Why does ISIS continue to do things to make their "enemy" even more determined to go after them?



Why do groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda continue use terrorism attacks, which only do temporary physical damage. It seems to have the primary effect of aggravating huge military entities such as N.A.T.O or the U.S.

The swift downfall of Al Qaeda's power after the 9/11 attacks is an example of such a thing happening, and considering that ISIS started as a small branch of Al Qaeda they have seen this kind of thing happen firsthand.

So I am confused why they continue to do the same thing instead of any alternative ways to achieve their goals?


Posted 2017-05-23T14:09:46.753

Reputation: 1 043


Related: https://politics.stackexchange.com/questions/4980/why-is-isis-taking-hostages

– Andrew Grimm – 2017-05-23T22:06:02.873

1Various comments deleted. Please don't try to answer questions with comments. – Philipp – 2017-05-31T18:43:15.643



The stated goal of ISIS is to eliminate "the grey area". Today there is a sizeable minority of Muslims living in western society. ISIS wants to show that it's not possible for Muslims to live in the western world. Their method is to perform terrorist attacks in the hope it will cause a backlash against Muslims living in the western world.

ISIS states this very clearly:

“the time had come for another event to … bring division to the world and destroy the grey zone”


“the world today is divided into two camps”: that of kufr, or unbelief, and that of their own warped interpretation of Islam. In between these lies the “grey zone”, inhabited by those who call themselves Muslims yet fail to join Daesh.”


Posted 2017-05-23T14:09:46.753

Reputation: 3 436

the world today is divided into two camps”: that of kufr, or unbelief, and that of their own warped interpretation of Islam. If I understood the source correctly, that's from an ISIS spokesperson, in which case ..in which of those two camps does ISIS consider themselves? The latter, I guess. But then... do they admit their interpretation of Islam is warped? – xDaizu – 2018-05-28T11:01:26.620

@xDaizu That is (non-Muslims (kufr/unbelief) and liberal Muslims ("that of their own warped interpretation of Islam")) versus Daesh (ISIS). – liftarn – 2018-05-28T14:42:04.447

@liftarn ...so, for them, the world is divided in 3 camps: non-muslims, liberal muslims and them ("proper" muslims?), isn't it? – xDaizu – 2018-05-28T14:57:06.570

@xDaizu No, still just two, it's them vs everybody else. – liftarn – 2018-05-29T06:45:19.080

17Well, this is sinister. I much preferred just assuming they didn't like the white devils of the west – Sidney – 2017-05-24T14:30:33.770

2Also they want the west to get involved in multiple conflicts that they can not win. The hope is that this will bankrupt countries involved overtime just as the prolonged Russian invasion of Afghanistan helped in the collapse of the USSR. – mega_creamery – 2017-05-24T15:43:31.910

1@mega_creamery Not quite. They want to "Bring the end of times" by bringing about the Armageddon, if you can call it that, between "Islam" and "Christianity". They think it will fulfill some prophecies and the world will end. They don't care about winning those conflicts militarily or through attrition. – NSNoob – 2017-05-25T06:15:36.523

28@Sidney Don't think of them as evil crazy people. Their brains aren't damaged - they just have a different set of values and goals. The same strategy was applied over and over in history, and some of the ISIS leaders may have even had personal experience with it back from the Cold War. And don't think they have one goal, and one strategy - in any asymmetric conflict, you're basically trying to cause an auto-immune response in the target - make them expend huge amounts of resources and damage themselves, wildly out of proportion to the actual threat (and more importantly, your own costs). – Luaan – 2017-05-25T08:51:39.233

3Post hoc self rationalizations and stated goals are not explanations. – Sentinel – 2017-05-25T12:43:37.147

1I don't see how this answer addresses the question let alone provides a correct answer. I read the question as, "why would ISIS choose a strategy that could easily lead to their destruction?" They may intend to cause a backlash, but that's separate from why they are not worried about the long game of their strategy. – whitneyland – 2017-05-25T21:52:28.063

@Lee: The answer is correct, albeit incomplete. The point is that eliminating the grey zone means more potential recruits for them, and thus more power for their leaders. Moderates won't willingly join Daesh, and they need plenty of blood for their wars. This is the same for far right (and other radical movements) all over the world, really. – tomasz – 2017-05-28T16:24:44.020

Can you even read your own quotes? Western world is "kufr", end of story. Shi'a, moderates like Tunis etc. r clearly "warped interpretation" as per Sunny fundamentalist ISIS. "grey area" r those who are "true enough Muslims" (as per ISIS) to even be considered as those that can join in with ISIS, which of course sees itself as the pinnacle of "true Islam" (as per ISIS). *NO*, the goal is to escalate, cause civil war *inside* the Muslim world and force more of the "true Muslims" to join in with ISIS. As per your own quotes. (And *then* conquer the world of kufr, but that's a given). – Genli Ai – 2017-05-28T19:14:34.863

... and of course, to win that civil war and take control of the whole Muslim world. (and then attack the West... I think we've all seen the quotes about conquering Rome etc.) So they want to provoke West's aggression to cause civil war inside the Muslim world, to make life very hard for "good Muslims" (per ISIS), causing them to seek their defender in ISIS and join in. this is exactly what happened with Mosul's Sunny population few years back, that's why they welcomed ISIS as their protector. Where once were stable half-secular states, now lay vast areas ripe for ISIS control. – Genli Ai – 2017-05-28T19:30:48.570

@Luaan Even if its done before or there is some sort of thought behind their "plan" doesn't mean their brains aren't damaged, if you act like that your brain is damaged in some way for sure. – EpicKip – 2017-05-29T11:28:27.290

