What makes ISIS so effective?

Many AT readers will remember the terrific 1967 World War II movie The Dirty Dozen starring Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, Robert Ryan, and a number of instantly recognizable faces.

The plot is that Lee Marvin, a major, is commissioned to put together a secret team to blow up a recreation chateau in France for high-ranking German officers.  After various adventures, the secret squad is successful in crossing France and, at the climactic moment, blowing the chateau to smithereens.

Why is this relevant?  These were soldiers on a clandestine mission to kill the enemy.  These soldiers are heroes.  While they have personal problems that are part of the drama, they are not insane, and they are not driven by unknowable motives.  They are soldiers playing their part in the victory to be achieved by their country, the United States of America.

So also with the bombers in Brussels Tuesday.  They are loyal to the commission of Mohammed in the Koran to kill the infidel and, by participating in this episode of holy war – jihad – securing their place in Paradise.  In fact, dying in jihad is the only way that that outcome can be assured.  They are not driven by unknowable motives.  They are soldiers playing their part in the victory to be achieved by the universal community of Islam, by the ummah under the caliphate

ISIS has claimed credit for this engagement.  ISIS was created spiritually if not literally by the Muslim Brotherhood.  Who is the Muslim Brotherhood?  The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 by an Egyptian Hassan al-Banna.

Why 1928?  Because in 1924, a very profound event had happened.  In 1924, as part of the reorganization of Turkey after its defeat in World War I, the hero-general Mustafa Kemal abolished the Sunni caliphate, ending a history that had run from the death of Mohammed in 632.  Kemal put Turkey, the rump state of the Ottoman Empire, on the path of secularization.

Hassan al-Banna formed the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928 to restore the caliphate, of which, with suitable internecine and doctrinal warfare, ISIS is a component.

The Muslim caliphate, an institution that conquered most of the known world of its day and at one time was the most influential institution in the world, is at war with the West.  Brussels was an engagement in that struggle, the ultimate objective of which is the establishment of a worldwide caliphate, ruling every sacred and profane activity of every individual in the world.  Osama bin Laden twice – in 1996 and in 1998 – followed appropriate Muslim custom by publicly declaring this war.

The West has come to have a stylized way of making war specified in the Hague and Geneva Conventions:

  • We distinguish between a soldier in uniform and carrying his weapon openly and a spy who does neither and is executed summarily when in combat.  Islam does not make this distinction.
  • We do not make war directly on civilians, particularly women and children.  Islam does not draw this distinction and in some situations specifically trains women and children in their role as women and children to attack the enemy.
  • We envision victory being achieved by defeating the armed forces of the enemy.  Islam envisions victory by demoralizing the enemy society.


We have to understand that we are in a war.  We have to understand the type of war we are in.  We have to understand the morality of the enemy as the enemy sees it.  We have to have respect for the enemy by accepting that he means what he says and not take the racist view that the enemy is too immature to mean what he says.

Like all totalitarians, the enemy tells us in detail what he expects to do and how he expects to do it.  Nota bene.

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