Wednesday, August 27, 2014

ISIS: Apocalypse...How?

ISIS "is an organization that has an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision which will eventually have to be defeated."  — Chuck Hagel, US Secretary of Defense

by Timothy R. Furnish, Mahdi Watch — August 27, 2014

And we thought Scuds were bad when Saddam had them! 

Last week the senior leadership of the US Defense Department publicly acknowledged that Islamic apocalyptic thought is playing a prominent role in modern Middle Eastern conflicts. The Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, in a press conference with his boss, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, said the following:

"This is an organization that has an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision which will eventually have to be defeated."

How extraordinary! The top-ranking American military commander adduced Islamic eschatology as an important issue.  Perhaps my eight years of warning about Mahdism on this site has finally been heeded by certain folks.

Sec Def Hagel and General Dempsey also said several other things worthy of note and examination:

  • POTUS has asked for $500 million "to assist the moderate [Syrian] opposition
  • "Strategically, there are limits to how much you can accomplish with airstrikes. Tactically, you can accomplish a significant amount."
  • IS[IS] "will have to be addressed on both sides of what is essentially...a nonexistent border"
  • "ISIS will only truly be defeated when it's rejected by the 20 million disenfranchised Sunni that...reside between Damascus and Baghdad"
  • "[I]n the aftermath of the Arab Spring [sic]...we actually have groups that now kind of are loosely connected, in some cases affiliated, that run from Afghanistan across the Arabian peninsula into Yemen to the Horn of Africa and into North and West Africa.  So in general the conflict against these groups...that's going to be a very long contest. It's ideological. It's not political. It's religious, in many cases." 
  • IS[IS] is "beyond just a terrorist group. They marry ideology, a sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess." And "they are tremendously well-funded."
  • "ISIL's vision...includes...Lebanon, the current state of Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Syria and Kuwait."


1) Overall, it's quite positive that the DoD (belatedly) recognizes that Islamic apocalyptic/eschatological beliefs should be factored into the geopolitical equation.

2) Those of us who tend to think that Bashar al-Asad, for all his cruelty, is the least bad option in Syria are never going to be persuaded otherwise as long as DoD leaders (or State or US Senators) are unable to identify, specifically, members of the chimerical "moderate opposition" in Syria.

3) References to the US needing a strategic vision that encompasses both Iraq and Syria and their "20 million disenfranchised Sunni[s]" are necessary but not sufficient--because the inconvenient truth is that IS[IS]'s harsh but literalist brand of Islam is proving popular not just among Arab "psychopaths" themselves but in France, Britain and even East Asia.  As I've said in previous blogs and radio interviews, until official fatwas de-legitimizing IS[IS] are put out by reputable Sunni authorities (such as al-Azhar and Yusuf al-Qaradawi), the organization will maintain at least a patina of Islamic doctrinal credibility.

4) Is the Pentagon really only now realizing that Islamic groups across the Eurasian and African landmasses are linked by a common religious ideology? That's depressing.

5) Secretary Hagel: IS[IS] is not just an ultra-terrorist group with an ideology and strategic and tactical experience.  It happens to be, whether we like or admit it, a territorial state.

6) General Dempsey, sir: you need to get re-briefed on what al-Sham constituted in Middle Eastern history, and what it thus means for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. Yes, historic al-Sham encompassed what are now Lebanon, Israel, most of Jordan and Syria.  But it never included Iraq or Kuwait.  Such inaccuracies make you look bad (or they would if the press knew much about the topic). 

"The last thing the US military or intelligence community needs is to have the genuine war against apocalypse-fired Islamic militants conflated with a narrowly Evangelical Christian view of matters."

One last relevant observation, from another angle: my good friend Reverend Jack Smith, author of the well-researched and thought-provoking book Islam: The Cloak of Antichrist (for which I wrote the "Foreword"), recently asked, in response to this Hagel-Dempsey presser, whether "the Pentagon need[s] a Bible to develop war strategy against ISIS?"  

Although I am a (conservative, but not Evangelical) Christian, my immediate and resounding response is: NO!  

Why? Because the last thing the US military or intelligence community needs is to have the genuine war against apocalypse-fired Islamic militants conflated with a narrowly Evangelical Christian view of matters.  The US government is a secular, not a religious, one--and although I have repeatedly criticized the refusal of the leader of the world's largest Christian-populated nation to do anything about global persecution of Christians, I do NOT want our forces engaged in an Evangelical Protestant "Crusade."  Furthermore, and just as (if not more) importantly, opposing and defeating the Islamic "apocalyptic strategic vision"--which is shared by groups besides IS[IS]--can only be done by analyzing said vision on its own Muslim terms, using Muslim (Arabic, Turkish and Persian) sources.  Frankly, in this fight, I don't give a damn in this context what Revelation or Ezekiel or Daniel say--it matters more what's in the Qur'an, the Hadiths, and Islamic commentators thereupon.  I say this to my Evangelical brethren: it's not always about you and your interpretation of Christian Scripture.  The rest of us (Catholic, Orthodox, Lutherans, etc.) in the fold might have something worthwhile to say on the topic, too--but this fight against IS[IS] is neither the time nor the place.