The Islamic Vortex (Note-3)

Asabiyyah is an Arabic word for a reason. Unlike many of my allies on the extreme right, I see no point at all in other cultures attempting to emulate it. The idea of a contemporary Western asabiyyah is roughly as probable as the emergence of Arabic libertarian capitalism. In any case, ISIS has it now, which means they have to keep fighting, and will probably keep winning. Asabiyyah is useless for anything but war, and it dissolves into dust with peace. The only glories Islam will ever know going forward will be found on the battlefield, and it is fully aware of the fact.

Baghdad will almost certainly have fallen by the end of the year, or early next. The Caliphate will then be reborn, in an incarnation far more ferocious than the last. Its existence will coincide with a war, extending far beyond Mesopotamia and the Levant, at least through the Middle East, into the Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent, across the Maghreb, and deep into Africa. If the Turks are not terrified about what is coming, they have no understanding of the situation. This is what the global momentum behind militant ‘Islamism’ across recent decades has been about. Realistically, it’s unstoppable.

Eventually, it will bleed out, and then Islam will have done the last thing of which it is capable. No less than tens of millions will be dead.

Other, industrially-competent and technologically-sophisticated civilizations have no cause for existential panic, although mega-terrorist attacks could hurt them. Any efforts they make to pacify the Caliphate-war will be futile, at best. It is a piece of fate now. The future will have to be built around it.

Patrick Poole writes (at the link above, repeated here):

The US Embassy in Baghdad is the largest embassy on the planet. And after Obama sent 350 more U.S. military personnel to guard the U.S. Embassy last month, there are now more than 1,100 US service members in Baghdad protecting the embassy and the airport. That doesn’t include embassy personnel, American aid workers, and reporters also in Baghdad. ISIS doesn’t have to capture the airport to prevent flights from taking off there (remember Hamas rockets from Gaza prompting the temporary closure of Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport this past summer). If flights can’t get out of Baghdad, how will the State Department and Pentagon evacuate U.S. personnel? An image like the last helicopter out of Saigon would be of considerable propaganda value to ISIS and other jihadist groups. Former CNN reporter Peter Arnett, who witnessed the fall of Saigon in April 1975, raised this possibility back in June. It’s not like the U.S. has prestige to spare internationally, and the fall of Baghdad will mark the beginning of the end of American influence in the Middle East, much like the case in Southe[a]st Asia in 1975.

When the United States pulled back from anti-communist COIN in 1973, Marxism-Leninism was left to consume itself in its own insanity. This is the situation that was reached in relation to Islam by the election of the Obama administration in 2008. Even were it desirable, it is sheer delusion to imagine that the West — i.e. America — has the moral energy (or asabiyyah) to pursue any other course. The consummation of Jihad is going to happen. The more rapidly the catastrophe develops, the sooner it will be done.

ADDED: “However many of them are killed, the ones who survive will keep pushing on into Kobani and on toward the Baghdad airport feeling as alive as if they had just plunged into the river of history itself. And they will keep telling themselves that this river flows with the blood of the non-believers.”

ADDED: The War Nerd has a very different prognosis.

ADDED: So how is ISIS doing?

October 15, 2014admin 47 Comments »


47 Responses to this entry

  • Stirner (@heresiologist) Says:

    John Robb is related, arguing that ISIS is now the supplier of the most powerful drug in the world: Zealotry.


    Posted on October 15th, 2014 at 3:26 pm Reply | Quote
  • scientism Says:

    “It’s not like the U.S. has prestige to spare internationally, and the fall of Baghdad will mark the beginning of the end of American influence in the Middle East, much like the case in Southe[a]st Asia in 1975.”

    America’s international reputation would be in ruins. The world would scramble to find the source of its decline. Liberal democracy would be the obvious culprit…


    Lesser Bull Reply:

    Liberal democracy? I think you mean racism. Or sexism. Badthink, anyhow.


