Warning: This blog is written for a rational audience that likes to have fun wrestling with unique or controversial points of view. It is written in a style that can easily be confused as advocacy for one sort of unpleasantness or another. It is not intended to change anyone’s beliefs or actions. If you quote from this post or link to it, which you are welcome to do, please take responsibility for whatever happens if you mismatch the audience and the content.
Do you find yourself wondering how ISIS suddenly emerged as a military powerhouse in Iraq and Syria?
The official story is that ISIS has smart leaders, fierce fighters, and they resupply themselves through crime and conquest. And we hear stories that the Iraqi army is incompetent and retreat-happy. And Syria is just a hot mess. That should be enough to explain the situation, right?
I don’t hold a competing theory. I just don’t buy into the official version.
And those beheadings look a bit suspicious to me. They seem more staged for the benefit of the U.S. military than the benefit of ISIS. Those beheading videos consolidated support for military action and serve to keep the U.S. even more deeply involved in the region. There are powerful elements in the U.S. who want that, especially the weapons industry.
I’ve described in this blog how my B.S. filter works. I look for two sources to be in agreement. For example, if the news reports match my common sense view, or my observations, or the first-hand accounts from witnesses, I tend to believe the news. But if the news conflicts with my common sense or my observations I raise an eyebrow and try to keep it that way.
The ISIS story doesn’t pass my B.S. filter because it violates common sense that such a competent fighting force could suddenly emerge and bitch-slap professionally trained (or even poorly trained) military forces with such consistency. I have worked in large organizations and I know that the logistics involved – the planning, training, and resupplying are huge challenges even for organized armies. Did ISIS really figure out all of that while their communications are presumably monitored by the enemy?
Then you have the curious situation that every country in the Middle East is united against ISIS. How often have Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Israel been on the same side of an issue? That is mighty convenient in the sense that it turns enemies into frenemies, and that’s a step in the right direction.
I said I don’t hold an alternate theory to explain ISIS. But let’s imagine one and compare it to the official story to see which one seems more credible. If the conspiracy theory we invent here sounds more believable than the official story, that doesn’t mean anything, but it is fun to do.
Let’s say one of the major military powers in the world has been secretly providing ISIS with training, weapons, and intelligence about targets. That would explain the success of ISIS, but why would any major world power help them?
One answer is that the only way to kill an idea is to transform it into something you can bomb. And you can certainly bomb a caliphate. A caliphate should act as a magnet for the worst of the bad actors. Presumably the bad guys would want to consolidate power in the caliphate before spreading it to neighboring countries. So the caliphate attracts all the bad people, like a heat sink, and puts them in one target area. Convenient! Are the troop barracks built yet?
Arguably, the best thing that could happen to Israel is the creation of a caliphate with no air force that the Sunni and Shiite countries can hate with equal passion. It is a great distraction and it makes the enemies of the enemy cooperate. And compared to the videos of innocent journalists being beheaded, Israel’s West Bank settlements seem like nothing more than a real estate issue.
ISIS has also become the “brand” for Islamic extremists, replacing al Qaeda. Scrappy little al Qaeda had support because it poked the big American bear all the way over in the homeland. That’s something American-haters can get behind. But can you love ISIS as it gobbles up your neighbor and threatens to do the same to you?
So ISIS has achieved several useful psychological goals for Israel and the United States:
1. ISIS is a common enemy that puts traditional enemies in the region on the same side. Perhaps that could help get an Iranian nuclear deal, for example. Iran needs U.S. help controlling ISIS.
2. ISIS has stolen the radical Islam “brand” from al Qaeda and ruined it by putting the focus on killing other Muslims. That should be good for America in the long run.
3. Israel’s military actions in the region seem tame compared to the beheadings and mass killings in the caliphate. So Israel comes out ahead thanks to ISIS sucking up the news cycle over there.
4. American arms dealers come out ahead because America continues to drop bombs in a war that probably won’t reach the homeland with much impact.
So if I had to put a conspiracy theory to the facts we know, I would say the CIA, weapons makers, and Israel are engineering the situation for a caliphate to form so it sucks the bad actors out of the moderate countries and puts them someplace easier to bomb while ruining their brand image at the same time. The alternative might have been to allow Iran to slowly gain control over the entire region while developing nukes. Compared to that future, creating a honey trap for the enemy and then bombing it (forever) makes perfect sense.
In the long run, I think ISIS will be the best thing that happened to the Middle East because of what it does to the common psychology of who the “real” enemy is. And it comes when the problems in the Middle East seemed otherwise unsolvable. Is that a coincidence?
(Here I will remind you that this blog is just for fun and that cartoonists are not good sources for knowledge of world affairs.)
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com
Author of this book
Twitter personal: @scottadams925
Twitter Dilbert: @Dilbert_Daily