As ISIS continues its barrage through the Middle East, the outcome of these states – as well as the fates of many innocents involved – grows more uncertain. When dealing with a group driven by doctrine and fueled by indiscriminate slaughter, determining a clear motive is difficult. And with consideration given to the colossal and unparalleled monster that is the United States military and its allies, one begins to wonder what this group truly hopes to achieve.
Primarily, ISIS hopes to establish a caliphate. A caliphate is essentially an immense, absolute theocratic state which governs over all Muslim people. ISIS hopes to overthrow the unstable Muslim governments in the Middle East to establish their own power, and widen their reach. And so far, it seems they have been successful. With so many Middle Eastern governments standing tenuous and underpowered, it is just the environment for a brutal group like ISIS to thrive. (There is much to be said as to why these Middle Eastern countries came to be so unstable and fragile, but that is for another post.) It is necessary to note that all Muslims are not exempt from the violence of ISIS, rather, they have been among the most affected victims. A UN investigation concluded that in the first eight months of 2014, at least 9,347 Muslim civilians had been killed as a result of the ISIS advance. ISIS is a strictly Sunni organization, and holds Shia Muslims, roughly 10-13% of Muslims worldwide, in the same regard as infidels and other non-believers.
Why the beheadings?
Most of us are aware of the recent beheadings of American Journalists’ James Foley and Steven Sotloff, as well as British aid-workers David Haines and Alan Henning. Beheading innocent journalists and peaceful aid-workers has rarely been regarded as an effectual political move, and with being pitted against the most impressive military force in the history of the world, one must ask – why? When the United States could feasibly end the discussion of an ISIS caliphate in an afternoon, what would anyone hope to gain out of provoking them? ISIS themselves assert that these beheadings are a reaction to Western air-strikes, and demanded that these bombings to stop or more executions would follow. The stratagem of beheading innocent Americans to end American strikes has proved ill-advised, with air-strikes consistently being authorized and deployed over the last two months. Some have speculated that with these stunts ISIS hopes to provoke Western nations to return to a ground fight in the Middle East, which could boost support for anti-American ideologies in neighboring nations. Their true end-game is unknown, and perhaps, there really isn’t one. It would not be surprising to realize that this group is not guided by a logical objective or by a reasoned strategy, but rather by a doctrine dictated ignorance.