4@EpicKip If it took brain damage for humans to do bad things, the world would look quite a bit different. It's sad, and we need to change that, but claiming that The Enemy is brain-damaged isn't helping - it's the exact same attitude The Enemy has against you (that is, "they're not really human, so it's okay to kill them/force them to do what you want"). It usually takes that kind of framing for a human to willingly kill another human, but that's all it takes, as history shows and evolutionary "behaviorology" explains. – Luaan – 2017-05-29T12:52:43.660

@Luaan As long as anyone blows up themselves and a load of people that have nothing to do with the fight/discussion than that person definitely has brain damage. This is not a "normal" war about money etc. this is a bunch of extremists that bomb people, there are no 2 sides to this (I say this mainly because I strongly believe in freedom of speech and if they bomb us for what we think or say its not 2 sided) – EpicKip – 2017-05-29T12:56:43.860

@EpicKip "Normal" wars have to consider the aftermath (regardless of whether the war is won or lost). When you start on a genocidal rampage, there is no aftermath (or so you think); the gloves come off. And it's nice that you believe in freedom of speech, but that's your ethics. Theirs don't include freedom of speech. Indeed, many people who endorse freedom of speech don't really believe it, at least not fully - surely you know people who'd harm a person who offended them (and even feel good about it). Don't focus on "islamists" - Europe was so much fun for most of the 20th century :) – Luaan – 2017-05-29T13:10:32.890

@Luaan Many wars do not consider aftermath, and when one tries to exterminate people who don't think like him I would definately call that brain damage. Also I am from Europe and know plenty of turkish/maroccan/egyptian people that are all muslims, its just the terrorists I hate with all my hearth (and honestly anyone who supports them, stupidity is not an excuse) – EpicKip – 2017-05-29T13:17:00.267

ISIS has been making the Germans angry lately. Looking forward 10 years or so I am concerned what effects ongoing economic problems in the EU, stress and pent-up resentment and anger will have on the German political climate. History has shown us a very angry Germany is not a good thing. – Beo – 2017-05-29T19:54:10.573

@EpicKip one could argue that war for money is much more depraved and abnormal than a war for ideals (like cold-blooded murder vs a crime of passion). In fact big wars were never "for money". That meme (that wars are fought for money) is a very recent Western invention. – Genli Ai – 2017-05-30T23:37:30.163

@someguy so the oil wars are not wars? – EpicKip – 2017-05-31T06:38:11.477

@EpicKip what "oil wars"? -- you said "war about money" was "normal". no war is normal except in self-defense. – Genli Ai – 2017-05-31T09:46:37.077

@someguy ... seriously?... what oil wars? In fact big wars were never "for money". this depends on what you call big. America bombing countries for oil is what I call big enough so there have been big wars for money. – EpicKip – 2017-05-31T09:57:44.630

@EpicKip which countries did America bomb for oil? Afghanistan? (no) Iraq? (no) Libya? (no). I can't think of any other that you might have meant here. Could you give me its name please? – Genli Ai – 2017-05-31T15:24:45.897

@someguy you can say (no) all you want but its Iraq. Google oil wars – EpicKip – 2017-05-31T15:29:24.073

@EpicKip this is an oversimplification of enormous proportions. – Genli Ai – 2017-05-31T15:32:22.110

1@someguy that's what you think. Oil wars have been around long enough and they're not rare, and you can call it an oversimplification but I'll call it the truth. Just because governments blame something/someone else for a war did not mean its not about oil/money. – EpicKip – 2017-05-31T15:35:59.860


This question seems a little like why do terrorists commit terror?

The aim of a terrorist group isn't usually to be left alone, but more to provoke conflict, or as a form of violent protest against what they believe is a wrong.

You are mistaken when you claim terrorism

only do temporary physical damage

The value in a terrorist attack isn't really the attack itself, but the reaction that accompanies it. People and governments react to terrorism by becoming more fearful of certain subsections of the population, fearful to carry out actions they may previously have no problem in doing (e.g. going to a concert, boarding a plane etc.) or fearful of the group itself i.e ISIS/ Al-Qaeda. All three of these things benefit terrorist organizations:

  • Fear of a certain subsection of the population (e.g. Muslims) - Leads to oppressive laws and environments for them to live in for example racial profiling, watch-lists/registry, a rise in hate crime and other generally discriminatory things.. When people are oppressed they are more susceptible to an extremist ideology - so more recruitment for the organization.
  • Fear of carrying out normal actions - one of the major ways to win a war or any form of war is to disrupt normal life in your enemy state.
  • Fear of the group - the ultimate macho objective, if people think your group can go head to head against the country with the most powerful military on earth and cause significant damage (9/11) - then suddenly they want to negotiate with you, join you etc. you gain a lot of soft power, and ability to blackmail e.g Give me X or I will bomb the whitehouse

Another point you seem to misunderstand is that you think they are thinking about western retaliation to their attack. Most terrorism is usually in retaliation to something the west did in the first place. From the terrorists perspective they are the ones committing the retaliation or "evening things out". For example the 2013 attack on Lee Rigby was committed in retaliation to the Invasion of Iraq and atrocities committed by coalition forces. Edit in request for more examples: The November 2015 Paris attacks were claimed as a response to French Airstrikes in Syria, Stated motives for the 9/11 attacks include US military presence in Saudia Arabia and UN Resolution 661, a friend of one of the 7/7 attackers claims that he often watched "videos of Muslim suffering around the world inc Palestine and Chechnya" and this may have motivated the attack in the BBC Documentary "Biography of a Bomber", the Boston Marathon bombings were allegedly done in response to U.S. wars in Iraq and Syria. Edit thanks to bain for pointing out that the 7/7 attackers left pre-recorded videos, where they claimed there motivation to be "Your democratically-elected governments continuously perpetuate atrocities against my people all over the world. And your support of them makes you directly responsible". Source.

