A 300-word essay on ISIS

I have received a number of visitors to this blog as a result of Google searches for the phrase “A 300-word essay on ISIS”. Happy to oblige:


ISIS, or the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, is a group of radical fundamentalist anti-Western Islamists who believe that Muslims must follow strict Sharia law and forsake cultural perversions such as capitalistic greed and social liberty. A very moralistic lot, ISIS believes that human beings should be guided by a strict and literal reading of the Koran—which is to say, what they interpret it to mean. The highest calling is jihad, to do Allah’s work on earth, for which a soldier will be rewarded in heaven. Making the ultimate sacrifice of his life will yield the greatest reward. Just as in Christianity, whatever happens on this planet is relatively insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Eternity lasts forever, while life on earth is transitory.

After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, radical Islamists coalesced under the name ISIS and collaborated with Al Qaeda. Both Iraqis and foreigners joined the ranks of the insurgents as militants and civilians were being slaughtered by the Western occupiers. ISIS eventually separated from Al Qaeda (apparently not radical enough) and went on to establish outposts in other lands, including Syria, where their aim has been to oust President Bashar al-Assad and establish a caliphate.

In late 2012 and 2013, the CIA covertly furnished 600 tons of weapons to “appropriately vetted moderate rebels”. The result was a massive takeover by ISIS of large swaths of territory in both Syria and Iraq. In 2014, ISIS declared that it had established a caliphate to govern over all Muslims.

In conclusion, ISIS is an enemy created by the US government through intervention abroad and the military empowerment of outsiders. Like Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden before them, ISIS, having been funded by US taxpayers, now serves as the pretext for more war in the Middle East.


The simple, one-size-fits-all principle of US foreign policy

I’ll never forget the evening of September 10, 2014, when I googled to find Obama’s public address calling for war on ISIS in Syria. I accidentally pulled up his address from September 11, 2013, and was trying to understand it. After a few minutes, I realized my mistake: I was watching the speech where Obama was calling for war against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, not his most fearsome opponents.

September 11, 2013, speech:

September 10, 2014, speech:

After watching both short YouTube films of the 2013 and the 2014 speeches consecutively, I came up with this simple theory of US foreign policy:

If X, then bomb. If not-X, then bomb. Therefore, bomb.

Recall the Bush principle according to which X & not-X are mutually exclusive and exhaustive:

You’re either with us, or you’re with them.

All of this translates as follows in the current Syria crisis, where X = pro-Assad

If pro-Assad, then bomb. If anti-Assad, then bomb. Therefore, bomb.

The last time Obama called for war against the Syrian government, Raytheon stock jumped 20% over the course of a few days. I’m sure that the company execs will be happy with whatever pretext is offered next.

As for the people of Syria trapped in the midst of this quagmire? Refugees are understandably flowing in a steady stream to Europe, despite the mainstream media’s insistence over the past year that evil ISIS was luring new converts, both Americans and Europeans, to join the cause and strike in the West. Political leaders who support laying Syria to waste in a scenario starting to look more and more like Fallujah don’t really have answers to the question what to do when all of the Middle East has been evacuated because of Western bombing.

Can anyone truly deny that the record of this approach to US foreign policy is abysmal? Witness: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. Next up: Syria.


For more information and related criticism, see We Kill Because We Can, Chapter 9: Death and Politics