I’ve been reading Scott Atran to try to figure out what is going on with these attacks in Europe, and he has some important insights. What are their goals? To eliminate the Grey Zone and polarize nations. They win when they isolate immigrant populations.
The core strategy outlined in the ISIS playbook, The Management of Chaos-Savagery (Idarat at-Tawahoush, required reading for every ISIS political, religious and military leader, or amir), is to fill the void wherever chaos already exists, as in much of the Sahel and Sahara, and create chaos that can be filled as in Europe.
In reality, today’s Brussel attacks represented just the latest, ever more effective, installment for fomenting chaos in Europe and thereby “Extinguish the Grey Zone,” along the lines of 12-page editorial published in ISIS’s online magazine Dabiq in early 2015. ‘The Grey ZOne’ describes the twilight area occupied by most Muslims between good and evil – in other words, between the Caliphate and the Infidel, which the ‘blessed operations of September 11’ brought into relief. The editorial quotes Osama bin Laden, for whom ISIS is the true heir: ‘The world today is divided. Bush spoke the truth when he said, “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists”’, with the actual ‘terrorist’ being the Western Crusaders. Now, ‘the time had come for another event to… bring division to the world and destroy the Grayzone.’A welcome to Syrian refugees would clearly represent a winning response to this strategy, whereas wholesale rejection of refugees just as clearly represents a losing response to ISIS. We might wish to celebrate diversity and tolerance in the grayzone, but the general trend in Europe and the majority of the US political establishment and population is to collude in erasing it.
The following are axioms drawn from The Management of Chaos-Savagery (Idarat at-Tawahoush, required reading for every ISIS political, religious and military leader, or amir), and from the February 2015 editorial in Dabiq (online ISIS publication), on “The Extinction of the Gray Zone.” ISIS’s actions have been, and likely will continue to be, consistent with these axioms:
Diversify the strikes and attack soft targets – tourist areas, eating places, places of entertainment, sports events, and so forth — that cannot possibly be defended everywhere. Disperse the infidels’ resources and drain them to the greatest extent possible, and so undermine people’s faith in the ability of their governments to provide security, most basic of all state functions.
· Motivate the masses to fly to regions that we manage, by eliminating the “Gray Zone” between the true believer and the infidel, which most people, including most Muslims, currently inhabit. Use so-called “terror attacks” to help Muslims realize that non-Muslims hate Islam and want to harm all who practice it, to show that peacefulness gains Muslims nothing but pain.
· Use social media to inspire sympathizers abroad to violence. Communicate the message: Do what you can, with whatever you have, wherever you are, whenever possible.
I suspect that ISIS is planning a coordinated attack across multiple cities in Europe to ramp up the process of extinguishing the gray zone, and to also shift the focus of its possible adherents away form its increasingly noteworthy military containment in Syria and Iraq.