For Unemployed Young Men, the Islamic State Provides More Than Just Jobs and Purpose

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

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

It’s often written that the Islamic State fills a need for young men adrift on the stagnant sea of the Middle-Eastern ― and world ― economy. It not only provides a paying job (and purpose in life), it offers a benefit that may be central to recruiting.

On October 28, Frontline ran a useful overview of the Islamic State titled The Rise of ISIS. It shows how the Islamic State developed as a reaction to oppression of the Sunnis by Nouri al-Maliki’s Shia government in Iraq. Or, shall we say, in the time-dishonored tradition of many revolutions, an over-reaction ― a descent into an orgy of revenge that threatens the new government itself.

On October 13 I had posted: Islamic State Offers Beheading as a Perk to Recruits, in which I wrote:

… a team at Politico magazine writes that while “these shocking actions have challenged average sensibilities and consciences, this violence has also led to assumptions about the motives for beheadings, and the group’s strategy as a whole, that are simply not true.” In fact, “The common misperception is that these beheadings are meant only to intimidate the West.”

To the contrary, the team members write:

… beheadings are a deliberate strategy—one successfully employed in 2004 by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, founder of al Qaeda in Iraq, ISIL’s predecessor organization, with the beheading of American Nick Berg—to improve recruitment efforts and build military strength to fight its enemies in Iraq and Syria.

… In a word, publicity: They increase the group’s profile as the biggest challenger to the supposed greatest enemy of Islam. This allows ISIL to draw from a significantly larger pool of recruits, many with strong anti-American sentiment, which ISIL desperately needs to fight local battles as the group tries to carve out a de facto state. Yes, the beheadings are meant to challenge and intimidate the Western public, but that is only a secondary benefit for ISIL, whose focus remains on defeating enemies in immediate proximity.

Continuing with that earlier post:

At the Daily Beast, Dean Obeidallah writes:

I wish the media would give more coverage to ISIS’ crimes against Muslims. The publicity would hurt the group’s cause tremendously, and it could also make the case to my fellow Americas [sic] that this fight is not Islam versus the West. Rather, it’s everyone who doesn’t want to live under ISIS’ brutal dictatorship versus ISIS.

Frontline’s The Rise of ISIS is replete with mass shootings that recall nothing less than the Nazi in World War II. At one point a Western voice (maybe Filkins) says of members of the Islamic State: “They are not Muslims and they are barely human beings.” Later Filkins call the Islamic State a  “psychosis” and, most damning:

“Killing is as important to ISIS as securing the Caliphate.”

As I wrote in my earlier post:

The Islamic State is like a gangbanger’s Pleasure Island, where torturing and killing are not only permitted, but encouraged. But, as I’ve previously noted, there’s a kind of planned obsolescence to this strategy. In other words, this death cult seems to have a death wish. Or as the Politico magazine team writes: “Ironically, the publicity ISIL is gaining from beheadings may have also planted the seeds of its own destruction.”