How to think about Islamic State

Jean-Baptiste Maillart and Antonio Coco (Geneva): The Conflict with Islamic State: A Critical Review of International Legal Issues. Johan D. van der Vyver (Emory): The ISIS Crisis and the Development of International Humanitarian Law. Why stop at Isis when we could bomb the whole Muslim world? Humanitarian arguments, if consistently applied, could be used to flatten the entire Middle East. From The Atlantic Monthly, David Ignatius on how ISIS spread in the Middle East — and how to stop it; and a special report on What to Do About ISIS. ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi takes steps to ensure group’s survival. William McCants on how an introvert with a passion for religion and soccer became the leader of the Islamic State. Joost Hiltermann on Iraq: The clerics and the militias. Who’s fighting the Islamic State? Corinna Jentzsch, Livia I. Schubiger and Stathis N. Kalyvas on five things you need to know about militias in civil wars.

From LRB, Hugh Roberts reviews From Deep State to Islamic State: The Arab Counter-Revolution and Its Jihadi Legacy by Jean-Pierre Filiu; Syrian Notebooks: Inside the Homs Uprising by Jonathan Littell; The Rise of Islamic State: Isis and the New Sunni Revolution by Patrick Cockburn; and Isis: Inside the Army of Terror by Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan (and more and more). Jessica Stern reviews Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick. Caliph country: Edward Mortimer reviews The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution by Patrick Cockburn; The New Threat from Islamic Militancy by Jason Burke; Empire of Fear: Inside the Islamic State by Andrew Hosken; Under the Black Flag: At the Frontier of the New Jihad by Sami Moubayed; and Islamic State: The Digital Caliphate by Abdel Bari Atwan.

Pankaj Mishra on how to think about Islamic State: Islamic State is often called “medieval” but is in fact very modern — a horrific expression of a widespread frustration with a globalised western model that promises freedom and prosperity to all, but fails to deliver. Zack Beauchamp on ISIS's dead-serious obsession with the apocalypse, explained. The Islamic State may be a thoroughly strategic actor with little claim on mass religious authority, but it is still necessary to understand its conception of Islam in order to explain its strategic choices and their mobilizational appeal. Who’s calling the shots in ISIL? Read the Islamic State’s propaganda and you wonder if the followers might be getting ahead of their caliph. Virgemarie A. Salazar (FSI): The Caliphate in the Era of Nation-States. Jason Burke on the truth about the caliphate: To tackle Islamic State, we need to understand the dream of the caliphate and its real roots in history.

Robin Wright on the genesis and growth of global jihad. The Paris attack is a tragic reminder that terrorism just isn’t going away. Why ISIS would attack Paris, according to an expert. What was behind ISIS’s attack on Paris, according to experts: Facing pressure on its home turf, the group decided to expand its operations to places where it would get the most attention. John Sides on what social science can tell us about the terrorist attacks in Paris. When you see a chart like this, France’s radicalism problem becomes really obvious France has struggled to contain radicalization within its own borders. ​Peter Beinart on how ISIS is not waging a war against Western civilization: A primer for Marco Rubio, who is “doing exactly what the Islamic State wants: He’s equating ISIS with Islam itself”. Who benefits most from Paris attacks? Assad.

France has declared a state of emergency, but the law has an ugly history. Donald Trump says France needs more guns: Roberto A. Ferdman on the very questionable response from conservatives to the attacks in Paris (and more). On terror, we’re all Right-wingers now: The Paris attacks have reawakened martial feelings absent since 9/11. Paul Waldman on the silly, distracting debate over whether to use the words “radical Islam”. We are in pitiless times: After Paris, macho language about “pitiless war” defines the contours of leadership — it is red meat to our emotions. The retribution will be swift and harsh, as will the inevitable reaction, and as will the retribution for the reaction. Sometimes, a terrorist attack is a boon to far-right extremists — but it might not be in the case of France.

Is it time to roll on Raqqa, the ISIS capital? The time for a nuanced approach to ISIS terror may have come to an end — but what if that’s just what ISIS wants? Iraq vet Elliot Ackerman on what real war with ISIS would mean. Smashing Islamic State poses huge challenges. The one thing that won’t stop terror is more war: Provoking retaliation is a key part of the jihadists' strategy, writes Alex Nunns — we need a different approach. There is only one way to defeat ISIS: We must hold accountable our Middle Eastern “allies” — the states and bankers and political elites — who persist in funding mass murder. Why John Kerry and the French president are calling ISIS “Daesh”: It’s a signal to Muslims that ISIS isn’t authentically Islamic. Ben Norton on our terrorism double standard: After Paris, let’s stop blaming Muslims and take a hard look at ourselves. Why the Paris attacks could mark the beginning of the end for ISIS: Ana Swanson on why one expert predicts that the Islamic State will eventually crumble.