Threat Islamic State Poses to West Pales in Comparison to Threat It Poses to Other Muslims

A government building in the Islamic State’s de facto capital Raqqa, Syria. (Photo: Beshr / Flickr Commons)

A government building in the Islamic State’s de facto capital Raqqa, Syria. (Photo: Beshr / Flickr Commons)

At Foreign Policy, James Traub says he found post-9/11 talk of world war beteen “Islamofascism” and the West hyperbolic. With the rise of the Islamic State, however, he writes, “Suddenly, however, the metaphor of world war does not seem so hyperbolic.” The Islamic State is conducting “a war inside a non-Western civilization that has overtaken and consumed the West.” In fact

The “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria represents a very serious threat to the West, but it is an existential challenge to the Islamic regimes in the region.

Traub explains.

The 9/11 attacks thus gave the misleading impression that the rise of Islamist extremism was “about” the West and required the West to fight a war on terror in order to defeat it. But Islamist extremism is about Islam and about the regimes that rule in the name of the faith; it is hard to imagine the extremist narrative losing its appeal unless and until Arab regimes gain real legitimacy in the eyes of their own citizens.

… The West can defend itself, but there’s little it can do to change the terms of that struggle. … In this war of the civilization next door to our own, there is very little that the West can do to fortify the legitimacy of Arab regimes — even if it seems that those regimes are harming their own long-term prospects.