ISIS will not be defeated militarily. This is according to Rami G. Khouri, a senior fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School and at the American University of Beirut. In an opinion piece last month for Al Jazeera he warned us not to rely on guns and bombs to solve the problem ISIS poses. The question we should be asking is, what is driving recruits to join them? Pay attention, we need to get inside their heads if we’re ever going to figure this out.
Let me summarize his reasons and regroup them:
A. 1. They are tired of Arab regimes’ brutal and corrupt rule
2. They want to live in a society that practices true Islamic law, emphasizing justice, security, and equality under the law (now absent from Arab countries)
3. They want to live among like-minded people amid a wholesome family life.
4. They want simple material needs: clean water, food, health care, jobs
B. 5. They want to find meaning in life or escape personal problems, loneliness.
6. They want adventure like young people everywhere.
C. 7. Sunnis feel like victims in the face of Shia and Western forces.
8. They want to avenge past grievances like Israel’s humiliation of Arabs, and foreign attacks on Arabs,
D. 9. They want to expand the Caliphate, necessary for the apocalypse and return of the Messiah-figure, the Mehdi (or Mahdi), who will usher in peace and justice
Let me talk about Group A first and broaden the discussion beyond ISIS. The answer to these grievances lies in good government. So many countries in the Arab world, and in the developing world are suffering under corrupt leaders. Transparency International .just published its report People and Corruption:Africa Survey 2015 in which they found 85 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are paying bribes annually, sometimes just to get basic services. In their corruption index of 175 countries, there at the bottom are the Muslim countries of Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Syria. How will this ever change? One way is through the George Washington approach. They need some powerful, honest leaders who will take the bull of corruption by the horns and wrestle it to the ground.
The election of John Magufuli in Tanzania may point the way out of this problem. Since his election in October, Magufuli is targeting corruption and also cutting the budget wherever he can. He is nicknamed “the Bulldozer” and has a no-nonsense approach to projects. He was out cleaning the streets of Dar es Salaam this week along with thousands of volunteers across the country—a regular guy as opposed to a Fuehrer or demagogue. What struck me as an excellent move was his cancellation of the usual, costly inauguration celebration in the face of a cholera epidemic. He has inspired a hashtag #whatWouldMagdufiliDo where citizens can send in their money-saving ideas. What a change from dictators of the past like the CAR’s Bokassa, or the Congo’s Mobutu who always seemed to be laying the groundwork for their apotheosis.
So, down with personality cults! Up with honesty and the Greater Good! The West has to support this idea as much as it can, and it was gratifying to see Joe Biden doing just that in Kiev this week, though discouraging to see a fistfight break out in Parliament a few days after he left. There is work to be done. If you’re looking for a place to park any year-end donations, consider Transparency International which is on the front lines of this fight against corruption.
Next time, B,C, and the problematic D.