What [ISIS] Is and Wants – Part 2 of Knowing Our Enemy

Thanks go to Libby for this one from the Atlantic, it is an excellent article, a true must read….

Excerpt:  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.


What is the Islamic State?

Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.

The group seized Mosul, Iraq, last June, and already rules an area larger than the United Kingdom. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been its leader since May 2010, but until last summer, his most recent known appearance on film was a grainy mug shot from a stay in U.S. captivity at Camp Bucca during the occupation of Iraq.  Then, on July 5 of last year, he stepped into the pulpit of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, to deliver a Ramadan sermon as the first caliph in generations—upgrading his resolution from grainy to high-definition, and his position from hunted guerrilla to commander of all Muslims. The inflow of jihadists that followed, from around the world, was unprecedented in its pace and volume, and is continuing.


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. First, we tend to see jihadism as monolithic, and to apply the logic of al‑Qaeda to an organization that has decisively eclipsed it. The Islamic State supporters I spoke with still refer to Osama bin Laden as “Sheikh Osama,” a title of honor. But jihadism has evolved since al-Qaeda’s heyday, from about 1998 to 2003, and many jihadists disdain the group’s priorities and current leadership.

Bin Laden viewed his terrorism as a prologue to a [caliphate] he did not expect to see in his lifetime. His organization was flexible, operating as a geographically diffuse network of autonomous cells. The Islamic State, by contrast, requires territory to remain legitimate, and a top-down structure to rule it. (Its bureaucracy is divided into civil and military arms, and its territory into provinces.)

Musa4 (Shown on left is 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. (Paul Jeffers/Fairfax Media)

We are misled in a second way, by a well-intentioned but dishonest campaign to deny the Islamic State’s medieval religious nature. Peter Bergen, who produced the first interview with bin Laden in 1997, titled his first book Holy War, Inc. in part to acknowledge bin Laden as a creature of the modern secular world. Bin Laden corporatized terror and franchised it out. He requested specific political concessions, such as the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Saudi Arabia. His foot soldiers navigated the modern world confidently. On Mohammad Atta’s last full day of life, he shopped at Walmart and ate dinner at Pizza Hut.

Nearly all the Islamic State’s decisions adhere to what it calls, on its billboards, license plates, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology.”

There is a temptation to rehearse this observation—that jihadists are modern secular people, with modern political concerns, wearing medieval religious disguise—and make it fit the Islamic State. 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.  For the rest of the ISIS article you’ll have to click here. 

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18 Responses to What [ISIS] Is and Wants – Part 2 of Knowing Our Enemy

  1. Post Scripts says:

    M’dear Libby, thank you! Thank you so much for prodding me to read this Atlantic article.

    I have to say I’m stunned that you would do it. I still can’t believe it. However, it provides me with a whole new perspective on your worldly understanding and flexibility.

    I’m sure you found Atlantic’s article as disturbing and ominous as I did, but one that is absolutely necessary to understanding the reality of what we are dealing with. There’s so much to be learned about ISIS – I asked my daughter to read it and then we quizzed each other about it’s contents.

    This information underscores what I already knew about ISIS, but it also added more depth – needless to say I was impressed, very impressed and to think you were the one that did this for me! (Refreshing!!!!)

    As I read these remarkable Atlantic revelations I thought wow, you can’t be doctrinaire liberal passing along an article of this high caliber.

    Now back to the article: What I found most disturbing was the contrast between the facts in the Atlantic and the BS speeches coming out of Washington. We’re getting almost nothing about the reality of ISIS from Obama or any of his people. Even the GOP is coming up short of the mark. I wonder why they have been withholding so much from us? We can handle the truth – obviously you sure can!

    We deserve… we need… to know the truth. If we don’t know what is driving ISIS we are going to make serious mistakes…lives will be needlessly lost, just like in Iraq II. We’ve got to do better this time.

