ISIS has its origins in the Sunni insurgency following the invasion of Iraq by the George W. Bush administration. This gave rise to Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, which eventually split from core Al Qaeda, in part because of its shocking violence towards other Muslims.
In or about 2006 AQI leaders published a book called The Management of Savagery. It laid out a strategy of employing spectacular acts of brutality and displaying them across media platforms in order to goad Western powers into ground wars in the Middle East.
AQI, like ISIS now, includes in its highest ranks former Baathist members of Saddam Hussein’s military apparatus, who joined the militant group after the Bush administration’s de-Baathification policies and after the U.S.-backed sectarian regime in Baghdad proved unwilling to include Sunnis in government.
Nicolas Hénin, a French citizen who escaped from the captivity of ISIS, said military intervention is “what ISIS wants.”
They attacked Paris, Hénin wrote recently, “knowing all too well that the attack would force us to keep bombing or even to intensify these counterproductive attacks.”
An intensified air war or ground invasion to battle ISIS would be incredibly costly and has a high likelihood of yielding counterproductive blowback and unintended consequences.
But more than that, it’s the very approach that will give the struggling terrorist group a new lease on life. Nothing could be better for their recruitment than a renewed battle with the Crusaders.
So, is it in our interest to entangle ourselves in another complicated and vicious Middle Eastern war that has little chance of success and high chances of making everything worse? No, probably not but doing nothing is not an option either.
Acknowledgments & References:
John Glaser Master’s degree candidate in International Security at George Mason University.
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