Thinking Aloud: ISIS, Where Do We Go from Here?

June 26, 2015 by Darius 

It’s been a bad day for the world today.

In Kuwait, dozens are dead and hundreds more injured after an ISIS suicide bomber detonated himself in a mosque packed with Shia worshippers.

In Syria, dozens of ISIS fighters managed to enter the town of Kobani in what was described as a large-scale suicide mission and killed nearly 150 civilians.

Outside Lyon, France, a man thought to be a radical Islamist decapitated his boss.

In Tunisia, a gunman killed 37 people, mostly foreigners, at a beach resort.

A few thoughts:

  • What is the world supposed to do? Four attacks on three continents on the same day, coordinated or not, is simply outside the realm of anything we thought we’d be dealing with in 2015.  Although the call to do something will be loud and persistent, what is to be done, and by whom, is not at all clear.  How much of today’s violence is religiously motivated?  (And how is that genie stuffed back into its bottle and by whom?)  How much is borne of political frustration?  How much is mental illness and individual disgruntlement and alienation?  How do liberal democracies respond to the threats on their own soil and how do they respond to the crackdowns that will surely follow in their less-liberal, less-democratic ally countries?
  • As concerned as the West is about the threat of ISIS, it’s Muslims who are being hit hardest. Almost all of ISIS’s major operations have targeted fellow Muslims, especially Shia Muslims and, to a lesser extent, other Muslims who simply oppose them.
  • Tunisia, which heretofore has been held up as the one Arab Spring success story, is really screwed. One terror attack targeting tourists can be seen as a fluke.  Two is a pattern.  Tourism represents 7% of Tunisia’s GDP, and its loss will be a huge blow to the government’s attempts to boost the country’s sluggish economy.  In fact, this is the kind of attack that brings down governments and changes the course of a country.
  • It is long past time to tease apart the foreign fighters – motivated by a mix of religious ideology, dead-end lives, and psychological pathology – who continue to replenish ISIS’s ranks and the Baathist elements – motivated by visions of a Sunni state in Iraq and Syria – who perhaps are using religion opportunistically to mask political ends. The religious zealots of ISIS are never coming to the negotiating table.  For them, this conflict ends one way: dead or in prison and their “caliphate” shattered.  The sooner, the better.  For those with a political agenda, the matter is more complex.  But who is whom?

 

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