    This article explains about their desperate need to hold territory, why they are capturing slaves, why they are threatening Rome, why they are employing 7th century barbarism and beheading people, even other Muslims, it makes it all so clear!

    On ISIS expert Haykel, “He regards the claim that the Islamic State has distorted the texts of Islam as preposterous, sustainable only through willful ignorance. “People want to absolve Islam,” he said. “It’s this ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ mantra. As if there is such a thing as ‘Islam’! It’s what Muslims do, and how they interpret their texts.” Those texts are shared by all Sunni Muslims, not just the Islamic State.”

    This points a finger right back at this foolish politically-correctness in the Obama administration and it holds them accountable for being naïve! That part was incredible!

    Haykel said, “But Muslims who call the Islamic State un-Islamic are typically, as the Princeton scholar Bernard Haykel, the leading expert on the group’s theology, told me, “embarrassed and politically correct, with a cotton-candy view of their own religion” that neglects “what their religion has historically and legally required.” Many denials of the Islamic State’s religious nature, he said, are rooted in an “interfaith-Christian-nonsense tradition.” Wow….this supports exactly what I have been saying all along. I couldn’t be more pleased to read it. I hope Dewey (or whatever name he’s using) is reading this article, he needs to be better informed too, this can only help.

    Libby, this is really heavy stuff you have given us and it shreds many a liberal argument about Muslims, ISIS and our over-all naivety about the complexity of what we are facing. I can only surmise that you really do get it! It took a lot of intellectual honesty to provide us with this and it is without a doubt your most bold and helpful contribution and it shows you can be fair and objective too. (I’m clapping now)

  2. Peggy says:

    The history of ISIS/ISIL going back 100 years to 1916, the beginning of WWI, the Ottoman Empire and
    Sykes/Pico. (This is long, but worth it.)

    This 100-year-old agreement tells you everything you need to know about the ISIL end game:

    Source: http://www.glennbeck.com/2014/09/18/this-100-year-old-agreement-tells-you-everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-isil-end-game/?utm_source=glennbeck&utm_medium=contentcopy_link

    • Post Scripts says:

      Peggy, now that’s a coincidence, my daughter was just telling me about this and the deal struck during WWI. A great link. Hope some of our detractors will read it.

  3. Libby says:

    Never mind the Muslims … what about you?

    What about these last three paragraphs; you read them … really read them … remind you of anybody? … anybodies?


    I could enjoy their company, as a guilty intellectual exercise, up to a point. In reviewing Mein Kampf in March 1940, George Orwell confessed that he had “never been able to dislike Hitler”; something about the man projected an underdog quality, even when his goals were cowardly or loathsome. “If he were killing a mouse he would know how to make it seem like a dragon.” The Islamic State’s partisans have much the same allure. They believe that they are personally involved in struggles beyond their own lives, and that merely to be swept up in the drama, on the side of righteousness, is a privilege and a pleasure—especially when it is also a burden.

    Fascism, Orwell continued, is

    “psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life … Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a more grudging way, have said to people “I offer you a good time,” Hitler has said to them, “I offer you struggle, danger, and death,” and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet … We ought not to underrate its emotional appeal.”

    [Jack, re-read that initial post of yours … gauge its “emotionality” … as it might relate to the above.]

    Nor, in the case of the Islamic State, its religious or intellectual appeal. That the Islamic State holds the imminent fulfillment of prophecy as a matter of dogma at least tells us the mettle of our opponent. It is ready to cheer its own near-obliteration, and to remain confident, even when surrounded, that it will receive divine succor if it stays true to the Prophetic model. Ideological tools may convince some potential converts that the group’s message is false, and military tools can limit its horrors. But for an organization as impervious to persuasion as the Islamic State, few measures short of these will matter, and the war may be a long one, even if it doesn’t last until the end of time.


    Good stuff. But Graeme is, in this article, solely concerned with the ideological grounding of ISIS. There is also its economic grounding to consider. Just today it was reported how the oil slump has pinched their finances. If they cannot expand territory, acquire new banks to rob … they’s up shit creek … as we all told you they would be.