You also mention

do the same thing instead of any alternative ways to achieve their goals

This is a false premise, terrorist organizations do several other things to achieve their goals including capturing territory, enforcing laws and spreading propaganda.

Another thing you claim is:

The swift downfall of Al Qaeda's power after the 9/11 attacks is an example of such a thing happening, and considering that ISIS started as a small branch of Al Qaeda they have seen this kind of thing happen firsthand.

It could be argued that this isn't really true since a vast number of ISIS recruits were originally members of Al-Qaeda and they share a very similar ideology. In fact ISIS is much bigger and stronger than Al - Qaeda ever was and at their peak controlled upwards of 100,000 sq km of land and has tens of thousands of foreign fighters. In their eyes they've gotten a lot stronger.

In conclusion terrorism is part of the eternal cycle of "he hit me first" or to quote Exodus 21:24 "An eye for an eye", and generally has worked to provoke a response from the west, which has further aggravated an oppressed population who are then more likely to support a terrorist group who then commit another attack who then ..... cycle goes on.

So to be incredibly cynical in a terrorists eyes: the question isn't why it's why not.

Further Reading

  • Why do terrorists commit terror? - Peter Bergen (NY Times)
  • What motivates terrorists? - Simon Cottee (Atlantic)
  • Causes of terrorism - Amy Zalman PHD (ThoughtCo)

Just to be clear I abhor terrorism but if we really want to get to the bottom of why someone does something we have to examine our actions also


Posted 2017-05-23T14:09:46.753

Reputation: 8 037

4Can you cite the "most terrorism is usually in retaliation to something the west did in the first place" a little more fully, one example doesn't really define a majority. – veryRandomMe – 2017-05-23T16:15:42.600

2@veryRandomMe Sure thing, ive updated the answer with another few examples with citations. Are there any other parts you'd like me to expand on? – SleepingGod – 2017-05-23T16:42:02.090

@easymoden00b I've changed it to Exodus 21:24 is that better? – SleepingGod – 2017-05-23T16:49:04.847

4@SleepingGod It's better, the meaning of Exodus 21:24 is more or less what you say. The context is the opposite, though: the idea there is that you need to limit your retribution to no more than an eye for an eye, etc., so as to not escalate conflicts. (Note: I'm not easymoden00b) – Charles – 2017-05-23T18:49:12.163

1@Charles I've strikethroughed that particular line, it is like the least consequential part of this answer and was receiving a disproportionate amount of attention - this answers key theme is the causes of terrorism not biblical interpretations – SleepingGod – 2017-05-23T18:53:38.777

41An excellent example of that reaction is the recent car crash in Times Square. There was almost an audible sigh of relief from the nation when it was found that "Oh, it's just another DUI. No terrorism here folks!" This despite the fact that DUIs kill orders of magnitudes more than terrorists. We simply respond so strongly to terrorism. – Cort Ammon – 2017-05-23T19:09:33.643

1@SleepingGod I think yours is an excellent answer (+1), thanks for putting up with the pedants trying to improve it. :) – Charles – 2017-05-23T19:20:25.993

1That would not be blackmail. It would be extortion. – jpmc26 – 2017-05-24T02:32:16.570

9This is also a cycle, as the west continues to bomb terrorists(in retaliation to attacks) but harm civilians, the civilians are more likely to join or support organizations like ISIS. – Reed – 2017-05-24T13:22:44.943

2A couple of other things terrorism may cause are: It may cause the what to other (countries) may seem like an (violent) over-reaction - eg. a limited terror-attack is answered with a full-scale attack, that kills a large number of civilians. It may cause increased government survailence (especially of certain political/religious/ethnic groups), freedoms may be limited (censorship, f. of movement and travel), soldiers in the street, and decreased protection if suspected for a crime - ie. things not really mixing with that of the ideal free democracy. – Baard Kopperud – 2017-05-24T16:31:10.743

Terrorism was once defined as "kill a few, scare millions". – Sulthan – 2017-05-24T17:57:28.450


+1 for the detailed info on retaliation as a motive. Attacks and civilian killings happen both sides --- it's just that when US air strikes kill civilians it barely makes the news in the West.

– Federico Poloni – 2017-05-24T18:41:29.287

17While this may be true for Islamist terrorism, it isn't quite true for all terrorism. The IRA was notable for trying to avoid civilian casualties during its campaigns, preferring to target economic and military targets, such as the 1996 manchester bombing which killed zero people, but is still the largest bomb detonated in england since WW2 and which caused nearly $1bn in today's dollars of damage. Or perhaps the Weather Underground who (for most of their attacks) made sure they hit symbolic and unoccupied targets. These groups do not fit the characterization given in this answer. – Knetic – 2017-05-25T06:35:11.297

2@Knetic Well, that goes into the area of "Terrorists or freedom fighters?" There's a violent conflict. You are convinced you're right, but your oppressors (imagined and otherwise - this is really a spectrum) are stronger. So you choose strategies that minimise the enemies advantage, or outright uses their strength against them. IRA wanted to break the hold of the British, but the last thing they wanted was to turn people's opinions against themselves - indeed, they really needed popular support in both Ireland and England, Robin Hood-style. The same isn't true of ISIS, but may be for others. – Luaan – 2017-05-25T08:59:33.563


The evidence that the 7/7 attackers were motivated by desire for what they saw as retaliation is even stronger than suggested - the attackers left pre-recorded videos explaining their motivation - quote "Your democratically-elected governments continuously perpetuate atrocities against my people all over the world. And your support of them makes you directly responsible"

– bain – 2017-05-27T22:54:58.723

@bain I've updated the answer with your evidence, thanks for that! – SleepingGod – 2017-05-27T23:34:35.887

2the way isis described the manchester attack "we killed some crusaders" is pretty much the report westerners get every time a western bomb blows a wedding to pieces in the middle east "we killed some terrorists". seems like they made a point to parrot the same rhetoric – Seph – 2017-05-28T01:09:20.110

@Knetic "The IRA was notable for trying to avoid civilian casualties during its campaigns" Where did you hear that? It was only luck which saved 50 children and their parents from a 70kg bomb. Trying to avoid civilians? Hah!

