Sunday, March 8, 2015

Reverse history: Distributed ISIS as the global jihad?

Do we have to watch the world get turned upside down by counter-revolutionary religious fervor?

It appears that we have little if any say in it. The fundamentalist religious action of ISIS is there for anyone to see on Internet videos: beheadings, torture, celebratory convoys, martyrs, the works. The media richness of the shift backwards in human history is almost beyond belief.

What is stunning is the way the clock that applied to European, then western and human civilization through the agency of the Enlightenment has been stopped. Then wound back. The reversal of history is achieving a perverse universality through ISIS. The universality of liberalism and its ideals was the revolution that emanated from France. Now the universality of non-liberalism exists as an alternative.

ISIS began as a local Islamic uprising against imperially-imposed national borders. The revolt is rapidly moving to a new phase, stretching itself and its influence largely through media memes, to anyone with an axe to grind and the pathology to apply the axe.

That amounts to a lot of people with an interest in sharia law, the Caliphate and Apocalyptic Islamic theology, as Graeme Wood helpfully documented in "What ISIS really wants," in The Atlantic, February, 2015. What ISIS really wants The other side of this coin is becoming clear - as the Caliphate consolidates in parts of the Middle East, a number of interest groups express support in other geographical areas of the planet.

Distributed revolt has a model in play (in the Caliphate) plus a network of activist agents. Or to put is another way, many thousands of ISIS supporters now have agency in areas remote from Syria, Iraq and Turkey.  
The news that Nigeria's Boko Haram has recognized ISIS consolidates a bad week or two. Islamist militants with ISIS orientations have been appearing in Pakistan, Afghanistan and, well, everywhere.  Boko Haram goes global This is in addition to recruits attempting to move to Syria then into the Caliphate, prompted by ISIS evangelists on the Internet. Indeed, as the travel associated with the recruits is madeillegal and halted, the connections and activism is translated to localized activity. Through on-line sites, they can plan remote dedication.

(The model here is closing down a heroin distribution site - it pops up on the other side of town).

The question is where to go to find solutions to the emergence of this movement?

What is the value in arming fighters and placing them in designated war zones? ISIS has become a distributed struggle. It is virtual and material.

In the 1990's there there was an "end of history" movement, prompted by Francis Fukuyama's book of the same name. Is it time to rethink the idea that global forward momentum is over and with it assumed history? There is plenty to think about here, even years after the original claims by Fukuyama: end of history

Somewhere, the pieces will need to be brought together in a new global governance theory that acknowledges that the ways of "being enlightened" are no longer a universal ideal. What then?