is one source of energy and it is the same for all four levels.
In the schematic diagram above, the negative reactions of individuals
against forces that impinge upon them from the environment are shown in symbolic form. Need to
compress the intensity symbols into a range suitable for one diagram
has led to the use of a fire symbol, a darker, redder, fire symbol,
groups of five fire symbols indicating humans under a common source of
organization who pool their rage, and darker, redder symbols of the same type, but now
dominated by a symbol for a sovereign. The external actors who attract
the negative attention of the people of a country may become more intensely active as the
gains wealth and power because of its organization and industry
The first column shows the individual
against the world, with no cultural adaptations and with no allies or
associates indicated. The second column shows the level of organization
wherein certain individuals are united by common beliefs that they
acquire during the process of childrearing and enculturation. The third
column show how things stand when individuals become organized into one
or more religious faiths, usually with a written core of beliefs and
traditions. The fourth column shows individuals as organized into
nations whether theocratic, monarchical, democratic, or of other forms.
The state has functions through the use of its organized power,
including the legal right to execute or otherwise penalize individuals,
for compelling people to cooperate in achieving the goals of the state
and of its leaders.
The above diagram helps explain why plans presently being advocated as
sure-fire ways to defeat ISIS are severely deficient.
ISIS and similar organizations must be attacked on all four levels. Note
that most of these levels and institutions are not the natural targets
of the nation state.
• The level of traumatized individuals
• The level of unqualified or
, beliefs or values that one learns
simply by becoming enculturated.
• The level of systematized beliefs,
traditional religions, ideologies
such as Communism, etc. For
ISIS, this amounts to the salafist form of Islam that it has modified
and now professes.
• The level of the state
of an organization that can demand fealty
of its citizens using the
monopoly on lethal power and judicial punishment that states arrogate
I. There would be no ISIS problem if the individuals who form the
core population of ISIS membership had not been systematically
traumatized in the course of their enculturation and/or in the course
of their growth and development toward adulthood, especially in
fragile, failed, and failing states. However, conditions that have
taken form over centuries cannot be remedied in time to prevent
significant damage to others in the near future, so more than this
fundamental problematical level must be treated. Note the the West now
reaps what it has sown in the Middle East over the last two centuries.
II. The cultural practices and beliefs that are problematical
would be ameliorated if community leaders could gain the courage to
challenge those negative elements that are accepted primarily because
of their antiquity. Only in the last century or so have humans gained
the knowledge and techniques by which to evaluate child rearing
practices, to determine what the likely outcomes of various kinds of
child rearing practices are. It was formerly common in the West, for instance, to
try to force toilet training on children before their neurophysiology
was sufficiently developed to permit them to control their own
urination and bowel movements. The resultant psychological and somatic
dysfunctions have been difficult to treat, but the simple expedient of
using more rational forms of toilet training have prevented those
dysfunctions from ever developing. In the United States, we still have
parents who insist on using corporal punishment as a central technique
in child rearing. They rationalize the practice and thereby influence
their own children to continue this pattern of abuse on into the third
generation. These matters can be changed, but it requires the
cooperation of community leaders with the real authority to challenge
the rationalizers who will try to hang onto the bad choices made in
antiquity. Cultural progress in the Islamic world has been moribund for
III. Attempts to ameliorate the factional struggles, the various
forms of Islam that preach and fight over contradictory and often
hateful messages to the faithful would appear to be almost impossible.
Islam has not been able to solve its own problems peacefully in over a
thousand years. Even today, peaceful followers of the Sufi tradition
are killed for unacceptable poetic or musical expressions. (See account
of the life of Amjad Sabri
There is no overarching figure who can mediate between Sunni and Shia or
among all the denominations or sects of Islam. It would be a welcome if
ironic development if someone not a Muslim could perform this function.
