Special Operations Chief Does Not Understand ISIS

Posted on Sat 01/03/2015 by


fsm 20120212 sellinBy Lawrence Sellin Ph.D. ~

20150102_Nobodyliketofightbutsomebodyhastoknowhow_TheMarinesarelookingforafewgoodmenMajor General Michael K. Nagata is commander of U.S. Special Operations forces in the Middle East and is in charge of a Pentagon mission that will train and equip Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also known as the Islamic State (IS) or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Nagata assembled an unofficial group of consultants outside the traditional realms of expertise within the Pentagon, State Department and intelligence agencies, in search of fresh ideas and inspiration to answer the question; what makes the ISIS so dangerous?

“We do not understand the movement, and until we do, we are not going to defeat it,” Nagata said, according to the confidential minutes of a conference call he held with the experts. “We have not defeated the idea. We do not even understand the idea.”

The general said, “They are drawing people to them in droves. There are I.S. T-shirts and mugs” and asked “What makes I.S. so magnetic, inspirational?”

The answer is simple – they have been winning. Few people buy T-shirts and mugs of losing sports teams.

In addition, ISIS has a simple and uncompromising message, one that often resonates with the alienated, aimless or unsuccessful.

For disaffected Muslims, ISIS can represent a form of Islamic glamour that fills an emotional need both for purpose and redemption; it is an opportunity to belong and win; it provides a powerful enticement to live out a fantasy of revenge for past insults projected onto the form of present helpless victims.

The core of ISIS, however, is pure Jihad.

ISIS’ tactics may resemble those of the Mafia, the intimidation, the brutality and its criminal activities like bank heists, extortion, robberies, and smuggling; but they all can be construed as in line with Sharia-adherent practices regarding Jihad.

“There is ample jurisprudence regarding the disposition of the spoils of war. For example, Reliance of the Traveller by Ahmad ibn Naqib Al-Misri, which includes legal rulings for both the personal booty of fighters who have slain an enemy and may take what he possessed for themselves (Book O. Justice, O.10.2) and for the collective use of spoils of war in order to pay for items of importance for the cause of the Islamic state such as, “fortify[ing] defense on the frontiers, salaries for Islamic judges, muezzins, and the like:” (Book 0. Justice 0.10.3)”

The “Mafia” tactics of killing or kidnapping for ransom are all permitted under the Sharia during jihad. Al-Misri notes (Book 0 Justice O.9.14):

“When an adult male is taken captive, the caliph considers the interests and decides between the prisoner’s death, slavery, release without paying anything or ransoming himself in exchange for money or for a Muslim captive held by the enemy.”

What makes ISIS dangerous is not unique in history. The most harm of all is done when power is in the hands of people who are absolutely persuaded of the purity of their instincts and of the purity of their intentions. Lenin was a man whose intentions may or may not have been good, but he was completely persuaded that he was right and he was willing to use all methods to achieve his aims. Mussolini was much less of a danger because he was an opportunist. He didn’t really believe what he was saying. He was willing to be bribed by whoever would bribe him the most. In contrast, Hitler was a sincere fanatic; he believed in what he was doing and he did far greater harm.

What makes ISIS different is that, although it has similar geopolitical aspirations, its instincts and intentions are believed to be divinely-inspired.

What hampers our ability to understand and combat ISIS is, quite frankly, political correctness, which eschews uncomfortable and inconvenient facts and forces the type of analysis that inevitably leads to the often heard excuse about every U.S. enemy in the age of liberalism – that ISIS “cannot be defeated militarily.”

Perhaps the Obama Administration can save us by creating a social media algorithm to dampen the enthusiasm for the T-shirts and mugs?

Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D. is a retired colonel with 29 years of service in the US Army Reserve and a veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq. Colonel Sellin is the author of “Restoring the Republic: Arguments for a Second American Revolution “.

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