Why Isis Is Different From Any Other Violent Group [Report]

The Atlantic has published a series of explosive pieces that reveal why Isis is a terrorist beast the likes of which the world has never seen before.

“The Islamic State really is different.”

Analysts in the past have argued that the West will eventually negotiate with the so-called Islamic State, which is also known by the name Daesh. The latter name is preferred by critics due to negative connotations that the word Daesh has in Arabic (The Mirror reports that Isis “hate the name Daesh” and have even threatened to “cut out the tongues of anyone who uses it” — this fact has led many Westerners appalled by the atrocities of Isis to accept the term, and the name Daesh is rapidly gaining circulation).

Previously, analysts and concerned news consumers were comforted by the idea that ISIS would be appeased by talks and negotiations. According to the Atlantic, “the suggestion presupposes that ISIS, just like many other armed organizations throughout history, is the kind of group that can eventually be reasoned with, however distasteful its enemies may find the prospect.”

A former British diplomat named Jonathan Powell pooh pooh-ed the suggestion that Isis is “special,” scoffing that:

“[O]f course people argue that ISIS is completely different from anything we have seen before. But people have said that about each new armed group since the rise of the IRA in 1919.”

According to the new report, this type of analysis “underappreciates how direly different ISIS actually is.”

First of all, ISIS is not a nationalist organization. They are not open to negotiations, because they would not be satisfied if they were simply given a patch of territory they could call their own. The goal of Isis is more”maximalist.”

The armed groups that [were open to negotiations] were fundamentally nationalist organizations—even where the group or “nation” on whose behalf they fought was sometimes defined partly in terms of religious identity—with fundamentally political and pragmatic aims. ISIS is instead a radical supra-nationalist group based on a deeply perverted interpretation of Sunni Islam, and it has hugely maximalist goals.

Take the IRA. It was previously argued that the IRA and Isis are comparable, because both are religious organisations. However, the IRA had a clear political goal — the ejection of the British from Northern Ireland. The organisation fanned feelings of Catholic nationalism insofar as it aided them in achieving this, and the violence they committed was committed with the aim of achieving one, tangible outcome.

Irish Republican Army, which was a Catholic organization insofar as it used Catholic identity for political ends, cultivating a sense of Irish Catholic nationalism to fight for the ejection of the British from Northern Ireland and for political union with their Catholic brethren to the south.

So while both used religious fervor to fan enthusiasm and gain supporters, the IRA had modest aims compared to the juggernaut that is ISIS.

[T]he IRA was not trying to conquer the whole of the British Isles for Catholicism, nor to hasten the return of the Christian messiah and the end of the world.

ISIS “is not fundamentally nationalist.” Their goals are bigger and more terrifying than just a land grab or an exodus of foreigners.

[ISIS] cannot be satisfied without forcibly changing the very contours of the current international order.

Isis would not accept a simple “withdrawal of foreign forces” from the middle east or Syria. Many who argue that the United States “caused” the middle east conflict by interfering in places like Iraq, and therefore that the meddling West could stop future terror attacks by simply withdrawing troops, have missed this grave fact:

ISIS does not demand the withdrawal of foreign military forces—quite the contrary, it has expressed the wish to draw foreign armies into its territory, and to export its military force beyond Syria and Iraq.

ISIS have also indicated that they would not be satisfied if they were simply granted a joint Sunni Arab zone in Syria and Iraq. If the West allowed them to keep such a territory and govern it under “a perverted form of Islamic law,” Daesh would still not be satisfied.

ISIS specifically rejects territorial limits to its power: Its very slogan is “remaining and expanding.”

It is for this reason that ISIS has not been invited to international negotiations aimed at resolving the conflict in Syria.

[Isis] works to end the autonomy of others…not least through ethnic cleansing and the worldwide export of wanton violence.

Is Isis/Daesh a whole different beast?

[Photo via Flickr by 3aref 6ari2o/CC BY-SA 2.0]