Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Common Sense - ISIS, Caliphate, & the New Normal

 ISIS Terrorism Chart & Map ripped from the New York Times  
In the last year we've seen: the ISIS aligned Boko Haram massacre in Nigeria in December; an ISIS inspired Paris Charlie Hebdo massacre in January; the ISIS pledged Al Shabab Kenyan school massacre in April; another ISIS massacre of civilians in Kobani in July; the ISIS October bombing in Ankara.  Within the last 30 days we've seen: the ISIS credited downing of a Russian airliner killing all aboard; an  ISIS bombing in Beirut; the ISIS enabled Paris massacre; American True Believers pledged to ISIS precipitating a massacre in San Bernardino. All this in addition to the uncounted beheadings, crucifixions, slavery, rapes and other routine horrors that are a daily reality within the ISIS controlled Caliphate in Syria and Iraq.

In his comments at a press conference after the most recent Paris massacre President Obama - "vowed not to "relent" against ISIS, saying Sunday that the world will not accept attacks on civilians in places like Paris as the "new normal."

On Sunday, December 6th, in the wake of the San Bernardino killings, President Obama spoke from the Oval Office about the administration strategy to deal with ISIS related terror. In contrast to earlier, carefully crafted language about degrading and containing ISIS/ISIL, he upped the ante saying "We will destroy ISIL" Immediately after making that firm declaration, he qualified it by saying what we would not do:
"We should not be drawn once more into a long and costly ground war in Iraq or Syria.... The strategy that we are using now -- air strikes, special forces, and working with local forces who are fighting to regain control of their own country -- that is how we'll achieve a more sustainable victory, and it won't require us sending a new generation of Americans overseas to fight and die for another decade on foreign soil."
Let's just accept the President's rhetoric at face value and play this out. Let's even go along with his odd assertion that we should implement additional regulation on guns and ammo to thwart terror, despite the fact that the regulations he advocates would have done absolutely nothing to prevent nor limit in any way what we saw in San Bernardino (or any other terrorist attack in the United States).

Here is the problem - despite the President's platitudes, until and unless we destroy the ISIS "Caliphate" the terrorism we have seen in the last year will absolutely continue to be the "new normal" indefinitely into the future.

The President dismisses the ISIS inspired terrorists by saying they are "embracing a perverted form of Islam". In fact, they are "inspired" to conduct these horrific acts by a rigorous and explicit 14th Century Koranic interpretation of Islam.  This specific variant (or "perversion") of Islam requires Muslims to fight a holy war for an Islamic State if and when there is a legitimate Caliph and Caliphate holding territory and enforcing Islamic Law. This literal  (or "perverted") understanding of the Koran demands the kind of attacks we've seen by the true believers who subscribe to it. You don't have to believe me - read this excellent, well-researched article in The Atlantic by Graeme Wood on  "What ISIS Really Wants":
"We are misled... by a well-intentioned but dishonest campaign to deny the Islamic State’s medieval religious nature...
 The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam...
To be the caliph, one must meet conditions outlined in Sunni law—being a Muslim adult man of Quraysh descent; exhibiting moral probity and physical and mental integrity; and having ’amr, or authority. This last criterion is the hardest to fulfill, and requires that the caliph have territory in which he can enforce Islamic law...
Before the caliphate, “maybe 85 percent of the Sharia was absent from our lives,” Choudary told me. “These laws are in abeyance until we have khilafa”—a caliphate—“and now we have one.” Without a caliphate, for example, individual vigilantes are not obliged to amputate the hands of thieves they catch in the act. But create a caliphate, and this law, along with a huge body of other jurisprudence, suddenly awakens. In theory, all Muslims are obliged to immigrate to the territory where the caliph is applying these laws...
 One way to un-cast the Islamic State’s spell over its adherents would be to overpower it militarily and occupy the parts of Syria and Iraq now under caliphate rule... If it loses its grip on its territory in Syria and Iraq, it will cease to be a caliphate. Caliphates cannot exist as underground movements, because territorial authority is a requirement: take away its command of territory, and all those oaths of allegiance are no longer binding.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared himself the Caliph on June 29, 2014. I vaguely recall the story covered by main stream media. For myself, and I think most in the West, if we noticed the story at all, it looked like a laughable and unimportant bit of political theater.  An absurd performance by a fanatical, but garden variety petty megalomaniac with delusions of grandeur. That understanding was - and is - a mistake. When we dismiss "home-grown" and "lone-wolf" terrorists as being merely being "inspired" by ISIS, we are completely missing the point. From the Graeme Wood article again:
"The caliph is required to implement Sharia. Any deviation will compel those who have pledged allegiance to inform the caliph in private of his error and, in extreme cases, to excommunicate and replace him if he persists. (“I have been plagued with this great matter, plagued with this responsibility, and it is a heavy responsibility,” Baghdadi said in his sermon.) In return, the caliph commands obedience—and those who persist in supporting non-Muslim governments, after being duly warned and educated about their sin, are considered apostates...  The caliphate is not just a political entity but also a vehicle for salvation. Islamic State propaganda regularly reports the pledges of baya’a (allegiance) rolling in from jihadist groups across the Muslim world. Cerantonio quoted a Prophetic saying, that to die without pledging allegiance is to die jahil (ignorant) and therefore die a “death of disbelief... ” 
Consider the last act of Tashfeen Malik before the massacre in San Bernardino:
"In  San Bernardino, Calif., a woman posted her “bayat,” or oath of allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, on a Facebook page moments before she and her husband opened fire in a conference room, killing 14 people. The couple does not appear to have been directed by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, but seems to have been inspired by the group, following instructions issued this year for supporters to attack Western targets on their own."
This is not merely "inspiration" fueled by sophisticated social media / propaganda. For the True Believer, this is a religious mandate.  This is a call to religious prophecy made tangible and required of believers by the existence of the "Caliphate".