    Chill … you need to chill. Oh, and stop, for pities’ sake, sending morons to the Congress. That is important too.

    • Post Scripts says:

      Okay Libby, I re-read those paragraphs and I found them to be excellent…again. I agree with everything he said. But, sweetie I think you’re reading to much into my occasional emotional outbursts. Justifiable outbursts over the transgressions of bloodthirsty terrorists. Sure that’s me, but for about two seconds. The real me, the fulltime me, is solidly grounded…don’t worry. I get it, I understand what you are saying, but in reality I can be just as analytical and intellectual as you…actually I think more so, but that’s a matter of opinion. ; )

      Libby, I get the feeling I’m getting somebody else’s mail? The person you are talking about is not me.

  4. Libby says:

    And I’m glad you were enlightened by the article. It does give us perspective we have not had until now.

    But don’t go off half cocked. I don’t think he faults the OA so much for naivete as for cynicism. Could anybody believe that ISIS actually believes all that medieval drivel? And there are, positively, sociopathic components of the organization that are making use of “ideology” to have themselves a good time.

    It’s a muddy business … all components of which, as Graeme posits, must be appraised, considered and utilized … in the fight.

    P.S.: Militarism, as a component, is way down on the list, in my somewhat-less-than-humble-opinion.

    • Post Scripts says:

      Libby you asked a fair question, “could anyone believe that ISIS actually believes all that medieval drivel?” In a word, yes. The world is full of people who believe in drivel, even highly educated people. So, the bigger question is, why do people believe in ISIS drivel or any kind of drivel? For that, we’re looking at is something closer to home.

      Lets take a look at what makes some people susceptible to political/religious rhetoric: I’m guessing it is some deep need within them to fill a void. They need to believe that they too can be part of a great cause ordained by God! To be part of some grand Holy movement fills a void and its empowering. For others, not quite so zealot like, it could be simply a case of wanting to be part of a great adventure. We have countless examples of this crap throughout history.

      ISIS has crafted their own unique brand of rhetoric that works fairly well (obviously) because it is leveraged off already accepted tenants of faith. It’s not that hard to coerce the already semi-indoctrinated to the next level of being a “true believer.”

      For a devout Muslim, all the ingredients for promoting violence is right in the Koran, they just need a little push from a forceful personality to explain it to them.

      They see this “truth” as it is revealed to them backed up by the literal interpretation of the sacred text in the Koran…and they’ve been taught not to question the Koran’s authority. So, they’re hooked.

      Aristotle wrote about this so it’s hardly a new-age thought. He saw the masters of rhetoric (in this case, Imams for jihad) as having an ability to see the available means of persuasion. The people they are recruiting are mostly young and stupid…in other words, these recruits resemble most deeply religious young people, except for a few quirks of the personality. It’s those subtle things in their personality that compels to go a little further than other young and stupid people. In another time they might have been devout Christians recruited for the Crusades, but now its Muslim Imams recruiting them to fulfill Gods prophecy of a Caliphate. You want to talk drivel, read up on this prophecy.

      Libby, these folks have lost all sense of objectivity and/or independent thought by the time they are in ISIS. They are completely hooked and the really scary part….it just didn’t take that much to get them there.

      I’m thinking we have many people like them, primed and ready for the next level in all forms of religion, but especially within Islam because they are taught early on NOT to question their faith, questioning is a sin, but it is a virtue to accept what is written on faith and trust to God that he knows best! These jihadist go forth to slay the enemy wrapped in the cloak of righteousness…and this is what we’re dealing with. Kinda sucks, huh?

  5. Harold says:

    Oh Jack, now just ‘Calm Down’……

  6. Peggy says:

    I hope those detractors will understand that ISIS/L is using this caliphate movement to bring forth their religious beliefs that it will bring on the last battle/Armageddon, the return of Christ to be defeated.

    This is what they’re using for their recruiting of Muslims all over the world. Come join the fight for victory and control of the whole world as Mohammad promised.

