Feb. 23rd, 2015


The best article I've seen on Daesh/ISIS/ISIL/whatever you want to call the genocidal scum

What ISIS Really Wants

The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.


First, to really understand ISIS at a deeper level than “they’re a bunch of fundie psychos”, this article is required reading.

Second: these are not urban guerrilla/terrorists with decentralized leadership like Al Qaeda was. They’re organized with a strict top-down hierarchy. That makes them more vulnerable.

Third: these two paragraphs are, I think, the money shots:

Given everything we know about the Islamic State, continuing to slowly bleed it, through air strikes and proxy warfare, appears the best of bad military options. Neither the Kurds nor the Shia will ever subdue and control the whole Sunni heartland of Syria and Iraq - - they are hated there, and have no appetite for such an adventure anyway. But they can keep the Islamic State from fulfilling its duty to expand. And with every month that it fails to expand, it resembles less the conquering state of the Prophet Muhammad than yet another Middle Eastern government failing to bring prosperity to its people… .

Properly contained, the Islamic State is likely to be its own undoing. No country is its ally, and its ideology ensures that this will remain the case. The land it controls, while expansive, is mostly uninhabited and poor. As it stagnates or slowly shrinks, its claim that it is the engine of God’s will and the agent of apocalypse will weaken, and fewer believers will arrive. And as more reports of misery within it leak out, radical Islamist movements elsewhere will be discredited: No one has tried harder to implement strict Sharia by violence. This is what it looks like.

Fourth: Because they expect the ultimate apocalypse at the strategically useless small town of Dabiq, a military defeat there would destroy their credibility with other Muslim extremists.

One way to un-cast the Islamic State’s spell over its adherents would be to overpower it militarily and occupy the parts of Syria and Iraq now under caliphate rule. Al‑Qaeda is ineradicable because it can survive, cockroach-like, by going underground. The Islamic State cannot. If it loses its grip on its territory in Syria and Iraq, it will cease to be a caliphate. Caliphates cannot exist as underground movements, because territorial authority is a requirement: take away its command of territory, and all those oaths of allegiance are no longer binding… . If the United States were to invade, the Islamic State’s obsession with battle at Dabiq suggests that it might send vast resources there, as if in a conventional battle. If the state musters at Dabiq in full force, only to be routed, it might never recover.

Fifth: Still, it would be best if Middle Eastern armies, not American troops, were to handle any armed invasion of ISIS’ territory.

Sadly, given our demented foreign policy at this point, I fully expect the US to do exactly the wrong thing at this point. But at least here there are two clear right things that ISIS’ enemies could do.

It is still worth your while to read the whole thing.

March 2008

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