Book #1: ISIS: The State of Terror, Jessica Stern & J.M. Berger
In recent years, the world has been shocked, horrified and confused by the rise and brutal nature of ISIS. Who is this group? What motivates its brutality? What version of Islam do they represent? How should we respond? In this book, the authors describe the history of ISIS, its relationship with Al Queda and how it functions both on the ground and in the world of cyber space. It is an insightful read about one of the most important foreign policy issues of our day.
What is my personal take on ISIS after reading this book? ISIS represents a small subset of Islam (Salafist Islam). And within the Salafist tradition, it represents an even smaller subset that believes that violence is a way of purifying the Islamic tradition (back to the 7th century golden age of Islam). This book argues that ISIS is pursuing an eschatological goal of ushering in the end times. As such, it cautions the west from a strong militarist response as that would play into the eschatology of ISIS. While I agree that the west’s response to ISIS needs to be multimodal (financial, cyber, theological and military), I am a firm believer in Reagan’s doctrine of peace through strength. While I believe that military intervention can result in a radical, jihadi Islamic diaspora, it also has a preventative effect in future ISIS recruitment. I am not necessarily advocating that we open a third middle east conflict or that we act as the world’s police force. But if history since WW2 has taught us anything, when the United States and its allies are strong, the world is a safer place.