Charles’s new essay discusses the ISIS difference

Originally posted at SISMEC, in a new essay IAT / VAT founding officer Charles Mink critiques Jonathan Powell’s new book Terrorists At The Table (and Fareed Zakariah’s glowing review thereof) on the grounds that ISIS — unlike the IRA, or even Al Qaeda, or the Taliban — remains patently uninterested in negotiating a political end to conflict.

Charles points out that attempts for diplomatic resolutions to the ISIS problem are misguided: ISIS’s violence is not an expression of political grievance but a sociological phenomenon, one where young, restless and searching men and women find meaning in a group — in this case a vicious death cult led by a ruthless master, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. Unlike Osama bin Laden or Mullah Omar, Baghdadi fundamentally does not think about the world in the way that Powell and Zakariah want to believe he does. He is a zealot, an heir to the bloodthirsty severity of Abu Musaab Al-Zarqawi, whose followers fight for sake of camaraderie as much as a coherent political vision.

The essay is also relevant to our website’s aims: Mink brings evidence from his history of talking with terrorists to support his argument. Talking is precisely what interrogators do, and also listening; it’s much easier to find out why our enemies fight, and thus how to stop them from fighting, if we open ourselves to a discussion and hear to what they actually have to say.

— Marcus (with Charles)