2015: ISIS Metamorphosis And The Migrants Crisis



In August 1941, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt met off the coast of Newfoundland to outline a shared vision for the post-World War II era. The British prime minister was so thrilled to see the American president that, in the words of one official, “You’d have thought he was being carried up into the heavens to meet God.”

The two countries issued the Atlantic Charter, which sought “a better future for the world” through the principles of self-determination, collective security, and free trade. The United States hadn’t even entered the war yet, but it was already focused on winning the peace. The endgame was not just the defeat of the Axis powers, but also the creation of a stable global order, in which World War II would be the last world war.

Officials in the White House seem to fear that too much long-range planning could land the United States in yet another quagmire. If the administration publicly outlined a credible plan to defeat ISIS, it might commit the U.S. to a far greater investment of resources than is currently allocated. Obama himself appears to be deeply ambivalent about the goal of destroying ISIS. Chastened by the Iraq War, the president is particularly wary of being drawn into a costly campaign with uncertain odds of success.

Instead, he emphasizes restricting the growth of ISIS. Just before the Paris attacks, Obama told ABC News, “From the start our goal has been first to contain, and we have contained them.” The logic seems to be: focus on the here and now, avoid sweeping plans, stay nimble, and look for new opportunities. It’s precisely because Obama sees ISIS as a long-term problem with no easy solution that he doesn’t want to think too far ahead. Keep the endgame murky and the options open—and expect to hand the problem over to the next guy.

These hawks may be neglecting the endgame because they fear that long-term thinking will deter the United States from escalating the campaign against ISIS. They are eager to obliterate the Islamic State, and they don’t want to be distracted by tough questions about, say, how Syria can be reconstructed from the ruins of war.

Conflicts are complex and fluid, especially against a metamorphosing enemy like the terrorist-insurgent-state that is ISIS. It’s tough to predict events next week, never mind next year. But thinking through the endgame is a critical part of any wartime strategy. The Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz advised against taking the first step in war “without considering the last.” And former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger wrote, “The test of policy is how it ends, not how it begins.”

Police fear the desperate refugees are being recruited as the Islamic extremists plot terror attacks in Europe ISIS extremists have been spotted attempting to recruit refugees from asylum camps in Europe. Supporters ISIS were spotted chatting to Syrians at an asylum centre in Oslo, Norway.

Authorities have already registered concerns that, given their desperate situation, refugees may be vulnerable to radicalisation as they flee towards European cities.

The recent terrorist attacks in France have intensified an ongoing global debate on accepting Syrian refugees. After a terrorist attack killed more than 120 people and injured hundreds France imposed border controls and authorities discovered a Syrian passport near the body of one of the attackers.

While it’s not clear whether any of the assailants were migrants themselves—Syrian passports are often forged—the attack has nonetheless reignited the debate over Europe’s migrant crisis.

In the U.S., the role the country should play in this refugee crisis is a subject of continued partisan debate. President Obama announced in September that at least 10,000 Syrian refugees will be resettled in the U.S. over the next year.

While this number might seem small compared to the 4 million total refugees created by the war since 2011, it represents a marked jump from the fewer than 2,000 Syrian refugees accepted last year.

France’s firm belief that Islamic State militants planned the attacks—and the possibility that at least one assailant may have posed as a Syrian refugee—are fueling arguments over whether Europe is doing enough to protect itself from terrorists who might infiltrate the thousands of migrants arriving daily from the Middle East and elsewhere.

To proponents of European integration, the attacks highlight the need for more EU cooperation on security and better joint protection of the bloc’s external frontier. But those voices, led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, are now likely to face even stronger opposition from politicians who want to show they are taking national security more seriously than lofty European ideals.

More border controls within the EU might follow, each of them undermining Europe’s Schengen accord—which provides for passport-free travel across the borders of 26 signatory countries—said Josef Janning, head of the Berlin office of the European Council on Foreign Relations. “Pressure is growing on countries to act,” Mr. Janning said, “but the ability to do so in a European framework is not.”

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen said President François Hollande’s move to impose temporary border controls in the wake of the attacks was insufficient. Instead, she said, the Schengen freedoms should be abolished and France’s protected borders re-established.
“Without borders, neither protection nor security are possible,” Ms. Le Pen said.

Where did ISIS come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.

The group seized Mosul, Iraq, last June, and already rules an area larger than the United Kingdom. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been its leader since May 2010, but until last summer, his most recent known appearance on film was a grainy mug shot from a stay in U.S. captivity at Camp Bucca during the occupation of Iraq.

Then, on July 5 of last year, he stepped into the pulpit of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, to deliver a Ramadan sermon as the first caliph in generations—upgrading his resolution from grainy to high-definition, and his position from hunted guerrilla to commander of all Muslims. The inflow of jihadists that followed, from around the world, was unprecedented in its pace and volume, and is continuing.

Our ignorance of the Islamic State is in some ways understandable: It is a hermit kingdom; few have gone there and returned. Baghdadi has spoken on camera only once. But his address, and the Islamic State’s countless other propaganda videos and encyclicals, are online, and the caliphate’s supporters have toiled mightily to make their project knowable.

We can gather that their state rejects peace as a matter of principle; that it hungers for genocide; that its religious views make it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change, even if that change might ensure its survival; and that it considers itself a harbinger of—and headline player in—the imminent end of the world.

The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), follows a distinctive variety of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment matter to its strategy, and can help the West know its enemy and predict its behavior. Its rise to power is less like the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (a group whose leaders the Islamic State considers apostates) than like the realization of a dystopian alternate reality in which David Koresh or Jim Jones survived to wield absolute power over not just a few hundred people, but some 8 million.

We have misunderstood the nature of the Islamic State in at least two ways. First, we tend to see jihadism as monolithic, and to apply the logic of al‑Qaeda to an organization that has decisively eclipsed it. The Islamic State supporters still refer to Osama bin Laden as “Sheikh Osama,” a title of honor. But jihadism has evolved since al-Qaeda’s heyday, from about 1998 to 2003, and many jihadists disdain the group’s priorities and current leadership.

No Comments yet