When even The Atlantic thinks a strategically patient approach to violence is self delusional, you know the bloom is off the Obama foreign policy rose.
The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), follows a distinctive variety of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment matter to its strategy, and can help the West know its enemy and predict its behavior. Its rise to power is less like the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (a group whose leaders the Islamic State considers apostates) than like the realization of a dystopian alternate reality in which David Koresh or Jim Jones survived to wield absolute power over not just a few hundred people, but some 8 million.
We have misunderstood the nature of the Islamic State in at least two ways….
We are misled in a second way, by a well-intentioned but dishonest campaign to deny the Islamic State’s medieval religious nature….
The most-articulate spokesmen for that position are the Islamic State’s officials and supporters themselves. They refer derisively to “moderns.” In conversation, they insist that they will not–cannot–waver from governing precepts that were embedded in Islam by the Prophet Muhammad and his earliest followers. They often speak in codes and allusions that sound odd or old-fashioned to non-Muslims, but refer to specific traditions and texts of early Islam….
The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.
Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it.
The Islamic State, is, of course, Islamic. As noted, virtually everything it has done can be justified easily within the pages of the Koran and the Hadiths. Even were that not so, critically, the Islamic State thinks they’re Islamic. And self evidently, a great number of disaffected Muslims, flowing to Syria and the region from Europe and elsewhere certainly see the Islamic State not only as Islamic, but as the sole truly Islamic state. It is the one true Islam.
On the European front, we’ve seen the slow motion invasion of Ukraine, first the Crimea, now the Donbass, by Putin’s Russia. Putin has hardly been shy about proclaiming his intentions to resurrect the empire. Be it tsarist or Soviet, the point wasn’t so much the internal form of government, but the range of borders. Russia has always seen itself as an imperial power, and continues to do so to this day, Putin especially.
Again, the US response to this has been so hamfisted that Germany’s leader, Merkl, has had to take the point with negotiations with Russia to broker a ceasefire to buy time to prevent the collapse of Ukrainian forces.
Ace notes the White House response to the slaughter of Coptic Christian Egyptians in Libya is much the same as his reaction to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine- some rather mealy mouthed platitudes.
This heinous act once again underscores the urgent need for a political resolution to the conflict in Libya, the continuation of which only benefits terrorist groups, including ISIL. We call on all Libyans to strongly reject this and all acts of terrorism and to unite in the face of this shared and growing threat. We continue to strongly support the efforts of the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General Bernardino Leon to facilitate formation of a national unity government and help foster a political solution in Libya.
But our opponents, be they ISIS in Syria and Iraq, or their Libyan offshoot, or Putin’s Russia, see no need for a political solution. Why should they? They are achieving their goals by force at a cost that is acceptable to them. Simply engaging in the political process would cost them support from their strongest factions. And to date, both Islamist radicals and Putin have had remarkable success with the use of force to achieve their aims.
We’re big fans of diplomacy and negotiation. Honest, really.
But the fundamental rule of negotiation is that they can only succeed, absent brute force, when there exists the potential for mutually acceptable compromise. And in these cases, as in with negotiation with Iran, there simply is no acceptable compromise.
There are options beyond simply the use of military force. But the administration instead insists that we must forgo those options, and instead aim for a piece of paper that will, in the end, prove as substantial as that waved by Neville Chamberlain in 1938.