– inappropriateCode – 2017-05-28T05:50:33.953

2@inappropriateCode that Wikipedia article says "The IRA said it had made a mistake and that its target had been the British soldiers parading to the memorial. The bombing was strongly condemned by all sides and weakened the IRA's and Sinn Féin's support for its campaign.". The ultimate aim of a terror campaign is to strengthen support for the cause, not weaken it. A strategy of targeting police, security forces, & economy is notably different to a strategy that targets civilians, even though in the end both result in civilian deaths. – bain – 2017-05-28T08:34:33.943

@bain They targeted both military and civilian targets. Bombs are indiscriminate weapons, the choice to use them routinely, and especially on civilian targets, with and without warning, is all the evidence you need that their strategy was not limited to military and economic targets.

– inappropriateCode – 2017-05-28T09:41:54.667

2@inappropriateCode All weapons are "indiscriminate". The IRA issued apologies for civilian deaths numerous times during the Troubles, and after. I don't claim to hold up the IRA as some kind of virtuous organization, but the point stands that modern Islamist terrorism doesn't apologize for civilian casualties, it craves and relishes in them, and that's very different than what used to happen. Before 9/11 a plane hijacking was mostly to take hostages and demand ransom or political asylum. It still stands that terrorist tactics have not always been identical to Islamist tactics. – Knetic – 2017-05-29T06:20:05.220

1All weapons are not indiscriminate. That is why we arm police with accurate rifles and not explosive devices. A person may use a firearm indiscriminately but that is not the same as being an indiscriminate weapon. – Venture2099 – 2017-05-30T07:26:16.833

@Knetic To say all weapons are indiscriminate is absurd. A bomb isn't the same as a rifle. It's true that the tactics and beliefs of terrorist organisations vary, but to claim that the PIRA was "notable for trying to avoid civilian casualties" will not sit well with a lot of people. For every time they gave a warning about a bomb, there's another time they didn't. For every attack on a soldier, there was an unarmed victim. Two thousand civilians died during that era, and Republican groups did their share. How many Jihadis will apologise for their crimes 30 years from now? We don't know. – inappropriateCode – 2017-05-30T13:46:13.903

@inappropriateCode We're getting drug into the weeds. This answer claims to group all terrorism under one umbrella and explain them all; but if you took any non-Islamist group and tried to apply this answer's logic to them this answer would not make the slighest bit of sense. It doesn't matter if it's the IRA, the WU, late-19th anarchists, whomever. I'm not arguing that some terrorists are better or worse than others because they killed fewer civilians in proportion to soldiers, what I'm saying this that this answer paints with too broad a brush and loses connection with reality because of it. – Knetic – 2017-05-30T21:44:06.867

@CortAmmon have you seen the video? driving perfectly straight on a street, then making a perfect 180 on an intersection into a sidewalk and then driving perfectly straight again on the sidewalk is not an accident, quite self-evidently. – Genli Ai – 2017-05-30T23:55:32.210

this answer is delusional and <s>stupid</s> too smart for its own good, judging ISIS by your own good self as it does, my good Sir. Yes for the West it indeed is a cycle of violence because West is not aggressive by its nature right now (does not dream to conquer the world). ISIS on the other hand is on the world conquering quest right now. They initiate, not react. Them speaking of retaliations is black propaganda, just to confuse the feeble-minded. With lots of success, evidently. – Genli Ai – 2017-05-30T23:57:30.607

@inappropriateCode I vividly remember the oft-repeated and almost mundane CNN/SkyNews reports of "large London areas evacuated in advance of an IRA phoned-in bombing". as far as I remember, they always phoned in 2 hours in advance before a bomb would go off in London (and elsewhere, presumably... not sure about the Northern Ireland). one exception was Omagh bombing, yes? this is my recollection anyway. No, I'm not from UK. Reading your comments, it seems I was ill-informed by those "news channels"? – Genli Ai – 2017-05-31T00:14:01.847

@inappropriateCode the real datapoint would be to know, for what percentage of their bombings did they give warnings? – Genli Ai – 2017-05-31T00:25:00.573

1@Knetic I think we can agree on that point, certainly. – inappropriateCode – 2017-05-31T06:54:18.610

@someguy They didn't always phone in, and sometimes when they did it was too short notice, or ambiguous. Enniskillen bombing was presented as an exception, but that's too generous, and Omagh was RIRA not PIRA so it's an outlier. Have a look. Never mind the aforementioned bomb which could have killed 50 children and their parents in Enniskillen which didn't go off by pure luck. Policy was said to be to give warnings prior to civilian targets, but it wasn't fool proof or consistent.

– inappropriateCode – 2017-05-31T07:10:52.580

@inappropriateCode so there was a policy, after all. thanks for clarifying that. so what percentage was phoned in, excluding the clearly military targets? above 90%? above 95%? – Genli Ai – 2017-05-31T09:34:46.120

@someguy I do not know, that'd require some research. One would have to decide how and why to filter that, based on whether message was received, intelligible, acted upon, or its absence was because PIRA could not send the message rather than did not want to. And then of course check what may have been typical for different branches of the IRA, as the PIRA were not the only one. – inappropriateCode – 2017-05-31T10:03:17.063

Let us continue this discussion in chat.

– inappropriateCode – 2017-05-31T10:09:02.960


Many answers here are attempting to answer your question in a similar perspective, and they are all extremely interesting and most of them seem very well documented.

