There’s a strange disconnect (one of dozens probably) in the strategy of the Islamic State. In the Nation, Joshua Holland quotes terrorism expert Robert Pape and explains that, on the one hand, like Al Qaeda, the Islamic State is fundamentally motivated by the West’s incursions into Muslim lands. On the other hand, Holland writes:
… how does the notion that terrorists are intent on getting powers to withdraw from their territory square with the view that the group’s shift to terrorist attacks in the West is designed to draw France and its allies into a ground war in Syria?
But, he continues, “Pape says that it’s important to distinguish between ISIS’s long-term goals and its shorter-term strategies to achieve them.”
It’s about the timing. How are you going to get the United States, France and other major powers to truly abandon and withdraw from the Persian Gulf when they have such a large interest in oil?
… if your goal is to create military costs on these states and get them to withdraw, you’ve got to figure out a way to really up the ante. And the way that you really up the ante is to get them to overreact. You try to get them to send a large ground army in so that you can truly drive up the costs. That’s what ISIS is trying to sucker us into doing.
And the West, especially the United States, is ever willing to play the sucker as long as it’s also allowed to play with its toys: guns, bombs, and planes.
More specifically, as Scott Atran writes at Aeon:
In areas under or adjacent to Islamic State control, the general populations likely do not support either the Islamic State or the Western (and now also Russian) forces arrayed against it. … ISIS knows this and entices its enemies to attack the population centres that it controls. … Mostly, then, the local populations suffer. Although many would run away from both ISIS and the bombs of its enemies if given half a chance, they cannot move and must exclusively depend for protection on the black banner.
Thus, if only for their own protection, the Islamic State’s subjects are forced to become its supporters.