The Islamic State is one of the most lethal and successful jihadist groups in modern history, surpassing even al-Qaeda. Thousands of its followers have marched across Syria and Iraq, subjugating millions, enslaving women, beheading captives, and daring anyone to stop them. Thousands more have spread terror beyond the Middle East under the Islamic State's black flag. How did the Islamic State attract so many followers and conquer so much land? By being more ruthless, more apocalyptic, and more devoted to state building than its competitors.
The shrewd leaders of the Islamic State combined two of the most powerful yet contradictory ideas in Islam - the return of the Islamic Empire and the end of the world - into a mission and a message that shapes its strategy and inspires its army of zealous fighters. They have defied conventional thinking about how to wage wars and win recruits. Even if the Islamic State is defeated, jihadist terrorism will never be the same. Based almost entirely on primary sources in Arabic - including ancient religious texts and secret al-Qaeda and Islamic State letters that few have seen - William McCants' The ISIS Apocalypse explores how religious fervor, strategic calculation, and doomsday prophecy shaped the Islamic State's past and foreshadow its dark future.
©2015 William McCants (P)2015 Macmillan Audio
This is a book that every thoughtful, educated, and voting American should read (or listen to) in order to understand the true complexity of the problem of jihadism and its current incarnation as ISIS. McCant knows his stuff and describes ISIS' trajectory clearly and directly tying it to its historical roots without embellishment. There is something chilling and especially impactful about his handling of the Yasidi predicament.
I can't recommend this book highly enough! McCants ends with conclusions and a list of what-to-do's that won't be palatable for those who, after San Bernadino, would like to put boots on the ground in Syria. But, McCants make so much sense that I, for one, agree. He also declares that even if a coalition defeats ISIS and wipes it out, the problems that gave rise to it in the first place will ensure other jihadists will use their playbook in the future.
One suggestion: readers might consider listening to the Conclusion first to get oriented before launching into the book at its beginning.
This book should be re-recorded. I couldn't even get through the whole audio recording. McCants, the learned author has some tremendous insights and valuable knowledge about the inner-workings of Islamic terrorist group commonly referred to as ISIS. It's a subject that fascinates me, hence I listen to or read as much as I can on the subject. BUT - I've purchased hundreds of titles from Audible.com and I regret to admit that this well-written book has the worst narration of any audiobook I've listened to so far. So, do yourself a favour and buy the real book and read it!
This is not a good easy listen. It starts out boringly, gets a bit better but never rises to anything approaching literature. However, as one who extensively studied Islam I recommend this work as the best cold splash of reality you can find in one place and in such short order.
The text itself is fantastic--well-researched, scholarly, and high quality. The narrator's speech patterns are exceptionally irritating, however. The sharp exhale on every letter "p", the smacking of the tongue against the roof of the mouth on the letters “d” and “t”, the occasionally inconsistent pronunciation of Arabic names, the nasalized overtone, and the British accenting of select vowels from an American reader, are all extremely distracting.
It did a good job of going over the key points, events, terms, and individuals involved in this topic while not dragging on.
There were so many names in this book that a repeat listen or reading of the physical copy would help cement the information within the book. I found myself looking up the individuals as they were presented and making notes as the novel progressed which helped a lot.
Yes. This is a factual book and is written almost like a textbook. The narration is devoid of emotion so it is just you and the facts. With that said, it can be dry and difficult to continue on at times.
It is some scary stuff with no real answer in sight. It was an eye opening experience and has encouraged me to read more on the topic.
If you are looking for a neat, detailed, and to the point book about ISIS this meets the bill. I never found it to drag on at any point and am eager to learn more about the topic. This could be titled "ISIS 101".
The whole story of course cannot be contained in this format and size book. It sprawls into other regions and times and sub-plots twisting back into history. But points go to this author, for a sharp job of picking up all sorts of threads and tying them together in this relatively short book. There are other pieces of the story readily available in audios already released. I found, as a good prelude to this one, The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright, which follows the earlier jihadist history back to its "Johnny Appleseed" if you will, Qutb in the 1940s. This book picks up the Al Qaeda story and updates it, as ISIS and Al Qaeda's histories are intertwined and linked. But imagine ISIS, a group so ghastly and beyond the pale in recent history, Al Qaeda has been telling it to tone it down!
Any viral phenomenon, I suppose, if it will survive, likely loses some of its more edgy and fatal virulence as it matures and becomes hospitable to wider environs. Hence the transition from conquest to administration. Once-radical groups can theoretically become more settled, and have done so historically, though the author here is careful not to throw simplistic predictions around, or hide the messy complexities everyone faces who is touched or menaced by this. ISIS exists in history like anybody else, but is its own creature.
As for the ideologies, we get to see a swath of "Islamic" "prophecies" (countless people in all sorts of sects, dynasties and groups have been putting words into the mouth of the Prophet since the moment he died, to suit their own narratives, to the point anyone can cherry-pick virtually any narrative out of the morass of them, to condone pretty much anything). The Koran itself has certain dualities about peace and war, accord and violence, and the scholarship on the original Koran has been careful (compare its untouched word-for-word classical Arabic to countless iterations of the Jewish/Christian Bible from anybody who cares to venture a translation, with a huge divergence in key words and concepts), but Koran's overlay of hadith, etc., grafted on from all corners is like a deluge. Its a noisy mess of stuff. I guess it is no news that self-titled fundamentalists like anyone else can't resist tacking on their version to the supposedly perfect untouchable word of God. We see how situationally useful "prophecies" have been picked up by the ilk of ISIS (headed by a guy with a PhD in Koranic studies), the no-longer useful ones discarded as situations fail to cooperate, and the whole mess repackaged and retro-fitted continuously and marketed to ignorant (not-so-scholarly) young men at loose ends, the better to harness their raw youth energies and fit them with suicide vests, etc. All this helps us to focus intelligently and more calmly on the marginal members of our domestic and global societies who are out there in large numbers and fodder for cults like this, especially in the aftermath of the Cold War, and in the noisy superficiality of the Internet. The 20th century Cold War and narrowcast media (as I see it) imposed a larger polarized two-team (militarized, but more orderly, in ways) narrative onto things, to absorb the energies and attentions of such populations. Now anybody anywhere can get entrepreneurial with this kind of stuff, as they can with music, humor, etc. And new networks create overnight winners and losers in any kind of field. This briefing (which does not go afield into this sociological stuff I am overlaying here) helps create a context for understanding this particular aspect of our times. This author is, here, more specifically a middle east scholar.
At the end, the author reviews the problems now, in the overall region and situation, and reviews the current US policies in response. The current policies make considerable sense, given the messy tradeoffs and factors we face now (without going into a blame game about what this and that US leader did wrong in the past -- a topic this book does not address itself centrally to. That is a big chunk of the story from the US side, not to be ignored, but it is not the topic here). Of course, the situation is live and unfolding as we speak, and the responses will adjust accordingly. This is a great briefing.
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