What I'll offer you is an attempt to destabilize some "absolutes" that emerge from both your question and most of the answers that I do not find so obvious. Forgive me if this is a rebuttal-question by itself more than an answer, I can see the shower of downvotes coming but I think it's still worth it if at least a little bit of reflecting will follow from my answer.

("racist stereotypical elements" are used on purpose, and if someone thinks I'm condoning terrorism... You're missing my point by quite a lot)

Imagine a person your age and gender sitting on their carpet somewhere in the Middle East (it is well known middle-easterns don't have chairs), typing on their keyboard full of weird wiggly symbols we don't really understand. They're writing on the Middle-eastern equivalent of politics.stackexchange and their question is:

Why does Western Governments continue to do things to make their "enemy" even more determined to go attack them?

Maybe they're asking this question after the thousandth drone strike killed tens of civilians out of the blue in a crowded market. Except for the fact that they could almost have gotten used to it (I can't even imagine what it means to get used to such stuff), probably the first time they saw children and women torn into pieces it felt not too different from what those people in Manchester have experienced.

What would then be the Middle-eastern versions of the answers we are getting here? Would they sound similar, modulo switching a couple words?

I won't dig deeper into the topic, as I think this first taste is enough to provoke some thought (and possibly get me on a few kill-lists. Oh, well.)

What I can add is the simple but interesting statement that maybe, in the end, everyone actually thinks they're the good guys


Posted 2017-05-23T14:09:46.753

Reputation: 447

12Exactly my thoughts. It is any surprise that people get pissed when a western power bombs a children's hospital, killing hundreds, then says "Whoops, collateral damage. By the way, you can't actually hold us accountable for this and if you do we'll kill you". – SGR – 2017-05-24T08:59:17.613

9@Stefano "Why does Western Governments continue to do things to make their "enemy" even more determined to go attack them?" oh that's easy: OIL – warsong – 2017-05-24T14:20:10.423

1@warsong sadly that is true – preston – 2017-05-24T15:03:25.673

@preston I'd guess it's more about controlling the oil supply rather than the oil itself; you only have a reason to use violence when either party in a trade uses violence (e.g. boycott, tariffs, ...). I'd love to see a thorough analysis, but in the absence of such, I'm pretty sure the costs are much, much larger than the savings (potential or realised) of "getting the oil". But look how much stronger the government gets with each new step - more military, more restrictions of freedoms, more "evils for the good of everyone"... It doesn't make oil cheaper; it makes those in power more powerful. – Luaan – 2017-05-25T09:07:30.470

1Not quite oil. Petrodollars. Without USD settlement of OPEC trades, there would not be a USD as a reserve currency – Sentinel – 2017-05-25T12:49:06.147

@Sentinel ultimately the same thing though. Controlling the oil is what gives them the ability to hold the world at ransom and basically force everyone to use the petrodollar. So yes, the oil is not the end goal, it's hegemony, but the primary method to achieve that is to control the OIL. – warsong – 2017-05-25T16:20:53.073

@warsong Essentially, agreed, and with all those dollar surpluses, they (Saudi) can spend 350bn on US weapons (recent Trump deal). At the end of the day, it's just paper for weapons, in a deal that permits the US to reap the rewards of a USD reserve currency – Sentinel – 2017-05-25T16:31:10.333

1@SleepingGod: I cite myself from a few lines above, where I say "racist stereotypical elements" are used on purpose . From the same part one also finds keyboard full of weird wiggly symbols , and I would have talked about the person's mud house not too far from the loud bazaar too but I guess the intent of depicting the "unknown and stereotypicized middle-eastern" to add to the fictional narration had already been reached... or maybe not. – Stefano – 2017-05-29T12:17:17.320

There are chairs in the Middle East! And you don't need to claim the opposite to make your point. – funky-future – 2017-05-29T18:58:06.677

1@funky-future, I am well aware of chairs in M.E. :) it is a narrative trick to add to the effect of "look! that person that you think is so different than you because insert stereotype here is actually thinking the same thing (modulo sign) you do". I think (or hope?) we are all cultured enough to know that M.E. people don't all fly on carpets or stuff like that. – Stefano – 2017-05-30T08:16:09.837

"everyone actually thinks they're the good guys" reminds me of the Mitchell and Webb sketch. "Are we the baddies?" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hn1VxaMEjRU

– Jag – 2017-05-30T12:27:41.227


A short answer is the last paragraph.

Born and raised as a Muslim, though I am more inclined to defend my lifestyle choices with progressist politics, rather than entities with extra-political world views, like ISIS, I shall attempt to answer your question.

First, ISIS doesn't do all the attacks (it just claims to do so) and not mainly for inflicting fear on its targets or anything because, as your question presumes well, against NATO-like military organisations, no movement - no matter how well equipped it is - can resist and though it is unreasonable, ISIS knows this for a fact and thus it tries to become a symbol. ISIS promotes two different images to different societies.

In my opinion, what ISIS does is to try to appear as a "hope zone" to those who are marginalised by the very society in which they live. They openly target the second generation of immigrant families and prisoners for recruitment into wealthy societies. The first generation of immigrants, those that arrive, most of the time are just grateful to be alive, maybe not in the conditions, they had hoped for but also in no position to be attacking the very fabric of the society in which they have been received. I am a first generation immigrant, and that is how I see the people around me, I can clearly weigh my options and see that my prospects of living here are more reasonable than my home country.

The second generation, though, for the most part, has a severe identity crisis. This identity crisis for some cases results in major isolation from the society. That's where a search for something starts. For some that something results in Isis. A poor choice in all prospects, but some go along with it. The possibility of being part of something, like anything, especially something that is condemned by the society from which you feel isolated, must be thrilling for some people. Even the thought probably gives excitement to some. One also has to admit that ISIS acknowledges this, that is you do your part, go explode somewhere, kill a lot of people, then ISIS does its part and acknowledges your "achievements" by declaring you as part of them, and their cause.

