Truthfully, I find Hannah Arendt On Violence a little racist and a lot dated. Extremely 20th century. So I decided on a DIY to convey some of my understanding of 21st century warfare in general and of how the Islamic State uses terror in particular. I asked a western analyst what terrorism was in his opinion– this is what he said:
“a rough definition is using violence intentionally/willingly against noncombatants for political ends”
I pointed out to him that his definition means US, Israel, Russia etc, all engage in terrorism via the Dahiya doctrine and Obama’s Law of War Manual. And I also pointed out that IS doesn’t believe in noncombatants. Are US taxpayers noncombatants when they fund the bombs dropped on Syrian children? Hardly.
So I’d like to explain how the Islamic State explicitly uses terror. IS mainly uses terror in two separate ways– 1) to promote and prosecute the state of “vexation and exhaustion” that is a precursor to the desirable “ripe” state of tawahhush– and 2) in the style of the French revolutionaries, who used “The Terror” to terrify and intimidate the aristocracy. Its also useful as recruitment and as revenge theater– the theater of Qisas— but those are secondary to its power as part of warfighting doctrine.
Terror as an offensive weapon: IS encourages what Edward Snowden calls “leaderless resistance”, lone wolf attacks. Like the West Bank knife attacks there is no terrorist digital footprint– no formal connections to a radical organization. The young Palestinian just wakes up one day and instead of going to school or to work uses a found weapon to kill jews– a car or a knife. In America guns are much easier to come by– the Tsarnovs and the San Bernardino attacks were instances of leaderless resistance– no central authority ordered the attacks. Anti-abortionists are also examples of leaderless resistance. These attackers are impossible to find before the terror event– they have no digital footprint in the surveillance state that predicts the attack.
The Islamic State also orders terror attacks as part of the campaign of vexation and exhaustion outlined in Abu Bakr Nājī’s brilliant war manual– The Management of Savage Chaos. Beirut, Paris, and frequent Baghdad carbombs are likely examples of direct orders intended to destabilize the local regimes.
The Paris attack was particularily interesting in its timing– planned to exploit the refugee crisis. Dr. Atran of ARTIS Research has devoted 15 years to the study of IS youth recruitment. This article is trenchant– Paris: the War ISIS Wants.
The shock produced by the multiple coordinated attacks in Paris on Friday—the scenes of indiscriminate bloodshed and terror on the streets, the outrage against Islamic extremism among the public, French President Francois Holland’s vow to be “merciless” in the fight against the “barbarians of the Islamic State”—is, unfortunately, precisely what ISIS intended. For the greater the hostility toward Muslims in Europe and the deeper the West becomes involved in military action in the Middle East, the closer ISIS comes to its goal of creating and managing chaos.
This is a strategy that has enabled it to confound far superior international forces, while enhancing its legitimacy in the eyes of its followers. The complexity of the French plot also suggests how successful ISIS has been at cultivating sources of support within the native populations of secular Western countries. Attacking ISIS in Syria will not contain this global movement, which now includes more than two thousand French citizens.
Some analysts believe Europe will be overrun in as little as two decades– it is not just the brown muslim wave of Syrian refugees– but the black muslim tsunami of economic migrants sure to move north out of Africa’s youth bulge.
Terror as a defensive deterrent: IS uses terror to propagate fear and loathing in western societies– make no mistake, white/anglo blood flowing from a beheading terrifies americans and europeans just as much as aristocrat blood pooling around the guillotine terrified the Ancien Regime– the hereditary rulers of France. In Idarat al Tawahhush Nājī speaks to destroying the “deceptive media halo” of the invulnerability of the superpowers– American is displayed in multiple beheading video productions as powerless to prevent the spilling of the blood of its citizens.
The idea of white supremacy convolved with nationalism is potent stuff– it fueled the rise of Hitler and the Nazis. Brown blood is cheaper than white blood. Its why Assad was permitted to slaughter a quarter of a million Sunni citizens, why Russia was permitted to slaughter a quarter of a million Chechan citizens. The First World won’t care until its made to care– I personally think demographic shift is going to make it care.
There is a “perfect storm” coming in the Middle East and Africa– a storm of youth population demographics empowered by social media and technology. When Obama and Putin say they are going to “destroy” the Islamic State I think that is magical thinking and fantasy… or mere chest-beating propaganda. According to the Maths it cant be done. The inexorable forces of technology and youth demographics are reshaping the world– and not in the First World’s favor.