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Ways of the World

Carol Stone, business economist & active Episcopalian, brings you "Ways of the World". Exploring business & consumers & stewardship, we'll discuss everyday issues: kids & finances, gas prices, & some larger issues: what if foreigners start dumping our debt? And so on. We can provide answers & seek out sources for others. We'll talk about current events & perhaps get different perspectives from what the media says. Write to Carol. Let her know what's important to you:

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Toward Some Understanding of ISIS

We write today to urge you to do some reading, the Graeme Wood article in the new issue of The Atlantic "What ISIS Really Wants".  Perhaps you are well ahead of us and have in fact already read it.   Here is a link to it: .  Further, just today (February 24), Mr. Wood has posted a follow-up of responses to the article from people he originally interviewed and from others.  Here's that link:

We were inspired to plow through the lengthy piece in part by the Obama Administration's care to avoid referring to ISIS as "radical Islamists" or even religiously motivated.  So the publication of some thoughtful discussion defining the background and goals of ISIS looked to be helpful.  And it does seem that fundamentalist Islam is exactly what ISIS is about, according to Mr. Wood's commentary.   The term "fundamentalist" is not used here in any judgmental sense, but as a pure description of a group that takes the Koran and the words of Muhammad quite literally.

Wood further describes that ISIS is concerned mainly with a specific territory in Syria and Iraq, not with capturing or destroying other parts of the world.  So, for instance, the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris in December was not an ISIS event, but apparently led by an al Qaeda affiliate.  Control over specific territory is part of the definition of the caliphate ISIS believes it is, so taking action in places far removed from that location is less important to their mission.  Eventually, spreading the caliphate across the world is important, but only as an outward movement from their present position.

State Department spokespeople have also suggested that the most effective way to put down the evil of ISIS may well lie in social and economic programs to promote the welfare of its people, to create job opportunities for them perhaps.  We would agree with that to some extent.  If the populace of the ISIS region were prosperous, they might be less interested in fighting against people they see as enemies.  However, Wood's material makes clear that economics is well down the list of ISIS priorities.  Its priorities are better defined by religious rubrics and Sharia social arrangements.  We'd guess that its adherents are genuinely less interested in material prosperity and in devising projects to bring that about.

Finally, among the highlights we emphasize for you here,  Wood suggests that the Obama Administration approach using air strikes and "proxy warfare" may well be the best way to wear ISIS down.  A major armed invasion, rather than scaring them, could actually please them: they believe an apocalypse is coming and a huge onrush of Western troops might simply signal the start of that process.

We don't know enough to express reasoned opinions on these views, but at least they now have some context and definition.  If you have more elaborate thoughts, please do share them.  We ourselves are left, this Lenten season, with a simple sentence that has been personal to us since 9/11:  "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."



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