    Posted on October 15th, 2014 at 3:57 pm Reply | Quote
  • Irving Says:

    Isn’t more likely that the ISIS will eventually just consolidate its hold over the Sunni-majority parts of the Middle East, and then linger around for awhile, making impotent threats against Israel and Shi’ite Iran (which will sooner rather than later have the bomb), and then finally becoming a mirror-image of, say, the Saudi gov’t, which while it officially subscribes to jihadism, recognizes that it ultimately lacks the capability to follow through on it (i.e. converting or killing each and every single one of the world’s non-believers) successfully? What I mean is that I can easily see, for example, the Sunnis of Lebanon being co-opted by the ISIS, thereby leading to a bloody civil war in Lebanon, which could end up in a Sunni victory, with the Christians fleeing for the West, and possibly the Shi’ites, little by little, either being killed off or departing for Iran. Obviously such a civil war would lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands. But when all is said and done, there does seem to be a limit beyond which the ISIS simply cannot expand. And once they reach that limit, there won’t be anything left for them except to mismanage the territory they’ve conquered and weaken itself gradually. My point here is that the death of tens of millions doesn’t seem plausible.


    Aeroguy Reply:

    I concur for the most part but I’m still hopeful that the foreign policy establishment will succeed in it’s goal of agitating a sequel to the Iraq-Iran war. Given the peculiarities of 4th gen warfare and grassroots fanaticism, I’m not sure even the bomb can guarantee immunity.


    admin Reply:

    If it stops inspiring Jihad, it falls apart, and dies. That’s what Islamic history is all about. Unless ISIS fails to see that, for some reason, it will do anything rather than cease fighting.


    Irving Reply:

    Interestingly, according to Islamic law, a caliph does in fact have the permission to negotiate treaties with non-Muslims, with the caveat that they are supposed to be temporary and cannot extend past 10 years, at which point either the treaty would have to be renewed or else the fighting must recommence. Once the ISIS reaches that point beyond which they can no longer expand their territory, then, they could technically justify their cessation of fighting on Islamic terms. I do disagree with you, however, on one point: depending on how successful the ISIS turns out to be, I think that some existential panic would in fact be in order on the part of the rest of the world. My nightmare is that their movement might somehow swallow Pakistan–quite a few high-ranking members of the Pakistani offshoot of the Taliban have already pledged allegiance to the new caliph–and get a hold of the bomb.


    Posted on October 15th, 2014 at 4:09 pm Reply | Quote
  • Aeroguy Says:

    Didn’t the whole Sunni Shia split occur over political infighting about who was Caliph. The Shiites sure as hell won’t acknowledge this Caliphate, the house of Saud can’t like the competition, and US influence will require all existing oil barons to publicly disavow the Caliphate (further blurring the line on religious persecution, I wonder if the progs will do an about face and embrace the Caliphate). This will add further political instability to all Sunni states proportional to the Caliphate’s populist appeal (so the foreign policy establishment will continue as the Caliphate’s covert cheer leading squad). There’s so much fighting to be done in Dar al-Islam that I doubt they’ll have much left over to export to Dar al-Harb. I need to get more popcorn (unless these really are dragon’s teeth in which case I’ll need a much bigger bowl).


    Posted on October 15th, 2014 at 5:06 pm Reply | Quote
  • whyvert Says:

    “No less than tens of millions will be dead.”
    Plus an equal or greater number of refugees, many ending up in Sweden.
    Sweden is doomed!


    NRx3r Reply:

    I dont disagree, but to be completely fair the birthrate of Swedish women is so low that with or without the problems of multiculturalism – they are already consigned to the dustbin of history.


    Posted on October 15th, 2014 at 5:31 pm Reply | Quote
  • SanguineEmpiricist Says:

    Does any one have any textbooks so I can get up to speed on the information I need to know about the current conflict? It’s difficult trying to piece together volatile world history through sequences of article’s.

    This is where I need moldbug. Apparently I can hardly trust the history departments and have to do all of the research myself.


    Posted on October 15th, 2014 at 6:17 pm Reply | Quote
  • Hurlock Says:

    Someone explain to me why we should be so worried about these guys.

