I think emr, above, makes some very good points, but I think you guys are all missing some crucial aspects of the situation.

The places where a distinctively Islamic terrorism has taken off (Algeria, Chechnya, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria) are all areas that have been ravaged by civil war or foreign occupation, leading to the breakdown of co-operative mechanisms in the wider society. In other words, the only move is defect. Yet at the same time, these societies (or sections of them) retain a distinctively Muslim identity and aspiration, so the natural way of forming new, co-operative institutions is to base them on that shared Muslim identity. Those participating in these movements no doubt see themselves as conducting a new Abbasid Revolution. This also draws in sympathisers from outside the country. Yet the outcome often becomes terrorism, because:

  • There are non-Islamic, or non-Sunni counter-currents within that society
  • Islamic regimes arouse massive hostility in the West
  • Precisely because these movements arise in the context of existing civil war/violence, it leads to a Hayekian "Worst Get On Top" dynamic, where more moderate groups get forced out.

In other words, suppose you're a Sunni in Eastern Syria or Central/Northern Iraq, and you want to co-operate to protect your friends and family from, say, being kidnapped and tortured by the police. You tried voting for al-Iraqiyya, and indeed they won the election, but half their candidates got thrown out of Parliament, so they can't legally stop the state machinery from persecuting you. And those guys aren't gangsters, so they can't use extra-legal means to protect you. So maybe the co-operative move, at least in a lesser-of-two-evils sense, is to join ISIS. And hey, maybe that worked, because ISIS's success caused Maliki's government to collapse, and maybe the new government in Baghdad will govern in a non-sectarian way, at least for a while, in the same way that al-Qaeda-in-Iraq's initial successes gained concessions and allowed the 'Sunni Awakening.'

As for why these organisations are able to recruit worldwide - I don't know why you consider it so surprising that they should get "anyone at all." It's like medieval Christians signing up for the Teutonic Knights, or Georgian Hellenophiles going to fight for Greek independence. These people are ignorant and idiotic, with a notion of what they're doing that's utterly divorced from reality, but there's never been a shortage of romantic fools.

That may be enough to explain it, but I do think groups that compete in committing the worst public atrocities are somewhat unusual-- Hitler and Stalin made some effort to conceal the worst of what they were doing.

Thanks for the Hayek link. Do you recommend the savageleft site?

Open thread, Dec. 15 - Dec. 21, 2014

by Gondolinian 1 min read15th Dec 2014309 comments


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