Too Little Ground Support
ISIS is not a guerilla outfit. It is a territorially-based militant organization that wants to govern a particular piece of land and relies on violence to crush any opposition to their rule. Therein lays its greatest weakness. Any territorially-based non-state actor that aims or claims to be a ‘state’ (as in Islamic State) needs a certain amount of support from its subjects. ISIS has none. And why would they? Beheadings and crucifixions do not make a pretty sight.
Any political analyst would tell you that one of the major disadvantages America faced in its war against terrorism, even though it has the greatest military in the world, was that it lacked ground support. If the lack of political affirmation from the locals transformed what should’ve been a quick war into an ugly lengthy stalemate, why should ISIS fare any better?
Too Many Enemy States
Let’s begin counting: The governments of Syria and Iraq (for obvious reasons), the Shiite government of Iran, the Sunni government of Saudi Arabia, and the secular government of Turkey. And that’s just the Middle East! Then we include Russia and China, the whole of Europe, South Asia, South East Asia, and Australia. And we haven’t even mentioned the United States. Simply put, they have too many enemy states to fight.
Even Terrorists Don’t Support Them
The list of the enemies of ISIS that hold military power is not just limited to states. This includes other terrorist organizations. But, wait a minute. Don’t al-Qaeda and ISIS seem to be made for each other? Shouldn’t they be comrades, best buddies, brethren-in-arms against the US? They should, but they aren’t. How did this happen?
A simple explanation would be that, in their hot-headed jihadi fervor, ISIS became too extreme, even for al-Qaeda. Many leaders of al-Qaeda warned ISIS against issuing sweeping proclamations of apostasy (declaring Muslims to be non-Muslims). The result? Some ISIS leaders, in turn, declared that the leaders of al-Qaeda were – you guessed it right – apostates.
And that’s not it. The list of terrorist organizations that are scrambling away to distance themselves from ISIS is long and growing. It includes other prominent organizations, such as Hamas and Hezbollah.
They Have Alienated Other Muslims
On one hand, it may be considered a great accomplishment of ISIS that they have somehow someway managed to alienate everyone. But, on the other hand, this is what makes them the most vulnerable. In their puritanical struggle to bring back the 1400-year old original Islamic values, ISIS has alienated almost all other Muslim religious groups.
Their natural enemies are the members of the Shia sect who they consider to be an abomination on the face of the earth. So, in one swift proclamation, they antagonized the second largest branch of Islam. Other members of the, much larger, Sunni sects refer to sacred texts to condemn the actions of ISIS which are allegedly based on sacred principles. ISIS itself belongs to the Salafi movement – a Muslim sect characterized by a literalist and narrow interpretation of Islam. However, even other Salafists, such as those in Saudi Arabia are horrified by their use of violence on such a massive scale.
They Are Predictable
One of the primary drawbacks of the puritanical zeal with which ISIS continues to struggle is that it makes them predictable. Say what you will about Osama Bin Laden and his blind hatred of America, but he was hardly ever predictable. In a pre-9/11 interview with Bin Laden, CNN’s Peter Arnett asked him, “What are your future plans?” Bin Laden’s reply was cryptic. He said, “You’ll see them and hear about them in the media, God willing.” We all know what happened then.
ISIS is not like that. It has absolutely and clearly laid down its grand plans for the world to see. This makes it rather easy for states around the world to predict their actions.
A Global Caliphate Is A Bad Idea
In Islam, a caliph is the ruler of the community who is considered as a successor to the Prophet Muhammad in terms of political authority. And since Islam does not recognize the divisions in the religion and considers its scope to be global, the authority of caliph must be as such. However, this is plainly not possible.
Any Muslim ruler can only be a true caliph if he can exert control over the whole of Muslim community and demands unconditional support of all the adherents of the religion. And considering Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, does not yet control the world, it is safe to assume he has bit off more than he could chew. A global caliphate is a bad idea. They would’ve fared much better if they simply would have lowered their scope.
Their Existence Depends On Territory
Just like a state cannot exist without a territory, a caliphate cannot exist without a piece of land to rule on. The dependence on ISIS on a territory does not put them on the path to guaranteed failure, but it limits the scope of action America can take to destroy it. Simply uproot them from the territory. No land means no caliphate. In this sense, ISIS is radically different from other terrorist organizations.
The wars in Afghanistan significantly weakened the structures of organizations such as Taliban and al-Qaeda but did not completely thwart them from their aims. A loss of territory was nothing to either of those organizations. They simply sought newer avenues. Taliban moved to Pakistan whereas al-Qaeda found havens in Yemen and Africa. This cannot happen with ISIS. If they lose control over the land they hold, their whole raison d’être, the reason of their existence, becomes void.
They Grow Weaker As They Grow Larger
Jihad 101: any terrorist organization works on the principle of ‘the more, the merrier’. Simply recruit more people to your cause and success is ensured. This somewhat holds true for ISIS as well. But expansion, for ISIS, means expanding territory, expanding support base, expanding interest groups, and, more crucially, expanding ideologies. As more people pour in, differences emerge. As more territory is conquered, maintaining control becomes increasingly difficult. This is becoming evident as ISIS is beginning to lose territory to the governments of Iraq and Syria. As ISIS continues to grow larger every day, the prospect of an implosion becomes increasingly imminent.
They Want America To Bomb Them
Surely that can’t be true. Why would ISIS want America to attack them? The reasons for such a desire lie in their apocalyptic predictions of an impending war between Islam and Christianity, a crusade of epic proportions. However, Obama doesn’t want to give them that satisfaction. America is reluctant to attack. If the west doesn’t take action, all their apocalyptic predictions go down the drain. And if they do attack, well, all wars end in fire and blood.
They Are Boneheaded Dimwits
All of the aforementioned reasons for the looming collapse of ISIS stem from this one. They are dumb. Despite their sophisticated use of social media, despite their elaborate plans to breach security, despite their un-wavering all-consuming dedication to bringing about the golden age of Islam, despite of everything, they are dumb. Their whole strategy seems to revolve around flawed assumptions, bad strategy, and blind hatred. If ever ISIS meets its downfall, it won’t be due to a strategic genius of the world’s advanced powers, it would be due to the pig-headedness of their religious zealotry.