Let's be clear, this is not an indictment of the Islamic religion and the vast majority of peaceful Muslims who find comfort and guidance in the Koran. This is simply a recognition of the fact that there is a small but significant minority of Muslims that do embrace the Caliphate prophecy and will act on it as a religious duty.  We should not labor under the illusion that this a problem that can be solved by "moderate" Muslims. The religious fanatic is not going to be talked out of their beliefs by a dispassionate, rational discussion of religious mores in the modern age.

This is the point - As long as the "Caliphate" maintains territory in Syria and Iraq, these home-grown and lone-wolf terrorist attacks as we've seen in Paris and San Bernardino that are "inspired" by a "perverted form of Islam" will continue with increasing frequency and global reach.  If our only strategy is a slowly executed war of attrition that will drag out for years - then these attacks will continue in Europe, the US and around the world for years. This kind of attack will continue for exactly as long as the Caliphate exists. And if, as seems plausible, there is actually no strategy in place by the President, NATO or Europe to forcibly remove any credible semblance of the "Caliphate" from the territory they hold within any kind of reasonable timeframe, then these soft targets attacks will continue and accelerate indefinitely.

I am not saying that destroying the "Caliphate" will eliminate radical Islamic terrorism, but it will significantly reduce this particularly virulent "perverted" version of Islamic "home grown", "lone wolf" attacks that are - again - specifically called to perform these heinous acts by the physical existence of the "Caliphate".

We have a choice.

We can continue to wring our hands wallowing in the policy failures of the past two administrations, or we can forthrightly face the reality of the threat in front of us. We can blame George W. Bush for invading Iraq and creating the rise of  ISIS. We can blame Barack Obama for failing to recognize and address the threat when ISIS was emerging out of the chaos of the Syrian civil war. Blame either or both. It really does not matter because the real issue is what we are going to do now.

The simple fact is this -  only ground troops (or nuclear weapons) can remove an enemy from territory they hold. And if we don't remove them - then despite the President's platitudes - Paris and San Bernardino and the downed Russian Airliner are the new normal, and nothing will change that.

We have a choice.

We can continue a low grade war of attrition against ISIS (think "body counts" and Vietnam), with no firm timetable or strategy to decisively destroy ISIS and wait for ISIS and the Caliphate to wear down and collapse.  Or we can adopt a more focused assertive military posture and decisively remove ISIS from the territory they claim as a Caliphate. It does not have to be our ground troops, but is has to be a significant, overwhelming force. In either case, for whatever length of time the Caliphate is permitted to exist, Americans, Europeans, moderate Muslims and "infidels" the world over will continue to be gunned down, bombed, stabbed and massacred in these random "soft-target" attacks launched by True Believers in the Caliphate. Welcome to the new normal.

Choose wisely.


