By burning alive Jordanian fighter pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh, the Islamic State reinforced an apparent commitment to behave like a terrorist organization, not a state.
It’s well known that revolutionary movements and/or terrorist organizations generally moderate the extreme violence that may have brought them to power. The Islamic State, however, which fancies itself even more than a state — a caliphate spanning existing states — seems intent on overturning the conventional wisdom.
In fact, is the Islamic State’s leadership channeling Satan? By burning Jordanian fighter pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh to death in the most torturous manner possible, its members are apparently making another payment in the deal they seem to have signed with the devil (known as Shaytan in Islam).
Still, Jordan didn’t help matters by executing two failed suicide bombers in retaliation.
Meanwhile, New Yorker writer George Packer will never live down his early support of the Iraq War. However, in the years since he’s been an often valuable commentator. For instance, yesterday he posted: Why ISIS Murdered Kenji Goto.
Why did ISIS allow its negotiations with Jordan to collapse? … For its trouble the Islamic State got no cash and no Sajida al-Rishawi [the female suicide bomber executed by Jordan in retaliation], only worldwide revulsion.
… So what’s the strategy behind the beheadings, other than to lengthen the list of countries that now talk about “their” 9/11? Why would ISIS want to make more enemies than it already has?
Why, for that matter, would ISIS send thousands of its men to besiege Kobani, a strategically unimportant Kurdish town on the Turkish-Syrian border where more than a thousand ISIS fighters, including many foreigners, perished after months of street fighting and American air raids?
… if the group thinks that it will intimidate countries into keeping out of or leaving the anti-ISIS coalition, its tactics have so far been a failure.
“In the end,” Packer writes, “it isn’t very useful to hold ISIS to the expectations and standards of other violent groups.” The Islamic State’s “point isn’t to use the right level of violence to achieve limited goals. The violence is the point, and the worse the better. The Islamic State doesn’t leave thousands of corpses in its wake as a means to an end. Slaughter is its goal—slaughter in the name of higher purification. Mass executions are proof of the Islamic State’s profound commitment to its vision … its vaulting ambition of an actual Islamic State that inspires ISIS recruits. The group uses surprise and shock to achieve goals that are more readily grasped by the apocalyptic imagination than by military or political theory.” (Emphasis ended.)
Thus is the Islamic State “less like a conventional authoritarian or totalitarian state than like a mass death cult.” That might sound like defeating it is manageable. But, warns Packer, death cults “rarely end in self-destruction. They usually have to be destroyed by others.
Reposted from the Foreign Policy blog Focal Points.