ISIS’s attempt to build a state is faltering under the strain of both external attacks and internal failings as its ideology collides with reality. The New York Times reports:
Some fighters have taken pay cuts, while others have quit and slipped away. Important services have been failing because of poor maintenance. And as its smuggling and oil businesses have faltered, the Islamic State has fallen back on ever-increasing taxes and tolls imposed on its squeezed citizens.[..]
Stories abound of the Islamic State putting loyal members in positions they are not qualified for. The head of medical services in one town is a former construction worker, residents said. The boss at an oil field was a date merchant, according to a former employee.
In Raqqa, the National Hospital featured in a propaganda video about health services in the caliphate is all but closed because so many doctors have fled, according to an aid worker with relatives in the city.[..]
Also driving people out is an onerous tax system carried out in the name of zakat, or Islamic alms. The jihadists collect, among other taxes, a yearly share of every harvest and herd of livestock, and make shopkeepers pay a share of their inventory.
ISIS is selling a dream, as we’ve written before. But everyday life grinds away at the fantasy world ISIS wants to live in.
Nothing kills an ideology like success. This is what happened to Communism: the Marxist-Leninists had 70 years and half the world’s population as a laboratory. They produced misery, oppression, poverty, pollution and corruption. The fantasy of a utopian Communist world could not survive reality.
The caliphate crazies claimed that a “pure Islamic state” with a real, live caliph and strict sharia law would bring victory and prestige to Islam and good governance to its inhabitants. In fact, ISIS has damaged Islam more than its worst enemies could hope, wrecked the lives of millions, and created a gangster state that mistreats and exploits its residents.
The failure of ISIS as a state means more trouble for the rest of us, at least in the short- to medium-term. To keep the fantasy alive, the brain-sick fanatics and true believers are likely to try more Paris style massacres and acts of spectacular terror. But the ideology that undergirds ISIS isn’t just bad in the sense of evil. It is bad in the sense that it does not provide a framework that can organize the life and work of a community on a productive and enduring basis.
Even more than was the case for Communism, failure is baked into the ISIS cake. That doesn’t mean we can sit and wait serenely for the forces of history to destroy it; Stalin and Mao between them after all managed to murder something like 100 million people before the forces of history kicked in, and the Soviet Union managed to drag the world to the precipice of nuclear war before it imploded. So the intrinsic shortcomings of jihadi ideology doesn’t justify a passive policy. But the wrong-headed ideas at the core of this nonsense should give us hope: real victory over this nasty perversion of religion is not just possible; it is likely.