Don’t get me wrong, these guys are evil bastards, and while they’re brutal, destructive, and genocidal, that’s probably all they’ll ever be, and they won’t be that for long.
Let me break it down here.
I. Everyone Hates ‘Em
And I mean everyone- not just those unfortunate enough to be targeted by the group. See, the moment these guys came to power in Syria, they enacted a couple social policies, namely, the banning of music and smoking. And readers, let me tell ya, if there’s two things Syrians love, it’s music…
Now the Syrians have been living under a brutal dictatorship for years. They’ve managed to take it on the nose when their freedom of speech or self-rule gets viciously curtailed. Now when you take away their liberty and what few pleasures they have, you’ve gone too far, and the already unpopular group has had to face resistance from within its own territory. In August of this year, local tribesmen forced ISIS out of several villages and reportedly even took control of a local oil field. Not only that…
II. They’re Not As Big As They Look
Chances are, you’ve seen ISIS territory portrayed something like this:
Scary, huh? That’s control from nearly the Mediterranean to Persia. Only, that’s not an accurate picture.
Those orange lines are a lot more indicative of what ISIS actually controls, much of that being small villages and towns and the lonely desert roads connecting them. Indeed, even this might be giving the group too much credit, as such villages are only loosely controlled (seriously, go read that link above about those tribesmen kicking ’em out). Further, while we’re told to shudder at ISIS’s advances, we often forget the group’s long list of failures. For example, ISIS had boasted that it would capture Baghdad in three days. That was way back in July, and similar attempts to push into Kurdish territory have also proven difficult. What advances ISIS has made have come at a high price, with 2013 casualty estimates at 10 to 1 in favor of the Kurdish forces. Kurdish fighters have likewise taken control of such strategic sites as the Mosul Dam, another severe loss on the part of ISIS. But beyond all that…
III. It’s Unsustainable
Completely and utterly unsustainable. The vast majority of ISIS’s revenue has come from raiding, pillaging, kidnapping, and extortion, and while that’s helped the group swiftly fund itself, those tactics can’t be used forever. Eventually, the group is going to run out of minorities to dispossess, and when they do they’re going to have to either continue to attack Syria and Iraq or be faced with the prospect of turning on themselves.
Let’s say- just hypothetically- that a semblance of a state is carved out. Now what? ISIS forces have spent the last few years riding from town to town taking what they want, and peacetime might not be so agreeable to ’em (certainly we’ve seen this in history). In truth, the moment ISIS establishes a state is a the moment it starts to count down to its own collapse. This is an organization that was born from- and thrives on- chaos. Take that away and you take away their natural habitat, and I’m not betting this group will evolve fast enough.
But let’s say that they do.
If (again- just hypothetically), ISIS was able to establish a state, how would it sustain itself? Turkey isn’t going to trade with it. Neither would Iraq or Syria. While in parts bordering the Euphrates, that particular section of Syria isn’t exactly fantastic farmland and I’m guessing Iraq isn’t much greener. ISIS would be forced to essentially cannibalize it’s own territory or be reduced to a truly impoverished standard of living.
Could they survive?
Possibly, but with such abysmally limited infrastructure, the slightest hiccup could result in catastrophic damage. I mean, who’s supplying ’em with vaccines? There is malaria along the Euphrates and polio is re-emerging in that area. And that goes for most everything else, from car parts to stoves to sewage treatment. The ability to conquer and the ability to control are two very different things, and ISIS simply doesn’t seem to have what it will take.
Are these guys monsters? Absolutely, but monsters is all they’ll ever be. Heck, I don’t think even half of ’em actually believe in the rhetoric they spout and its only a matter of time before the other half figures that out. I’m angry at ISIS, don’t get me wrong, I’m outraged as story after story pours in of Syrians and Iraqis being forced to flee from their homes by these scumbags.
But am I scared of ISIS?
No. I’m not.