However, it would appear certain that any such solution must remain a
IV. Present leaders of ISIS are, judging by their behavior and
decisions, very much in the model of European kings who accepted
Christianity only to use it as a tool to buttress their own political
positions, confer the silver plate of divinity on their base-metal
policies, and work forward toward creation of a powerful state
under their form of rule. People who actually believe some sort of
religious extremist doctrine and rationalize their own evil behavior
on that basis generally will resist arguments that challenge them on
intellectual or theological grounds by turning to the use of torture
and execution against doubters and dissidents.
As temporal leaders, these ISIS figures have command of armies. They
can compel members of the populations they control to join the army,
and to serve in it for some substantial period of time, to follow
orders, and to go to war with other states on behalf of their sovereign.
All the more basic or fundamental levels of anger, rage, and reactions
directed against the world and against the sources of these bad
have depended on the volition of individuals. Not so for the subjects
of ISIS and similar quasi-states.
The single individuals who face an assault of one kind or another in
their daily lives will chose whether to retaliate and how to retaliate
all on the basis of their individual resources.
Those individuals who have learned the lore of their culture may depend
on narratives they have learned from their own community or their own
ethnic group. One person may have learned, "A gentle voice turneth away
wrath," and react to an assault in one way. Another may have heard that
"a stitch in time saves nine," and decide that a quick retaliation
against something interpreted as an assault is better than encouraging
the perpetrator to repeat the performance because of receiving no
penalty the first time. As a community of individuals who all have
absorbed the same lore, however, their actions are likely to become
unintentionally coordinated. If two individuals observe a large man
bullying a teenage boy, they may both decide to teach the bully a
lesson. They may simultaneously close on him without there being any
proper discussion about what to do.
The single individuals who join a religious community, and perhaps learn
from the same wise man or prophet, are still doing so as free acts of
will. The state does not compel belief, or, if it did, they could feign
compliance until they found an opportunity to slip away. These would be
people like Taliban members. The level of organization is primary local
and/or tribal. The same kind of membership characteristics would apply,
e.g., to members of the Communist International. Nobody gets drafted
into such organizations. The worst that can happen to someone who
decided to quit would be an extra-judicial killing.
ISIS, or the so-called Islamic State, follows most of the requirements
for a state, but it is unusual in being a state without a stable
territory of its own. It must conquer and hold territories that have
long been regions of other, still-existing, nations. It has the
potential, providing it can gain and hold territory for the long term,
of directing its army against surrounding states, attacking more
distant states by the use of ballistic missiles, etc.
The above analysis leads to the following policy recommendations:
The United States and its allies ought to prioritize research into the
factors that, independent of political interference, motive the immense
rage that characterizes the typical ISIS recruit. (There are also
individuals who have not suffered themselves suffered grave damage but
who empathize with those who have and take their part against what they
regard as world-scale predators, i.e., the United States and its
Government officials and spokespeople for the United States ought to
give due recognition to all the views and insights expressed by members
of the communities from which ISIS draws its recruits. It would have
been counterproductive to ignore the valid arguments of those who
opposed Apartheid in South Africa, and make mention only of those who
voiced the opinions and judgments of the state. The United States and
its allies might find ways of supporting non-governmental efforts to
sort out the conflicting opinions and even tortured arguments that
surround theological disputes within Islam. Is it really possible to
construct a logical bridge from the most fundamental values of Islam to
the taking of sex slaves, the random killing of "non-believers," and/or
any other of the extremist and brutal behaviors declared to be the
rewards due to ISIS fighters?
The United States and its allies must elaborate and maintain a grand
strategy for combating the development and spread of the so-called
Islamic State. Not only must it countervail against the acts of war of
this quasi-state, but it must do everything it can to smooth the
paths toward the development of a growing pool of qualified and
well-motivated leaders of the Middle East for the future.
The amount of real research done to determine the range and intensities
of child rearing practices across the Arab world is not great.
Anecdotal evidence, however, suggests that the general Arab culture is
not in the forefront of enlightened child nurture and management.