It plays a totally different game in near-east countries though. It also attacks those countries too, by the way. Turkey alone had seen 23 ISIS related bombings in 2014-2016, or Iraq had seen 15 of them in the first 6 months of 2015 or 2014, I don't remember the year really well, but media in here doesn't talk about it if it is not European among the dead. In near-east, it uses the misery of the life conditions of the people. Think of it this way: you are in your early 20s, you have no money, you barely survive by working in long shifts in poor conditions, with no money or a decent job, you have a very poor chance at marriage if you are an average looking guy or woman, and let's say you have been raised with conservative values, though not being necessarily very well versed with the interiors of the religion that is supposed to be the basis of those values. In all that misery, some colleague says one day: "hey I have this friend who is organising an event for discussing such theme in some locale, would you like to come?" As time passes on, this friend proposes you the following option, become a soldier of ISIS, have a wife from their captured sexual slaves, have a steady income, live in the designated houses either for very cheap prices or free. You are promised to die as a martyr of Islam, which is a very high status for some.

To answer your title question directly, ISIS doesn't really care about presenting itself as the enemy, as long as it can appear as a community, to those who are marginalised by the targeted countries, which destabilises the society of the targeted countries. And let's face it as long as the Syrian civil war exist, they will continue to exist, and probably even after that, since the civil wars in Libya and Sudan also are going on in the region, they have high chances of continuing their organisation there as they feed on the misery of the people for their staff.

As for the question of why reproduce the Al-Qaeda methods, well... They are not reproducing it. Al-Qaeda was strictly against non-Muslims, so countries like Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Turkey, didn't really suffer from that organisation. According to Al-Qaeda, the enemies were and still are the non-Muslim countries. For ISIS, the definition of the infidel includes different sections of Islam, you might find it hard to believe, but in Turkey, the most ardent attackers against ISIS came from extreme right and radical Islam, since they refused to be branded as infidels, just because some new kid decided for them to be so. Plus accepting ISIS would mean a loss of control in their communities, etc.

Regarding the use of terrorism by both organisations, my personal belief is that both of the organisations are a disgrace to Islam that I have been raised with, but their attacks don't necessarily appear as such to their relative communities. Think of it this way, bombing ISIS for saving Yezidis was an incredibly human gesture of US that would be remembered for a long time among Kurdish community, but the bombing of Iraq would not be considered so. The action is the same, but its perception differs among the people. The same goes for the community that might be willing to associate themselves with that movement, those actions are not perceived as terrorism. They differ considerably by the way. Al-Qaeda is still against the attacks in regions like Pakistan, Egypt, etc. For Al-Qaeda, the attacks in those regions are what you would call terrorism. Though this doesn't change much as far as the non-Muslim societies, I am just trying to say that they do differ in their perception of the enemy, but not in the choice of action. Why choose terrorism at all you might say, well that is quite easy. It is the only course of conceivable hostile action that would put you into the headlines if you are an organisation from the Middle East.

Kaan E.

Posted 2017-05-23T14:09:46.753

Reputation: 567

This is a really interesting read. I'm curious what country you originated from and where you live now. – adelphus – 2017-05-27T11:37:22.060

1@adelphus I was born and raised in Turkey, and now currently live in France – Kaan E. – 2017-05-28T14:24:57.887


One reason for provoking powerful opponents is to establish in the eyes of potential recruits that you are a powerful organization that can accomplish what other organizations cannot.

Doing this may cause recruits or financing sources to support your cause because they think highly of your group relative to others that "play it safe" by comparison. Generally, establishing yourself as the most extreme player is a good strategy for securing the time and treasure of people who want to support an extremist cause.

Less cynically, the leaders of ISIS may sincerely think that the Western way of life exemplified in rock concerts, large scale commercial banking activity contrary to Islamic law, and government institutions of countries that advance a way of life contrary to Islamic law in the world, is evil and that it is their duty to take action, on behalf of God, to punish this evil in a public way that discourages others.

To use an example familiar with Christian readers, Jesus violently disrupted the activities of the money changers in one episode depicted in the Bible, because it was contrary to Jewish law and his ideals. Obviously, that one act of low grade terrorism did not end the money changing business in the Levant. But, it did clearly establish his credentials as a force opposed to this conduct widely viewed in the Jewish community at the time as immoral, and this may have helped him win converts to his movement.

Launching a terrorist attack aimed of rock concerts or frolicing mostly naked beach goers, for example, both of which may be viewed from the ISIS perspective as exemplary of the depravity of the West, may serve a similar purpose.

So I am confused why they continue to do the same thing instead of any alternative ways to achieve their goals?

This question also contains a false premise.

Yes, they do the same thing, but they also employ alternative ways to achieve their objectives (e.g. seeking to militarily control territory in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Northern Pakistan, Northern Nigeria, Somolia, etc.). Taking one approach does not prevent them from simultaneously taking other approaches.