Addendum from the New York Times:

The New Normal 

Descriptions of Major ISIS Attacks
Dec. 2, 2015CaliforniaA married couple shot and killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif.The FBI is investigating the shooting as an act of terrorism inspired by ISIS. MORE »
Nov. 26, 2015BangladeshISIS claimed responsibility for an attack on a Shiite mosque during evening prayer in which gunmen opened fire on worshipers with machine guns, killing one man and injuring three others. MORE »
Nov. 24, 2015EgyptISIS militants attacked a hotel in the northern Sinai Peninsula, killing at least seven people.
Nov. 13, 2015FrancePresident Fran├žois Hollande blamed the Islamic State for terrorist attacks across Paris that killed more than 100 people. The Islamic State claimed responsibility. MORE »
Nov. 12, 2015LebanonISIS claimed responsibility for a double suicide bombing that ripped through a busy shopping district at rush hour, killing at least 43 people.MORE »
Nov. 4, 2015EgyptISIS's Sinai affiliate claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed at least four police officers. MORE »
Nov. 4, 2015BangladeshISIS claimed responsibility for a stabbing and shooting that left one police officer dead and another wounded. MORE »
Oct. 31, 2015EgyptAn ISIS affiliate in Sinai claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian passenger jet that killed all 224 people on board. MORE »
Oct. 24, 2015BangladeshISIS claimed responsibility for bombings that killed one person and wounded dozens more during a procession commemorating a Shiite Muslim holiday. MORE »
Oct. 10, 2015TurkeyTwo explosions killed more than 100 people who had gathered for a peace rally in Turkey's capital. Turkish officials believe ISIS is responsible.MORE »
Oct. 6, 2015YemenA series of bombings in Yemen's two largest cities killed at least 25 peopleMORE »
Oct. 3, 2015BangladeshISIS claimed responsibility for the shooting death of a Japanese manriding a rickshaw. MORE »
Sep. 28, 2015BangladeshISIS claimed responsibility for the shooting death of an Italian aid worker. MORE »
Sep. 24, 2015YemenAt least 25 people were killed when two bombs went off outside a mosque during prayers to commemorate Eid al-Adha, a major Muslim holiday. MORE »
Sep. 18, 2015LibyaMilitants loyal to the Islamic State attacked a prison inside a Tripoli air base. MORE »
Sep. 2, 2015YemenYemen's ISIS affiliate claimed responsibility for two bombings at a mosque that killed at least 20 people. MORE »
Aug. 26, 2015EgyptThe Sinai Province of the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for three gunmen who shot and killed two police officers.
Aug. 20, 2015EgyptAn ISIS affiliate claimed responsibility for bombing a branch of the Egyptian security agency. MORE »
Aug. 12, 2015EgyptAn ISIS affiliate said it had beheaded a Croatian expatriate workerbecause of Croatia's "participation in the war against the Islamic State."MORE »
Aug. 7, 2015Saudi ArabiaISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a mosque that killed at least 15 people, including 12 members of a Saudi police force. MORE »
Jul. 20, 2015TurkeyA Turkish citizen believed to have had ties to ISIS killed at least 32 people at a cultural center. MORE »
Jul. 16, 2015EgyptIn what appeared to be the first attack on a naval vessel claimed by Sinai Province, the ISIS affiliate said it destroyed an Egyptian naval vessel and posted photographs on social media of a missile exploding in a ball of fire as it slammed into the vessel. MORE »
Jul. 11, 2015EgyptISIS claimed responsibility for an explosion outside the Italian Consulate’s compound in downtown Cairo that killed one person. MORE »
Jul. 1, 2015EgyptMilitants affiliated with the Islamic State killed dozens of soldiers in simultaneous attacks on Egyptian Army checkpoints and other security installations in Egypt's northern Sinai Peninsula. MORE »
Jun. 26, 2015TunisiaAt least one gunman disguised as a vacationer attacked a Mediterranean resort, killing at least 38 people at a beachfront hotel — most of them British tourists — before he was shot to death by the security forces.MORE »
Jun. 26, 2015KuwaitA suicide bomber detonated explosives at one of the largest Shiite mosques in Kuwait City during Friday Prayer. MORE »
Jun. 17, 2015YemenAn ISIS branch claimed responsibilty for a series of car bombings in Sana, the capital, that killed at least 30 people. MORE »
Jun. 9, 2015EgyptISIS's Sinai province claimed responsibility for firing rockets toward an air base used by an international peacekeeping force.
Jun. 5, 2015TurkeyAn explosion at a political rally in the predominantly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir killed two people and wounded more than 100. Turkish officials have said ISIS was behind the attack. MORE »
Jun. 3, 2015AfghanistanISIS is suspected of beheading 10 members of the Taliban. MORE »
