We thought Alqaida were the consummate bad guys. The United States took military action in two countries to root them out, sparking a political game of dominoes that has seen the dissolution of the old colonial borders in the middle east (hereby referred to as Shams).
Osama Bin Laden was compared to Hitler, and finally America had an enemy with a face after the loss of Communism as the big bad guy. But Osama and his ilk were hidden in the shadows, and further driven into obscurity by the War On Terror. Finally, with Osama’s very public death, there was again a an empty place in the bad guys chair at the world table.
Time passed, and out of the ruins and rubble of Syria, legions of hopeless freedom fighters turned down an even darker road. They were joined by the cast out and leaderless elite of Iraq’s old warrior class, who had abandoned their insurgency for a time to take out their rage on Bashar Al-Assad.
The most memorable “evil” forces of history have also been the most convinced of their righteousness. Hannah Arendt explained that :“The most horrifying things about the Nazis was not that they were so deviant but that they were terrifyingly normal.” The Nazi’s romanticized the Viking’s (among other historical groups), and manipulated the facts to make themselves appear as heroic warriors, come to save the day.
It is no different for Daesh (ISIS), who romanticize the old Islamic Caliphate and alter the facts of history to fit their agenda.
Sacrilege! Tolkien would throw on his WWI cavalry get up and smite some fools if he saw that travesty. But it is important to understand how they see themselves, and how we as a society process the identity of evil.
Daesh have grown in our minds to Lord of the Rings level evil. They have a Sauron (Baghdadi), they have a Mordor (Shams), they have a Baradur (Raqqa, Syria).
They even have a mouth of Sauron (Daesh Press Officer Abu Mosa):
Anyway, to recap: we have concrete, visible enemies with striking parallels to old famous enemies. Additionally, thanks to the prolonged wars of the last ten years and the active aggression of Russia it makes the prospect of defeating them cumbersome and expensive at best.
The consistent and shocking atrocities will destroy Daesh one day soon or a few years down the road. The question is: if this great evil force will spark the world to reshape the middle east into a more politically sustainable landscape or if the pillars of Authoritarianism will simply be reinforced, ensuring the reincarnation of another Daesh down the road.