Donald Trump told Newsmax TV back in July of last year, that he would “bomb the hell” out of the Islamic State (ISIS) if he was elected to the White House. And then in December, Ted Cruz uttered what seems to be his favorite line on ISIS: “We will carpet-bomb them into oblivion.”
But bombing is most likely the wrong way to defeat ISIS, especially if that is the primary offensive method used.
Last month Lt. Col. Brian Steed, a military historian at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, gave a learned lecture at the Kansas City Public Library. A specialist on the Middle East, Steed spoke on “Mesopotamia on Fire: Changing the Conversation on ISIS.”
Earlier that day (Feb. 23), Steed was interviewed by KCUR’s Steve Kraske. That 24-minute interview was linked to (see here) under the title “Defeating ISIS By Understanding It.”
Unfortunately, I don’t get the impression that the candidates seeking to become President have a very adequate understanding of ISIS, except perhaps for HRC.
I was very favorably impressed with Steed—especially when I heard him in person. Even though he is a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army, he made it clear that he was speaking as a private citizen—and when he is in Baghdad, he apparently speaks in Arabic.
One of the important points of his lecture was this: we see the cruelty of ISIS when there is television footage of beheadings and executions of individuals. But such cruelties are no worse than that resulting from U.S. bombing of ISIS targets or from using drones to kill ISIS combatants, often with civilians being killed as “collateral damage.”
It is clips of the latter that are shown on television in Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries—and the hatred for the U.S. deepens with each such telecast. Such clips are recruitment tools for ISIS.
What surprised me most from hearing Steed’s lecture was that ISIS believes that Jesus (yes, that Jesus) is coming soon and he will kill the Dajjal (the Antichrist) and will establish “Islam and its justice” over the whole world.
|(Khilafah = Caliphate)|
The final decisive battle, according to the apocalyptic mythology that seems to be driving much of the activity of ISIS will take place at Dabiq, a place in Syria that is about 150 miles north of Israel’s Mount Megiddo, where according to popular Christian apocalyptic thought the battle of Armageddon will be fought.
Dabiq is also the name of a glossy propaganda magazine published by ISIS. It is said to be “sophisticated, slick, beautifully produced and printed in several languages including English.” It is used in recruiting jihadists from the West. (Here is the link to Dabiq’s webpage.)
This same information was presented a year ago in the Atlantic magazine, which I either didn’t hear about or didn’t pay attention to. (See the bibliographical information given below.)
Graeme Wood, author of the Atlantic’s article, insists that ISIS is very Islamic—but an extreme, apocalyptic form of Islam that is opposed by other forms of Islam and by the majority of Muslims in the world today.
In the Spring 2016 issue of Plough Quarterly (see here), Nathaniel Peters writes, “Wood is right. Islamic extremism is a theological problem. But how do we go about solving it? The solution to the theological problem must be theological, not military."
The long-term strategy for defeating ISIS must be in the realm of ideas, or “narratives,” to use the term Steed emphasized, rather than bombs and military force. The sooner our political leaders learn that the better.
Links to important articles
“ISIS Says Jesus is Coming Soon, and the End of the World” by Karen L. Willoughby – February 17, 2015, article in Christian Examiner (here)
“What ISIS Really Wants” by Graeme Wood – Cover story of the March 2015 issue of The Atlantic (here)
“What ISIS Really Wants: The Response” by Graeme Wood – February 25, 2015, issue of The Atlantic (here)