-47 become the temptation of another. Let's hope they divide and war against each other.