Thursday, February 19, 2015


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Realities of ISIS

The world changes fast.  Not long ago, we were just trying to figure out what to call ISIS.  Now we are coming to recognize a difficult truth: That ISIS has eclipsed al-Queda to become the most important jihadist group in the world.

An excellent article in The Atlantic by Graeme Wood, What ISIS Really Wants,  lays out some fascinating truths, starting with an answer to the riddle contained in the article's title:

In fact, much of what the group does looks nonsensical except in light of a sincere, carefully considered commitment to returning civilization to a seventh-century legal environment, and ultimately to bringing about the apocalypse.

Wood also establishes something important and fascinating: That unlike most jihadi groups, ISIS needs territory, since part of the destiny it envisions is to be a caliphate.

That opens up possibilities-- if we can stop ISIS from expanding its footprint, we can defeat its ambition.

Is doing that worth the cost?

The Atlantic article is really fascinating. Still, "defeating" ISIS by limiting its territory might just play into their strategy: "Musa Cerantonio, an Australian preacher reported to be one of the Islamic State’s most influential recruiters, believes it is foretold that the caliphate will sack Istanbul before it is beaten back by an army led by the anti-Messiah, whose eventual death— when just a few thousand jihadists remain—will usher in the apocalypse." (in a photo caption)

Other questions that stick out to me are:

1) what role can the moderate Islamic world play in mitigating ISIS's recruiting efforts?

2) Why hasn't the Arab world coalesced against ISIS--Saudi Arabia, for example, hasn't put much effort into fighting them?

3) How the hell did this whole fiasco sneak up on the Obama Admin. and the intelligence community--have they been downplaying the situation or were they truly caught flat-footed (by a group in IRAQ, you know, where we have been at war for more than a decade)?
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