The roots of the ISIS phenomenon go deep and would not die even if all
members of the current al Qaida, ISIS, and other such peace-destroying
groups were to be killed. The root conditions being still in existence
and even thriving in the aftermath of this second Crusade, it is
entirely possible that an even more barbaric religious cult and
ideology would emerge to try to found a nation dedicated to expediting
rule by the new cult.
Passages in the Koran and other religious texts that have so
successfully been interpreted to encourage religiously motivated
followers to take extreme measures would still be available to a new
brand of extremism. There also exists a large corpus of beliefs and
practices that are accepted, and even defended on grounds of their
being long-accepted cultural characteristics. They constitute a corpus of
items that everybody believes and everybody always practices. (Failing
to observe these practices risks many kinds of punitive responses.)
Their essentially abusive nature makes them potent sources of
dysfunction and, projected forward, encourages new abuses of the
Several religions have been formed on the basis of ancient narratives
that purport to record the activities and even the words of God, and
these religions serve the interests of their own group by giving
positive sanctions to defensive and even offensive behaviors on behalf
of the group. Once communities are formed that are based on or are
strengthened and supported by a common religious belief, it becomes
possible to direct the activities of several community members at a
single common foe, and the defensive and offensive behaviors become
more effective or influential than the almost random reactions of
single humans who happen to encounter some kind of assault.
Individual communities may be supported by different religious
traditions, but if several communities share a religious tradition,
then an official church structure can be constituted, and the religious
leader of the several communities is then in a position to give
positive sanction to the coordinated defensive or aggressive actions of
the several communities against a common adversary. Groups of
communities taking on a series of single adversaries in sequence have a
clear military advantage.
The amalgamation of many communities into a nation led by a single
leader (sovereign) is often accompanied by an ideological justification for
the ruling power bestowed upon that sovereign. In the past, the ideologies
used generally had a god at their center. Even the people of
traditional China, generally regarded as having a humanist ideology,
trace their justifications for nationhood and rule by a king (or,
later, emperor) back to a belief in the beneficent interest in human
welfare of Heaven. Later in history, ideologies such as Communism have
taken on the general numinous glory of a religion while denying the
possibility of the existence of any god. Buddhism is another form of
belief that would seem to deprecate nationhood and yet has sometimes
formed the primary system of belief supporting a secular regime.
On a local or regional basis, the religious life of many communities
may be linked through a "mother church" and its informal connection
with other churches in the region that group themselves under the older
and/or larger community's leadership. In a sense, the various subsets
of Islam fall into this category since there is no overall hierarchy,
and dominance relations within grouped communities may be fluid. There
is no overall equivalent of a Pope or of a papacy.
When communities become formally linked and rule over a set of
communities, or of communities organized in a hierarchical way, then a
king or analogous ruler stands at the apex of the organization.
Furthermore, at this stage being the subject of a certain ruler is not
optional. If one is born a citizen of France, then the French king can
decide when and for how long you become a soldier, when you go to war,
etc. When kings decide to wage war, the range of destructive results
can become much greater than under simpler forms of community
organization. If Germany decides to go to war with France, it will be
extremely difficult for any healthy young man to avoid military
service, and, as the twentieth century showed, the idea of
non-combatant civilians observing the war safely from the sidelines
turned out to be a bad joke.
In the history of Europe, monarchs were typically supported though
religious affirmation of their right to rule, but the religions kept
their autonomy, making a rather unstable relationship with much
intrigue being involved from time to time.
It is also possible for a church organization to take over the
functions of a civil state. The authority of the religion is used in
place of the usual reasons given to support the authority of the ruler,
e.g., rightful inheritance of the reign, direct investment by God, etc.
In such cases, rejection of the authority of the state becomes
tantamount to rejection of the commandments of God.
The following schematic diagram represents the same relationships
indicated in the previous schematic, but in a slightly different
format. Note that there is no scale of measures by which to quantize
these relations, nor has any comprehensive attempt been made to
quantize these relationships by traditional measures.