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ISIL FlagThe Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) also known as the Islamic State is the latest incarnation of extremist religious Muslim groups. For a background on ISIL, please head to Wikipedia and search for "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant". ISIL-related issues are front page for no other reason than because the US is involved in attempting their annihilation. Of course, many other countries agree, some silently and some not so silently. The general political consensus among the "countries that matter" is that ISIL must be destroyed. It is with this assessment that we take issue. This idea is plainly stupid as we will proceed to demonstrate.

POLITICAL EVOLUTION

We have stated in many occasions (see for example Political Systems Lifecycle or Political Theories and Systems - What They Are And How They Work ) that political evolution cannot be rushed, imposed, manipulated or otherwise changed. It can only be delayed. However, delayed or not political evolution will continue through their steps. All of them. Skipping steps is simply not possible.

In order to understand ISIL we need to look at them from a political evolutionary point of view. ISIL is an organization based on the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood which abides (at least formally) by old Islamic beliefs rejecting modern changes. In other words, it is composed by people who believe in old-style Islamism. Accompanying this kind of Islamism is its embedded political view that the only acceptable government is some sort of Caliphate (Salafist-like). ISIL members have never outgrown the wish for such a government type. They have done so as a cultural group. Individual members may have believed or disbelieved at some point in time, but as a group, they have not evolved from this point yet.

This has an important consequence. The only means by which ISIL can be utterly destroyed, is by killing all its present members but, more importantly, all its future ones too. This is clearly impossible.

The one flaw in all the plans to so-call "deal" with ISIL is that political evolution cannot be eliminated and this is precisely what all these plans attempt to do. Therefore they are doomed to failure.

DEALING WITH ISIL
All the mastermind plans to "deal" with ISIL can be summarized in three options:

  1. Use of overwhelming military force
  2. Use of intelligence operations (i.e. kill squads)
  3. Use of economic tactics (i.e. cutting-off the sources of income)

None of these methods will work. In addition to the key reason above outline, there are other, operational issues as follows.

Overwhelming military force

This has been the standard US military doctrine since WWII. This doctrine works on the standard battlefield, but it does not work with forces that are scattered, un-identifiable and based on non-rational beliefs (such as religion) which cannot be undermined.

Sure, there will be skirmishes here and there but on average ISIL will continue to utilize guerrilla tactics largely with success as they have done to this date. There will not be any overwhelming or definitive battle happening anywhere. This strategy is simply non-operational. It cannot deliver victory simply because it cannot confront an enemy that cannot find.

Intelligence operations

At this level of the game it is pretty clear that the goal of intelligence agencies is to decapitate ISIL leadership. Kill them. In order to do so, they will gather information and then use whatever means exist at their disposal to do so. Great. And then what? How will intelligence agencies guarantee that other people won't take the place of the fallen ones? Even if the entire hierarchical structure is destroyed, what will guarantee that a new leadership won't rise from soldier's ranks? Intelligence agencies purposefully delude themselves into believing that they can win. They do this because it is their job to do this. They won't acknowledge this simply because they don't want to lose their jobs.

Economic tactics

This is the new game that has surfaced from government (particularly US) think tanks. Hit them where it hurts. Cut-off their money supply and they will disappear. It is most certainly a tempting course of action yet a pointless one. Extensive analysis of Muslim guerrilla operations has shown that economic means are extremely variable. Some funding originates in legitimate operations (business or donations) and some do not (hijacking, robbing, thieving, etc.). Legitimate business can be subverted by governments (even when doing so it is patently illegal). However, illegitimate funding cannot. Attempting to cut-off funding only goes so far. For as long as illegitimate funds continue to flow, ISIL will continue to operate.

In addition it must be pointed out that the flow of funds at an international level depends on people that are ideologically convinced (i.e. ISIL members or sympathizers) or they are paid to do so. None of these people will volunteer any information. This kind of network is exceedingly difficult to detect and/or shut-down.

But let's for a second assume that somehow, miraculously, this tactic has the desired effect. All funds to ISIL are cut-off. Great. And then what? ISIL members will continue to fight with whatever they have or can get their hands on. This will not stop ISIL, it will only make it more desperate. They will feel compelled to have a bigger exposure in the Muslim world and that means bigger hits of non-believers.

In the end, even if the tactic of cutting-off finances to ISIL is somehow successful (and we can't see how), this will do nothing to stop ISIL.

Hybrids

Lastly we have the "coordinated operations" concept, which is pretty much a given these days. What would happen if all three tactics above described are used simultaneously? They will disrupt ISIL operations… to a point. There is no doubt about this. But then what? What will prevent ISIL from rising again, having learned the appropriate lessons? In a word: nothing.

Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.

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