'If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared.' - Niccolo Machiavelli
Most recently, Graeme Wood published a masterful essay in The Atlantic titled 'What ISIS Really Wants.' It is so well-written and thorough that it nearly ascends into the realm of scholarship. I would posit that it should be required reading for all those interested in the unfolding and accelerating conflict against ISIS. In this essay, he debunks the politically correct mantra that the administration and many western intellectuals promulgate such as 'Islam is a religion of peace,' and the risible 'ISIS is un-Islamic.' He counters this notion not in an unseemly conservative, Fox-News, right-wing way, but in a composed, rational scholarly tone. He notes, 'The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.'
If one views interviews with Osama Bin Laden he comes across not as a terroristic madman, but as a soft-spoken Islamic intellectual. Every few sentences, he makes reference to a verse in the Koran or a moment in Islamic History to justify his actions. Anjem Choudary and other propagandists for the Islamic State descended and inspired by Bin Laden also come off as learned intellectuals, not as saber-rattling sociopaths. Wood also notes this phenomenon after meeting with Choudary and several of his comrades, 'To call them un-Islamic appears, to me, to invite them into an argument that they would win. If they had been froth-spewing maniacs, I might be able to predict that their movement would burn out as the psychopaths detonated themselves or became drone-splats, one by one. But these men spoke with an academic precision that put me in mind of a good graduate seminar. I even enjoyed their company, and that frightened me as much as anything else.'
Though the West as represented by America and her allies is the stronger power it has failed to understand what one might call the 'theater of war': war as a work of visual propaganda, one might even say High Art. Marc Antony understood this when he paraded himself through the streets of Ephesus dressed as the God Dionysus. Achilles understood this when he fought far-famed Hector in front of the walls of Troy in full view of both armies. Alexander understood this when he threaded the ankles of Batis and rode Batis' body around the walls of Gaza after the defeated general acted contemptuously. Leonidas understood this when he refused to withdraw from Thermopylae, knowing that by fighting gallantly to the death against The Barbarians he would turn a defeat into a glorious victory, as it would inspire other Greeks with its Homeric defiance. The Nazis understood this by employing Leni Riefenstahl to turn their speeches, parades and party rallies into High Art. And finally, ISIS has understood this through Hollywood style propaganda videos that have inspired many more to join its ranks. Sadly, we in the West have failed miserably in this regard, unless of course one counts taking smiling selfies for a BuzzFeed piece as an attempt to invoke fear in the hearts of the enemy.
Surely, we have halted ISIS' advance in certain regions, but we have not decisively defeated the enemy either in actuality or in appearance. And one might ask, how do we do this? We do this on the battle-field of Dabiq. In the apocalyptic, fatalistic worldview of ISIS, the city of Dabiq is nigh Holy. Wood comments as such, '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.'
So, by assembling and defeating ISIS decisively at Dabiq, we would defeat them not only in actuality, but in appearance; we would be crushing their very Souls, because if it has been preordained by Allah that they are to be victorious against the 'armies of Rome' in this location, but instead are defeated, it will be a blow from which they would never be able to recover. Additionally, we would be able to establish not only a 'hornet's nest' in this city, but also a 'flight of the hornet.' Our helicopters and planes would be able to pick them off with ease from the air as they eagerly made their way to Dabiq, for if word spread that the 'armies of Rome' were assembling there, nothing could keep them from this battle.
And as one saw in Kobani, in a more traditional mode of fighting, ISIS can be overwhelmed by our superior military technology. Yet even with this fact quite obvious to those in the West and surely ISIS's own field commanders, one can almost already visualize the automatic weapons raised above the heads of their foot soldiers with the deafening shouts of 'Allahu akbar' resonating throughout the enemy camp, as word spread that the 'armies of Rome' were descending en masse upon Dabiq; they could not help themselves from marching to Dabiq even if it were not in their strategic best interests, as abstaining from fighting at Dabiq would be violating the very prophecies of Mohammed. So, we would be using the enemies' own sacred beliefs against its own strategic interests; what could be more Machiavellian?
A defeat at Dabiq would cause the enemy to question its very core beliefs, and their leaders and propagandists such as Abu Al Baghdadi, Al-Adnani, Abu Waheeb, Al-Shishani, Anjem Choudary and many others would have a difficult time spinning their defeat at Dabiq. Some, more circumspect members in the West, might argue against this position of mine as absurd and even insane, since we would be giving the enemy what it wants, a pitched battle in Dabiq; they would instead prefer this slow yet steady degradation of the enemy through proxies such as the Kurds coupled with airstrikes until the Iraqis are able to retake Mosul, which also would be a monumental defeat for ISIS, but this position is to disregard the 'theater of war.' A defeat at Dabiq for ISIS, and more importantly their vile ideology, would have far-reaching consequences not only for decades, but perhaps for centuries.
In closing, ISIS Delenda Est.