David Ignatius reports in the Washington Post yesterday (see here), that the brutality of ISIS is actually a specific strategy they are deliberately employing to both destabilize Muslim countries in the Middle East, as well as a way to weaken the United States and “convincing those moderate [Muslim states] who had hoped for U.S. protection that it’s futile”.
This is based on a book published in 2004 by a jihadist named Abu Bakr Naji, entitled “The Management of Savagery”, and now embraced by ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. As David Ignatius reports, the author’s thesis includes:
The key to undermining American power is raw violence, the more shocking the better, he argues. It wasn’t just that this ultra-violence would expose the West’s feebleness but also that it would force Muslims to make a choice. In the disorder of formerly stable Arab lands, the jihadists would make their name through “management of savagery.”
Naji had special contempt for Muslim softness. “The ingredient of softness is one of the ingredients of failure for any jihadi action,” he wrote. “It is better for those who . . . are also soft to sit in their homes. If not, failure will be their lot. . . . If we are not violent in our jihad and if softness seizes us, that will be a major factor in the loss of the element of strength.”
To support his case for brutal tactics, Naji notes that two caliphs who followed the prophet Muhammad “burned (people) with fire, even though it is odious, because they knew the effect of rough violence in times of need.” In another passage, he notes that “we need to massacre” others as Muslims did after the death of Muhammad. Violence is beneficial, Naji argues: “Dragging the masses into the battle requires more actions which will inflame opposition and which will make people enter into the battle, willing or unwilling. . . . We must make this battle very violent, such that death is a heartbeat away.”
The point here is that these jihadists believe that by using savagery, they can pull America more directly into war and this will force Muslims to “enter into the battle”. They believe they can then use these mobilized fighters and the destabilized Muslim states they come from to establish the caliphate they seek.
In other words, they see savagery as a way to provoke America, causing it both to lash out excessively (thus rallying Muslims to the jihadi cause), as well as causing America to grow weary of the whole mess and eventually abandoning the Middle East and its allies in the region.
In other words, one key to their strategy is directly using savagery against America in order to provoke us.
This is different than al-Qaeda who sought to carry out high profile attacks. The kind of attacks ISIS seeks are much easier to carry out and much harder for us to defend against.
Now wisdom is three fold. First you have to see something clearly. Blindness makes you foolish. Second, you have to understand what you see. Understanding the strategy of the enemy is important. But third and most important is the wisdom to know what to do about what you see and now understand.
But wisdom comes from God, and so we must ask God to help us see more clearly than we have, to help us understand what we see, and especially to know what to do about it.