  7. Dan the Man says:

    Hey Jack! I think Libby was talking about me. I would shoot one of these ISIS bastards in split second if I could. I dont have to go to church to know that killing or making slaves out of women and kids is wrong. screw em.

  8. Tina says:

    Jack this is a great article and I too thank Libby for it.

    Unfortunately, I think Libby has a need to feel intellectually superior, her purpose in sharing it. She sees your spirited post as emotional outburst made by an out of control cowboy (outlaw).

    Nothing could be further from the truth. You are a military man. That training better serves your capacity to see the need for a multifaceted approach to solve this problem than any intellectual thinking alone would. Many intellectuals on the left lack understanding of strategy, they only pretend to know the enemy, and they often underestimate the threat. Lacking basic training and discipline in deadly confrontational situations they stumble, relying on talk and diplomacy and deals that are continually broken. In the end they concede too much ground to the enemy, resulting in greater loss of lives and blood shed and a much greater financial burden in the end. The last six+ years have been such a waste of momentum.

    Libby’s intellectual approach is not unlike the OA’s approach and we see clearly how effective it’s been. Even as the ME turns to chaos and terrorists encamp across the globe the administration pretends nothing dire is happening. Kerry tells us the world is “safer than ever” at a time when others from the intelligence community are telling us otherwise:

    “’When the final accounting is done, 2014 will have been the most lethal year for global terrorism in the 45 years such data has been compiled,’ Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee.”

    Jack your spirited responses to the heinous and barbaric acts of this evil enemy are exactly on point.

    I’m all for giving credit where its due. This article, submitted by Libby, certainly does deserve kudos and she for sharing it. But Libby has shown blind allegiance to leftists belief systems that prevent her from admitting when our side has been more effective and when her side has blundered terribly. It’s difficult for me to see her sharing as sincere. By my estimation she’d do better to sit at your knee and determine to expand her own point of view.

    • Post Scripts says:

      Thanks for the compliment Tina. Yes, I’m an old pro cop/military kind of guy and yes my patriotic feelings sometimes can be disturbing to those who don’t understand them or share them. I know Libby must think I’m a loony-toon sometimes. But, its not like I am going to twist off and go on a my own personal jihad against ISIS. They are safely out of my gun range and all I can do is protest their barbaric and sick cult with the strongest words I can find and put in print. I am happy to do that too, it gives me know end of satisfaction to insult them and make them look at stupid and worthless as I humanly can.

  9. Georgia says:

    I read that Atlantic article before I ever saw this.

    Your opinion is your opinion. I got a completely different take. They are very sophisticated and 21st century modern. They are experts in media, propaganda, and indoctrination.

    DO you also believe they just went into that museum and destroyed things? Or do you realize they sold what they could on the black market,then smashed what was left to try and bait people? There is more to these people than we all have figured out. Things are just not that simple as you think.

    I could put 5 military Generals in a room and they would all have a different take until they compared notes.

    Remember the people we fight today are the very same people we funded yesterday. The CIA has been involved with them for a long long time. Many are also Iraqi soldiers we fired when we invaded, destroyed, and occupied Iraq.

  10. Harold says:

    ‘Remember the people we fight today are the very same people we funded yesterday’, however, the evil regimes we were dedicated to conquer and destroy have become some of our better allies.

    ‘There is more to these people than we all have figured out. Things are just not that simple as you think’….
    So considering that comment : America’s Second Amendment represents true homeland security, and understanding that directly preserves your freedom to protect what really matters.

  11. Peggy says:

    General Patton, Eisenhower and all of our past great military leaders must be rolling over in their graves at the stupidity of this president.

    In Puzzler, President Lets ISIS Know Iraq Battle Schedule:

    “Team Obama’s decision last month to disclose to the press the operational outline for an all-out assault on the Islamic State (aka ISIS)-held Iraqi city of Mosul is a bit of a head scratcher.