Posted 2017-05-23T14:09:46.753

Reputation: 34 346

2Just remember it was the "sin" of square dancing in 1950s in the US that set the Islamists ball rolling in Egypt. This later birthed al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafi extremism and other terrorists movements. – K Dog – 2017-05-23T14:41:29.483

What is the military objective of the suppression of rock concerts? – easymoden00b – 2017-05-23T14:41:31.667

11@easymoden00b It doesn't have to be a "military objective". It is more of a public relations and moral objective. – ohwilleke – 2017-05-23T14:43:03.320

1The implication of an economic benefit is very insightful, I think! e.g. if your organization is fighting against X, by highly visibly terrorizing X, you can get more funding from others who oppose X economically, but do not want to jeopardize themselves by overly using violence themselves. – Kzqai – 2017-05-24T23:17:04.013

I'd hardly describe throwing money-lenders out of a temple as "low grade terrorism". – The Dark Lord – 2017-05-30T21:17:49.513

1@TheDarkLord You are employing unauthorized violence against people conducting business with official approval for the relevant authorities in charge of the Temple, in pursuit of a religious or political agenda. It sounds like terrorism to me. Surely, not all terrorism needs to result in death. – ohwilleke – 2017-05-31T00:45:36.730

@ohwilleke So if I spray an anarchist symbol on my bins and shove the person collecting them does that make me a terrorist?! – The Dark Lord – 2017-05-31T08:49:13.370


Why does ISIL attempt to provoke a fight they cannot win? The answer is simple.

much of what the group does looks nonsensical except in light of a sincere, carefully considered commitment to returning civilization to a seventh-century legal environment, and ultimately to bringing about the apocalypse.

This summary comes from a widely circulated and sometimes critiqued article published by The Atlantic: "What ISIS Really Wants". I'd recommend reading it. What's particularly interesting is that the author, Graeme Wood, went out to try and find what ISIL and their ilk thought of his conclusions. They approved.

It is incorrect to assume that jihadi ideology is monolithic. Al-Qaeda was very much of the old school of jihadi thinking that emerged in the 90s; that horrific acts of violence would be shocking enough to awaken the Muslim world to the injustices against it. This would summon the umma together to overthrow those attempting to enslave and destroy them: Jews, crusaders, dictators, etc. This would allow Islam to unite and return to a romantic and idealised past where Muslims were united, powerful, and free to govern themselves... or so the theory went.

Incidentally, Al-Qaeda didn't fall from power after 9/11 - they never had much power to begin with. They were always a small organisation, and though America hunted for them in Afghanistan they never found the capabilities they presumed Al-Qaeda had. In the end it was the instability in Iraq which allowed Al-Qaeda to spread and mutate.

ISIL emerged as a virulent offshoot of Al-Qaeda Iraq, and began to believe that the end of times was fast approaching. It was thus their duty to make sure this happened. Al-Qaeda's strategy was to use attacks to lure west and east into a clash of civilisations; which of course would result in a united and victorious Muslim world. ISIL's strategy was to use attacks to lure the west into triggering the apocalypse.

This seems comparable to America's Evangelical Christians supporting Israel in the hope that when all the Jews are in Israel it will trigger the second coming of Christ. Both groups seek to utilise outside forces to achieve their preferred prophecy.

other parts are based on mainstream Sunni sources and appear all over the Islamic State’s propaganda. These include the belief that there will be only 12 legitimate caliphs, and Baghdadi is the eighth; that the armies of Rome will mass to meet the armies of Islam in northern Syria; and that Islam’s final showdown with an anti-Messiah will occur in Jerusalem after a period of renewed Islamic conquest.

The Islamic State has attached great importance to the Syrian city of Dabiq, near Aleppo. It named its propaganda magazine after the town, and celebrated madly when (at great cost) it conquered Dabiq’s strategically unimportant plains. It is here, the Prophet reportedly said, that the armies of Rome will set up their camp. The armies of Islam will meet them, and Dabiq will be Rome’s Waterloo or its Antietam.

“Dabiq is basically all farmland,” one Islamic State supporter recently tweeted. “You could imagine large battles taking place there.” The Islamic State’s propagandists drool with anticipation of this event, and constantly imply that it will come soon. The state’s magazine quotes Zarqawi as saying, “The spark has been lit here in Iraq, and its heat will continue to intensify … until it burns the crusader armies in Dabiq.” A recent propaganda video shows clips from Hollywood war movies set in medieval times—perhaps because many of the prophecies specify that the armies will be on horseback or carrying ancient weapons.


Posted 2017-05-23T14:09:46.753

Reputation: 11 315

6This. People somehow keep thinking people pledged to strap themselves to a bomb and blow up a market still think exactly like them, in terms of political goals. But what does politics matter when 'Allah is on your side'? – Francesco Dondi – 2017-05-25T07:23:27.810

1Well-spoken and well referenced! – Ogre Psalm33 – 2017-05-25T12:43:15.543

2This is 100x better than the answer that has 100 upvotes currently. – user4012 – 2017-05-30T13:04:56.697

^^ this. shows you the depth of delusion in which the West wallows right now. – Genli Ai – 2017-05-30T23:58:15.947

@someguy Come again? – inappropriateCode – 2017-05-31T06:51:36.133

@inappropriateCode your answer is 100x better than those other ones. Them being upvoted so much, shows the depth of delusion &c. – Genli Ai – 2017-05-31T09:32:13.287

@someguy Thanks! I was just confused about the subject of your statement and why you regarded the others are deluded rather than just incorrect. – inappropriateCode – 2017-05-31T10:04:49.730


They want to create a culture of conflict between the Ummah and Western Society. You see, because of western benevolence there are tens of millions of Muslims now living across the west (and thousands more each day). If they increase the tension between Westerners and Muslims the result will be conflict predominating within western society and a fracturing of the very fabric of these societies. The Ummah, being a monoculture, does not have this problem and would be a united front in a cultural conflict between the two sides.

The swift downfall of Al Qaeda's power after the 9/11 attacks is an example of such a thing happening

The taliban is still a thing. The "crusaders" are a potent recruiting tool. When the US finally leaves the current afghan government will likely collapse.


