David Motadel on Instability of Jihadi States
David Motadel, in "The Ancestors of ISIS" (NYT, September 23, 2014), explains that we can worry less if we keep the weaknesses of the Islamic State in mind:
Today's jihadist states . . . emerged at a time of crisis, and ruthlessly confront internal and external enemies. They oppress women. Despite the groups' ferocity, they have all succeeded in using Islam to build broad coalitions with local tribes and communities. They provide social services and run strict Shariah courts; they use advanced propaganda methods . . . . [T]hey are . . . radical and sophisticated. The Islamic State is perhaps the most elaborate and militant jihad polity in modern history. It uses modern state structures, including a hierarchically organized bureaucracy, a judicial system, madrasas, a vast propaganda apparatus and a financial network that allows it to sell oil on the black market. It uses violence - mass executions, kidnapping and looting, following a rationale of suppression and wealth accumulation - to an extent unknown in previous Islamic polities. And . . . its leaders have global aspirations, fantasizing about overrunning St. Peter's in Rome . . . . [But] Islamic rebel states are overall strikingly similar. They should be seen as one phenomenon; and this phenomenon has a history . . . . [Because they were c]reated under wartime conditions, and operating in a constant atmosphere of internal and external pressure, these states have been unstable and never fully functional. Forming a state makes Islamists vulnerable: While jihadist networks or guerrilla groups are difficult to fight, a state, which can be invaded, is far easier to confront. And once there is a theocratic state, . . . its rulers are [clearly] incapable of providing sufficient social and political solutions, gradually alienating its subjects . . . . [Therefore,] the international community should continue to check the expansion of groups like the Islamic State, and intervene to prevent widespread human rights abuses. But given that the United States and its allies are unlikely to commit the massive military resources necessary to defeat the Islamic State - let alone other jihadist states - the best policy might be one of containment, support of local opponents and then management of the groups' possible collapse.Hmmm . . . and those are its weaknesses? A theocratic state will collapse because it can't offer social and political solutions? Saudi Arabia has been around for while. So has Iran. Even if the Islamic State lasts only 35 years - as long as Iran has thus far - that's plenty of time to foment mischief in the world. Plus, the Islamic State has purged its territorial conquests of non-Muslims, so even if it eventually collapses, it will have altered, possibly irreversibly, that territory's demographics.
Perhaps we are currently observing the historical process by which the non-Muslim majorities conquered by Islam's expansion became minorities in their own lands and eventually disappeared . . .