Read it. Feel free to laugh.
The problem, however, lies not in chronicling the successes of the movement, but in explaining how something so improbable became possible. The explanations so often given for its rise—the anger of Sunni communities, the logistical support provided by other states and groups, the movement’s social media campaigns, its leadership, its tactics, its governance, its revenue streams, and its ability to attract tens of thousands of foreign fighters—fall far short of a convincing theory of the movement’s success.
Oh, maybe it’s the whole Koran/Mohammed/Jihad business. Naw, that couldn’t be it.
But this simply raises the more fundamental question of why the movement’s ideology and actions—however slickly produced and communicated—have had popular appeal in the first place.
Perhaps it’s adherents read the Koran and took it seriously. Naw, that couldn’t be it.
The clearest evidence that we do not understand this phenomenon is our consistent inability to predict—still less control—these developments. Who predicted that Zarqawi would grow in strength after the US destroyed his training camps in 2001? It seemed unlikely to almost everyone that the movement would regroup so quickly after his death in 2006, or again after the surge in 2007. We now know more and more facts about the movement and its members, but this did not prevent most analysts from believing as recently as two months ago that the defeats in Kobane and Tikrit had tipped the scales against the movement, and that it was unlikely to take Ramadi. We are missing something.
Yeah – it’s called ‘Islam’. (Make you wonder what ‘we’ he’s talking about.)
The author has wide experience in the Middle East and was formerly an official of a NATO country.
Oh, well, then, that explains it.
We hide this from ourselves with theories and concepts that do not bear deep examination. And we will not remedy this simply through the accumulation of more facts. It is not clear whether our culture can ever develop sufficient knowledge, rigor, imagination, and humility to grasp the phenomenon of ISIS. But for now, we should admit that we are not only horrified but baffled.
‘Baffled?’ Try ‘clueless’. Try ‘dumber than a box of rocks’. Try ‘invincibly ignorant’.