    It’s like: “Hey, ISIS—please save the date.”

    The Pentagon also reportedly told the press that the April-May offensive would include as many as 25,000 Iraqi/Kurdish Peshmerga troops, alongside Sunni tribesmen and local police.

    Plus, given that urban assault can be a serious slog with street fighting and house-to-house clearing operations, isn’t it going to be even more difficult with the steps the enemy will now take to improve its odds of prevailing?

    For instance, while the Islamic State expected that Mosul would be contested at some point, its fighters will find the best sniper locations, set up fields of fire, plant IEDs, etc.—ASAP.

    Worse, news analysis seems to indicate the Iraqi army probably won’t be ready by the spring and the Kurds aren’t properly armed yet due to Baghdad’s sensitivities about bolstering the Peshamerga forces.

    ISIS will also probably look for opportunities to distract the coalition militarily elsewhere from its planned operation against Mosul. In fact, the announcement of the upcoming fight might “turbo-charge” militant recruitment (via social media, of course) to defend the caliphate’s eastern outpost.

    None of this is good. So what might account for broadcasting operational information to the enemy?”


  12. Harold says:

    ‘None of this is good. So what might account for broadcasting operational information to the enemy?’

    Excellent question, is there a viable answer?,

    • Post Scripts says:

      The possible answers are not good. They range on one hand from naivety to treason on the other with stupid somewhere in the middle.

      The best possible outcome, and the most unlikely, would be that ISIS gets scared and runs away before the battle starts. The odds are better than it will be the Iraqi army doing the running. We’ll see how the battle for Tikrit goes and if they handle that okay it might give them some courage by they time they get to Mosul. You know the Kurds are likely to be taking actual lead in Mosul, I sure wouldn’t count on the Iraqi Army for much.

  13. Peggy says:

    Jack: “The possible answers are not good. They range on one hand from naivety to treason on the other with stupid somewhere in the middle.”

    Got that right for sure. Remember Valerie Jarrett is Obama’s #1 advisor and she was born in Iran. Others have said she’s the brains behind Obama and the one who screens everyone he sees and does including military.

    Obama may not like Israel and BiBi, but it’s a guarantee Ms. Jarrett hates them both and is behind every decision Obama makes.

    Lt. Gen. Boykin: Rice, Jarrett Calling Shots on ISIS, Iran Deal:

    “President Barack Obama is letting White House officials dictate decisions on how the U.S. will proceed in major foreign policy and military initiatives, Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin told “Fox & Friends.”

    Specifically, Boykin said Obama is allowing National Security Adviser Susan Rice to call the shots in decisions on the battle against the Islamic State (ISIS), and letting presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett influence negotiations with Iran over the country’s nuclear weapons program.”


    The Vetting – Valerie Jarrett Keeps Obama Close to Radical Roots:

    “Valerie Jarrett is not only one of President Barack Obama’s closest advisors; she also is one of the most radical, with close connections to the Chicago left that nurtured Obama in his early political career.

    The Iranian-born Jarrett (her parents were American expatriates) found a foothold in Chicago politics through her marriage to Dr. William Robert Jarrett, whose father Vernon held sway as a columnist on the Chicago Sun-Times–for a time, the city’s only major black columnist.”


    From Democrat Juan Williams.

    Valerie Jarrett — the ‘tough guy’ adviser in the Obama White House is a woman:

    “But in her time in the Obama White House Jarrett has become a Washington legend for being as fiercely protective of the president as a mother is of her son. As one senior White House official recently told the New York Times, on the condition of anonymity that she out-ranks the chief of staff, cabinet officers and generals: “She is the single most influential person in the Obama White House.”


    Retired General: Military purges a real concern, Jarrett pulling the strings:

    “In an exclusive interview with Examiner.com Tuesday, retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul E. Vallely said the “purges” going on in the military are a real concern and, he added, White House adviser Valerie Jarrett is pulling the strings.”


    There are several more if you all want to look them up.

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