This may seem like an utterly barbaric thing to say, but ISIL is progressing itself down a course which it cannot survive. If this course is allowed to progress, I believe, it will force actions in others to a point that the Islamic State’s true source of power will be broken and take with it the seeds of fanaticism in much of the Middle East, as well. If, however, this course is interrupted by too much outside interference, it will only feed the mentalities that birthed ISIL and exacerbate the turmoil for perhaps another generation entirely along with spreading fundamentalism further.
Here are the reasons I believe this.
1) ISIL isn’t well accepted by the broader population muslims. One might be surprised to find out that almost all other Islamic bodies have completely disavowed the Islamic State. Be it an Islamic nation or even, other groups which have been labeled as terrorist organizations, the Islamic State has no noteworthy allies. They are an extremists branch. Yes, they do have many adherents, but within the entirety of Islam, they are still a minority.
2) Their main source of recruiting is among the young, undirected, and not very theologically grounded youth of world wide muslims. This means that they have a young culture, prone to fits of irrationality and capable of extreme violence with less regard for life than militant groups with an older average age. This means that as more young people join in with ISIL, we should expect to see these young people committing more and more violent acts as mob mentality takes over the loose military structure of the Islamic State’s army.
3) Point two is illustrated by their recruiting methods, hyper violent shows of force and subjugation of individuals who do not adhere to a particular brand of Islam. This type of sensationalist recruiting is directed at exactly the type of individual pointed out in point two and further leads the culture of barbarity by potently pulling out those fanatics within the broader population of point one from international sources.
4) They have grown in regional influence much faster than they have gained the logistical support and structure to adequately govern it. This means that they are spread thin, less so since so many have joined in more recently, but there is very little experience available to govern a logistical area of operations about the size of the state of Pennsylvania or the nation of Portugal. With such a small and randomly assorted officer corps, leadership in ISIL will be lacking and strategic weaknesses are going to form, if they haven’t already.
Considering these points a few things will probably happen. The IS will continue to get worse, as time goes on. This will force some sort of reaction by the world community. A coalition of 10 different Islamic States in the region has already been formed to help combat ISIL. What this coalition will look like and what actual counter-offensive they pose is yet to be determined, but some of the faces now sitting at the same table would have floored many a political expert even just one year ago. With hopes, they will at least increase security to prevent new recruits from joining with ISIL, closing up holes for their funding, and perhaps even coordinating attacks and direct action. If nothing else, they have already made a token effort and sent a message to more than 300,000,000 muslims that this brand of Islamic fundamentalism is not acceptable. Further actions will only make the the Islamic State more desperate as they no longer will be able to take advantage of many of the tactics which have served them over the last few years.
Once they become desperate, we should expect to see a few things. They will be ugly, probably worse than what we have seen, so far. Something important to remember, though, is that ISIL insurgents are outnumbered by the local population in the regions they control by, in some places, 10,000 to 1. Many of these people are absolutely not happy about Sunni Arab fundamentalist rule by force. Many currently only remain subjugated by fear. Under these conditions, and with a few key losses to remind the oppressed of ISIS’s very real vulnerabilities, I can’t reasonably see the populations like the Kurds, Yazidi, and citizenry of Mosul not rising up. There has already been articles of Yazidi militia forces forming, getting trained, organized and armed, to combat alongside Iraqi and Kurdish forces. Frankly, ISIL’s extremely barbaric methods, along with their overzealous sudden expansions have left them with many enemies and spread incredibly thin. If anything, their barbarity has acted as a recruiting device and rallying cry for the enemies they wish to conquer.
(This image is actually a parade of Shia militia, raised from Iraqi citizens to fight ISIL, marching in Baghdad.)
Add to this recent losses on three fronts. In Syria, their actual base of operations, Assad, the dictator Western media outlets were busy painting as the worst thing in the Middle East eight months ago, has made several concessions including the promise that he is willing to make further compromises in the hopes to receive help from abroad against the Islamic State threat. What that means, we can’t be certain. The Iraqi army has had a few important victories in regions of significant importance to ISIL in Iraq, namely near Falluja, a very potent center of Iraqi fundamentalism going back to 2004. The Kurdish Peshmerga has also done marvelously in the North by taking control of several strategic assets in coordination with American bombing. While, in reality, these events alone don’t win a war, the broader picture is that it does do something very important. If ISIL’s main source of growth is through the promotion of a nation for Allah, how could Allah possibly allow them to lose? I’m not making a personal religious statement, but echoing a point I have heard said by others. It is a logical fallacy that must be overcome by anyone who seeks to join, and many, are now simply unable to.
That said, it is my belief that, with even minimal support by the Americans, ISIL’s days are numbered. What’s more, at the end of this process, we would have an Islamic ran cultural restoration to promote, project and protect a much less fanatical and barbaric form of the religion. Perhaps most importantly, the Middle East will, together show that they don’t want fundamentalism to rule, which will be a cultural message with much deeper lasting effects. If you want fundamentalism to die out, you have to have it hated by the community.
What we shouldn’t do, and this is just my opinion, is go in full steam and guns blazing as the American victory over terrorism. It isn’t that I don’t think we have skin in this. I was an American Marine deployed to the region currently owned by ISIL in 2005 and 2007. Trust me that I know what our responsibilities to the region are, the sacrifices we’ve made, and the risks that we face if the Islamic State isn’t destroyed. Simply put, though, seeing our failures first hand has made me very reluctant to believe in another American led coalition to solve all of the problems of the Middle East. I don’t really think that the Americans micromanaging this one is going to get very much done. It didn’t ten years ago. I feel that, if anything, it will do more to send the message that maybe ISIL is right, at least to those who are vulnerable to their propaganda. “Maybe the Westerners really are trying to take over the Islamic world.” The last thing we should do is make over a billion people sympathetic to the terrorists by our continued over involvement in their affairs. What we need to do is, from a distance, bide our time and provide support, not a grandstanding leadership role, to the Islamic nations so that they along with the oppressed minorities in Iraq and Syria can come together and break the back of fundamentalism. Only then when the source of this fanaticism truly be cut off by a profound cultural change rather than outside interference.
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