[ by Charles Cameron -- Andrew Bacevich on the "religion" lesson, with Tim Furnish on the eschatology of the "caliphate" as a chaser ]
Here’s Andrew Bacevich with a provocative piece titled Lessons from America’s War for the Greater Middle East — of which it is the tenth that most interests me personally:
No single explanation exists for why the War for the Greater Middle East began and why it persists. But religion figures as a central element.
Secularized American elites either cannot grasp or are unwilling to accept this. So they contrive alternative explanations such as “terrorism,” a justification that impedes understanding.
Our leaders can proclaim their high regard for Islam until they are blue in the face. They can insist over and over that we are not at war with Islam. Their claims will fall on deaf ears through much of the Greater Middle East.
Whatever Washington’s intentions, we are engaged in a religious war. That is, the ongoing war has an ineradicable religious dimension. That’s the way a few hundred million Muslims see it and their seeing it in those terms makes it so.
The beginning of wisdom is found not in denying that the war is about religion but in acknowledging that war cannot provide an antidote to the fix we have foolishly gotten ourselves into.
Does the Islamic world pose something of a problem for the United States? You bet, in all sorts of ways. But after more than three decades of trying, it’s pretty clear that the application of military power is unlikely to provide a solution. The solution, if there is one, will be found by looking beyond the military realm — which just might be the biggest lesson our experience with the War for the Greater Middle East ought to teach.
Timothy Furnish has a detailed post up about Dabiq magazine and its end-times implications:
New Islamic State Magazine: We’re On the Eve of Destruction
Since the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham [Greater Syria] declared the resurrection of the caliphate a few weeks ago, analysts and journalists have focused on the ramifications of that putative political office for the Islamic world. However, at the start of Ramadan the new “Islamic State” and its caliph attempted to move the propaganda needle from the merely realpolitickally ridiculous to the apocalyptically awe-inspiring — by invoking Muslim eschatological traditions.
[ .. ]
The writers credit the late Abu Mus`ab al-Zarqawi, decapitator extraordinaire of the IS[IS] predecessor organization the Islamic State in Iraq, with first linking the jihad there to the End Time battle at Dabiq. Also, Dabiq has several pages extolling al-Zarqawi’s virtues and strategic vision for rec-creating the caliphate via these stages: 1) hijrah 2) jama`ah 3) destabilizing the taghut 4) tamkin 5) khilafah. The original hijrah was the “flight” of Muhammad and the small Muslim community from Mecca to Yathrib/Medina in 622 AD. Ever since, this exploit has served as an example for groups of Muslims who deem their society and/or rulers insufficiently pious and who thus repeat the paradigm of flee, consolidate power and return to conquer. Jama`ah is “community,” the expected group solidarity that hardens during hijrah. Such a community then must act to undermine the tyrannical regime(s), the taghut (literally “despots” or “gorillas”). As the oppressive rulers are rendered illegitimate via jihad and tuwwahhush (literally “savagery” or “brutality”), controlling less and less territory, the true Muslims will be able to consolidate power (tamkin), ultimately leading to the caliphate—as IS[IS] has now proclaimed. This rising new Muslim power “will trample the idol of nationalism, destroy the idol of democracy” and trigger the “demolition of Sykes-Picot” (the World War I British-French agreement which laid out plans for those two nations to rule over the Arab sections of the post-war Ottoman Empire). This five-step program for attaining power can be repeated elsewhere — notably Yemen, Mali, Somalia, Sinai Peninsula, Waziristan, Libya, Chechnya, and Nigeria, as well as in certain areas of of Tunisia, Algeria, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
Dabiq also takes a number of pages to lay out an Islamic theological basis for the political power being claimed by “Caliph” Ibrahim. …
Furnish doesn’t address the Mahdist connection I made via the two hadith in an older post by Will McCants on Jihadica in which the Mahdi’s arrival is presaged by the death of the caliph, but offers a different emphasis in which al-Baghdadi himself might receive recognition as the Mahdi..
I’m sure more good readings will catch my eye as soon as I post this — but for now, that’s it from me.