Posted 2017-05-23T14:09:46.753

Reputation: 703


Could you elaborate in "The Ummah, being a monoculture"? Not only because of the tensions between countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the like, but also because of data showing that most victims of Daesh and AlQaeda are Muslim (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-muslim-ban-immigration-visas-refugees-syria-iraq-terrorism-isis-attacks-most-victims-a7550936.html, http://www.globalresearch.ca/muslims-are-the-victims-of-between-82-and-97-of-terrorism-related-fatalities-us-government/5516565)

– SJuan76 – 2017-05-23T14:57:42.390

4@SJuan76 Right, so the end goal is to unite Islam into a Caliphate. That caliphate will be governed by Shariah. Under Sharia the dictates of the Quran are the sole dictates that govern society. One of these dictates is to fight non-believers until they either no longer exist, or they exist in subjugation (dhimmitude). The Ummah is the worldwide body of Muslims. "Daesh", Al-Qaeda, the Wahhabis, etc. are a manifestation of the will of the politic, defeat individually does nothing. Current violence in the Middle East is a side show. End-game is cultural conflict between Islam and the West. – easymoden00b – 2017-05-23T15:12:20.037

1Right, but what about the reality of the Muslim world? – Relaxed – 2017-05-23T21:50:24.253

2@Relaxed This is about ideology. The reality of the Muslim world is in pursuit of this ideological goal by it's very nature. That is the reality. Who is what or where is doing to whom is a footnote. It doesn't matter. They'll be replaced. The ideological foundation that is the driving force behind these groups will remain unchanged and the conflict will continue unabated as it has for the past 1300 years. These groups act as a manifestation of the ideology. Just as the marxists did in Cambodia. – easymoden00b – 2017-05-23T22:11:04.313

3@easymoden00b Except it's demonstrably not the case and when faced with that reality, you declare that a “side-show”… – Relaxed – 2017-05-24T04:34:23.913

This should be backed up by a reference to a credible source showing that ISIS does want to create a culture of conflict between Ummah and Western Society. – indigochild – 2017-05-24T13:07:38.093


Terrorist groups such as ISIS seek to disrupt life in Western society. Since they don't have an air force or any advanced milatary capabilities, they use the weapon most readily available to them: fear.

By carrying out violent attacks in public places, they create heightened tensions around the world, forcing governments to ramp up security and limit the freedoms of citizens in an effort to make the public feel safe. This has proven to be an incredibly effective tactic.

After the U.S. invaded Iraq in retaliation for the 9/11 attacks, it left a power vacuum that allowed ISIS to grow throughout the region. So, while the countries that have fallen victim to terrorist attacks might be more "determined" to go after the perpetrators, this tactic can potentially play right into their hands.

Jon Letko

Posted 2017-05-23T14:09:46.753

Reputation: 901

Why was this answer down voted? – preston – 2017-05-23T18:06:59.150

1I up-voted it to counter at least one of the down votes. This answer is actually spot-on, at least from the perspective of a former US military person who was trained on terrorism. The first paragraph of this answer is pretty much the definition of terrorism, and the two paragraphs that follow give good examples of how terrorism is used in the modern day. – Thomas Carlisle – 2017-05-23T21:07:39.680

1Al Qaida the group responsible for 9/11 was based in Afghanistan not Iraq. – Rolen Koh – 2017-05-24T08:28:09.393

2I downvoted because this answer should include a way for readers to know that it is true. If you are some kind of expert or professional in a field that deals with terrorism, you can cite your own experience. Otherwise this should be backed up with a reference to some source that shows this is what ISIS is doing. – indigochild – 2017-05-24T13:09:17.017

...ramp up security and limit the freedoms of citizens - although this may be a common thought, there's no real evidence for this actually happening. Wherever attacks have taken place, there may be an increase in security for a short time, but no freedoms are limited. – adelphus – 2017-05-27T11:30:59.037

@adelphus For one: Air travel became quite onerous, and continues to be more restricted than it was prior to late 2001. Expanded statutory definitions of terrorism and sanction of military action against those accused of such. They have changed the lifestyles of many people in many places of the world. – can-ned_food – 2017-05-30T17:34:50.320

@adelphus Actually this can be seen in many ways. Many new laws are justified with the fight against terrorism: Most mass surveillance, e.g. with a new German data retention law, which passed in 2015 or the maybe most extreme surveillance law in western society (Investigatory Powers Bill, also known as Snoopers charter) in Britain.

– rugk – 2017-05-30T18:13:13.680

@rugk you're missing the difference between laws and freedoms. Surveillance laws of the type you are talking about do not limit any freedoms - people are still free to communicate however they see fit. The laws may be viewed as an unnecessary intrusion, but that's more of a democratic argument rather than a restriction in freedom. My argument is that freedom constitutes the ability to live a normal life - you can still fly in planes, you can still send encrypted messages, etc – adelphus – 2017-05-31T10:09:40.633

1@adelphus In a free society, shouldn't I have the freedom to fly to Denver without having my genitals grabbed and my naked body observed through a body scanner by a government employee? In what world are such policies "just laws"? – Jon Letko – 2017-05-31T14:44:28.377

@Jon Letko Awesome metaphor. I have nothing more to add. ☺️ – rugk – 2017-06-01T13:24:05.563


If you want to know why just check what happen to the families and children in Afghanistan Iraq Syria and many other countries after the NATO strike.

I think maybe it's the same answer of the question why Japanese did the horrible attack of pearl harbor


Posted 2017-05-23T14:09:46.753

Reputation: 1

2What is the similarity of Pearl Harbour and let's say 9/11 from the attacker's perspective? – funky-future – 2017-05-29T19:06:25.750

3Answers need to be able to explain and justify points, preferably with references. The answer needs far more effort. – inappropriateCode – 2017-05-30T08:34:25.657


You say "do things to make ... determined": these things are for media attention. ISIS's funding and recruiting depends on this. ISIS is very good at teasing the media by providing sensational video and promoting it on social internet.


Posted 2017-05-23T14:09:46.753

Reputation: 103

3This answer is very terse, to be honest I don't really see how it expands on the existing answers that elaborate on the same point much more. – None – 2017-05-24T13:20:53.477