May. 31, 2015LibyaA suicide bomber from an ISIS affiliate killed at least four Libyan fighters at a checkpoint. MORE »
May. 29, 2015Saudi ArabiaOne week after a similar attack in the same region, a suicide bomber dressed in women’s clothing detonated an explosive belt near the entrance to a Shiite mosque, killing three people. MORE »
May. 22, 2015YemenISIS claimed responsibility for a bomb attack on a Shiite mosque that injured at least 13 worshipers.
May. 22, 2015Saudi ArabiaIn what appeared to be ISIS's first official claim of an attack in Saudi Arabia, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive at a Shiite mosque during midday prayer, killing at least 21 and injuring 120. MORE »
May. 3, 2015TexasTwo men who reportedly supported ISIS and were later acknowledged by ISIS as "soldiers of the caliphate" opened fire in a Dallas suburb outside a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest. MORE »
Apr. 30, 2015YemenOne of ISIS's Yemen affiliates released a video showing the killing of 15 Yemeni soldiers.
Apr. 19, 2015LibyaISIS released a video of militants from two of its Libya affiliates killing dozens of Ethiopian Christians, some by beheading and others by shooting.
Apr. 12, 2015LibyaISIS's Tripoli affiliate claimed credit for a bomb that exploded outside the Moroccan Embassy.
Apr. 12, 2015EgyptISIS militants killed at least 12 people in three separate attacks on Egyptian security forces. MORE »
Apr. 12, 2015LibyaISIS's Tripoli affiliate claimed responsibility for an attack on the South Korean Embassy that killed two local police officersMORE »
Apr. 8, 2015Saudi ArabiaGunmen opened fire on a police patrol, killing two officers.
Apr. 5, 2015LibyaISIS killed at least four people in an attack on a security checkpoint.
Apr. 4, 2015AfghanistanThe Afghan vice president accused ISIS of kidnapping 31 civilians in February.
Apr. 2, 2015EgyptSinai's ISIS affiliate killed 13 people with simultaneous car bombs at military checkpoints. MORE »
Mar. 20, 2015YemenAn ISIS affiliate claimed responsibility for coordinated suicide strikes on Zaydi Shiite mosques that killed more than 130 people during Friday Prayer. MORE »
Mar. 18, 2015TunisiaISIS claimed responsibility for an attack on a museum that killed 22 people, almost all European tourists. MORE »
Feb. 20, 2015LibyaISIS's Derna affiliate claimed responsibility for three car bombs that killed at least 40 people. MORE »
Feb. 15, 2015LibyaISIS released a video that appeared to show its militants in Libyabeheading a group of Egyptian Christians who had been kidnapped in January. MORE »
Feb. 15, 2015DenmarkA Danish-born gunman who was inspired by ISIS went on a violent rampage in Copenhagen, killing two strangers and wounding five police officers. MORE »
Feb. 3, 2015LibyaISIS militants were suspected of killing 12 people, including four foreigners, in an attack on an oil field. MORE »
Jan. 29, 2015EgyptISIS's Sinai affiliate claimed responsibility for coordinated bombings thatkilled 24 soldiers, six police officers and 14 civilians. MORE »
Jan. 27, 2015LibyaISIS's Tripoli affiliate claimed credit for an armed assault on a luxury hotel that killed at least eight people. It was the deadliest attack on Western interests in Libya since the assault on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi. MORE »
Jan. 23, 2015LebanonISIS attacked an outpost of the Lebanese Armed Forces.
Jan. 12, 2015LibyaISIS's Tripoli affiliate said they were holding 21 Egyptian Christians captive. MORE »
Jan. 11, 2015FranceA video surfaced of Amedy Coulibaly, one of three gunmen who attacked the newspaper Charlie Hebdo, declaring allegiance to ISIS. MORE »
Dec. 15, 2014AustraliaA gunman who said he was acting on ISIS's behalf seized 17 hostages in a Sydney cafe. MORE »
Nov. 22, 2014Saudi ArabiaA Danish executive was shot in his car. A group of ISIS supporters later claimed responsibility.
Oct. 23, 2014New YorkA hatchet-wielding man charged at four police officers in Queens. ISIS said the attack was the “direct result" of its September call to action.MORE »
Oct. 22, 2014CanadaAn Islamic convert shot and killed a soldier who was guarding the National War Memorial in Ottawa, stormed Canada's parliament and fired multiple times before being shot and killed. MORE »
Oct. 20, 2014CanadaA 25-year-old man who had recently adopted radical Islam ran over two soldiers near Montreal, killing one. MORE »
Sep. 24, 2014AlgeriaMilitants kidnapped and beheaded a French tourist shortly after the Islamic State called on supporters around the world to harm Europeans in retaliation for airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. MORE »
Sep. 23, 2014AustraliaAn 18-year-old ISIS sympathizer was shot dead after stabbing two counterterrorism officers outside a Melbourne police station. MORE »

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