Why “ISIS” is invincible - Mediamax.am

Why “ISIS” is invincible
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Why “ISIS” is invincible


The kickoff of the Russian operation against the Islamic State in Syria triggered turbulent criticism and approval by both Russian and international communities. Some people think it the beginning of the end of the Islamic State while others consider it a base for a new phase of instability.  However, hardly can there be a person who will argue that the Islamic State is a disaster which should be exterminated.

But is it true? To be more precise, can it be liquidated? My answer is - definitely no, and here is why.

“ISIS” - I intentionally write the name of the formation - state, organization, group (no matter how it’s defined) with quotation marks as it’s more of a process, not a structure, can be at best influenced and restricted in time and space, but not at all eradicated.

We can conventionally call the process the end of the postcolonial Middle East which borders (with rare exceptions) can be considered artificially drawn by European countries. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the latter owned the region; after leaving the territories, they retained the very borders of the countries mostly coinciding with those of the colonies and their ruling regimes as a legacy.

The latter - be it populist, socialist or democratic - copied and are copying the colonial (one of their key features being the power of the minority over majority, secularity of state agencies and reliance on the force - national armed forces) institutions.

The independence hardly influenced the life of the region’s societies. The character of the already national power underwent minor changes, too. One of the most prominent British journalists of the 20th century, Thomas Malcolm Muggeridge, wrote about almost a similar phenomenon in India in his “Chronicles of the Wasted Time”:

“However, it’s absurd to concede that shifting from the foreign rule to the national is deliberately auspicious and more morally grounded, when instead of a pompous colonial governor with a feather hat, similarly pompous Jomo Kenyatta with a large fan rules a country; or, instead of white bandits, black bandits come into power”.

I don’t at all characterize the current regimes as bandit ones. A part of them is quite progressive - secular, bourgeois and bureaucratic - in terms of the notions and values of the European Enlightenment.

Nevertheless, how natural is it for the locals, which for centuries lived within the Caliphate, who were and still are religious and accustomed to solving problems not in the offices of the army of bureaucrats but over a cup of a traditional drink or with the help of a mullah who is invited for “a just court”? No matter how much manipulation of the masses is spoken of, the uprising in Libya, Egypt and Syria was so fast and spontaneous that the reasons should be sought out in the “substance” of the process and not the direction to some centers of power.

In this regard, the whole absurd - or, to put it in other terms, the inefficiency- of Russia’s or U.S.’s fight against “ISIS” is conditioned by the fact that Islamites offer “a more natural” model of governance to the Middle East societies than the regimes which Russia and U.S. are trying to save. Of course, the Islamic State army can be defeated, terrorists can be blasted, but it will only be a short-term fix, or, at best, a mid-term one. The region’s real historical prospect is extermination of the secular militarized regimes and chaos and establishment of a new order based on Islam and traditional model.

I think the process has only started with the emergence of the Islamic State and won’t at all be over upon its liquidation. It will be long-lasting and bloody and there will not be Russian and American winners for sure.

Sevak Sarukhanyan is the Director of Armenian Center for Society Research Foundation. 

These views are his own.

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