Scott Atran writes: It’s “the first of the storm”, says Islamic State. And little wonder. For the chaotic scenes on the streets of Paris and the fearful reaction those attacks provoked are precisely what Isis planned and prayed for. The greater the reaction against Muslims in Europe and the deeper the west becomes involved in military action in the Middle East, the happier Isis leaders will be. Because this is about the organisation’s key strategy: finding, creating and managing chaos.
There is a playbook, a manifesto: The Management of Savagery/Chaos, a tract written more than a decade ago under the name Abu Bakr Naji, for the Mesopotamian wing of al-Qaida that would become Isis. Think of the horror of Paris and then consider these, its principal axioms.
Hit soft targets. “Diversify and widen the vexation strikes against the crusader-Zionist enemy in every place in the Islamic world, and even outside of it if possible, so as to disperse the efforts of the alliance of the enemy and thus drain it to the greatest extent possible.”
Strike when potential victims have their guard down. Sow fear in general populations, damage economies. “If a tourist resort that the crusaders patronise … is hit, all of the tourist resorts in all of the states of the world will have to be secured by the work of additional forces, which are double the ordinary amount, and a huge increase in spending.”
Consider reports suggesting a 15-year-old was involved in Friday’s atrocity. “Capture the rebelliousness of youth, their energy and idealism, and their readiness for self-sacrifice, while fools preach ‘moderation’ (wasatiyyah), security and avoidance of risk.”
Think of the group’s appreciation of focus on cause and effect: “Work to expose the weakness of America’s centralised power by pushing it to abandon the media psychological war and the war by proxy until it fights directly.” Ditto for France, the UK and other allies.
There is a recruitment framework. The Grey Zone, a 10-page editorial in Isis’s online magazine Dabiq in early 2015, describes the twilight area occupied by most Muslims between good and evil, the caliphate and the infidel, which the “blessed operations of September 11” brought into relief. Quoting Bin Laden it said: “The world today is divided. Bush spoke the truth when he said, ‘Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists’, with the actual ‘terrorist’ being the western crusaders.” Now, it said, “the time had come for another event to … bring division to the world and destroy the grey zone”. The attacks in Paris were the latest instalment of this strategy, targeting Europe, as did the recent attacks in Turkey. There will be more, much more, to come. [Continue reading…]