    If shit really hits the fan, couldn’t Israel or Turkey curbstomp them?


    admin Reply:

    The Turks have a huge cultural-ideological crisis brewing, exacerbated by demography and economics. Their effectiveness is a legacy of the now-abandoned Kemalist model. I predict precipitous deterioration of their position.


    peter connor Reply:

    Turkey has also purged a lot of senior of senior military who are not Islamist, so the military may not be what we think it should be at this point…


    Posted on October 15th, 2014 at 6:18 pm Reply | Quote
  • Irving Says:

    I don’t particularly understand why you would want to see a sequel to the Iraq-Iran war, which is the only thing, so far as I can tell, that could bring about the deaths of tens of millions that admin predicts. For anything like that to come to pass, however, the ISIS would have to first conquer southern Iraq, which is Shi’ite majority, and that is impossible. To me, it seems pretty likely that once the chaos has subsided, Israel and Iran will still be around and there will probably be the emergence of an independent Kurdish state, whereas the Islamic State will have expanded into Sunni Iraq, Syria, some if not all of the Gulf states, maybe even Turkey, etc.. At this point though, it seems logical to conclude that the main beneficiaries of all of this will be Israel and Iran. The Israelis probably take advantage of the current turmoil to finally impose a Final Solution on the Palestinians, which would consist of an expulsion of maybe half of them, a massacre of another quarter, and the offering of full citizenship (with the exception of voting rights) to those that remain. And it goes without saying, the ISIS poses no threat to Israel at all. On the other hand, Iran, while publicly denouncing the crimes committed against the Palestinians by the ‘Zionist entity’, will also take advantage of the current turmoil, and systematically eliminate (whether by expulsion or by killing) its Kurdish minority, which also wants its own country, and possibly also its Sunni Arab minority as well, which isn’t really all that numerically substantial anyways, though they are a source of subversion nonetheless. Possibly, Iran (who knows?) will annex oil-rich southern Iraq as well. In any case, Iran will have both staunch Russian backing and (if it doesn’t have it already) a bomb, which will effectively rule out a Western invasion.


    Posted on October 15th, 2014 at 6:20 pm Reply | Quote
  • Irving Says:

    If you’re interested in first-hand sources, let me know, but I would recommend you start by reading “The History of the Arab Peoples” by Albert Hourani for a comprehensive overview of Arab and Islamic history. It’s about 500 pages, but it’s written in an easy style; it shouldn’t take you too long to work your way through it.


    SanguineEmpiricist Reply:

    Yes, will order this tomorrow and get straight to it. Between the next world, the aristocracy, fitness, and the tide of high technology, there’s not much time for anything! The antechamber of an opaque destiny (or something)


    Posted on October 15th, 2014 at 6:24 pm Reply | Quote
  • Chris B Says:

    You forgot to mention the recent oil glut the Saudis are engineering to get at Russia. Not sure how that will help with their budget and security given the Saudis are basically are a welfare state based on oil revenue. This may also be a final provocation which could drive the Russians and the Iranians to kick up trouble in their backyard (lots of Shia in the east of Saudi) . This could backfire drastically –

    Also, an interesting development that I am not too surprised about. I was curious why the Kurds have not crowd sourced for mercs. –

    Private militias are a thing now. I reckon it won’t be too long before crowd sourcing security becomes a norm. Governments can’t keep up. OODA loops, information processing, decision making – the system cannot manage, I’ve got a lot of really interesting complex systems reading/ ideas to write about soon, localisation and fragmentation is going to be forced by the modern states incompetence.

    Also, turkey will not last the decade without breaking up.


    Hurlock Reply:

    “Also, turkey will not last the decade without breaking up.”

    Why? It seems decently stable to me.


    Chris B Reply:

    As admin notes above, any lingering stability in Turkey is a result of the Kemalist model. At present they have the constant Kurd problem, as well as an Islamist problem. They also recently began allowing Hijabs in public and have issues with Islamist infiltration (runaway Islamism now). Whilst they have always had major security issues before now, Difference is now tech will outrun them, even Edrogan admitted as much when he declared himself against the internet. Interesting to see how the Turkish deep state reacts (Turkey has a very powerful deepstate – left over of Gladio (see counter Gorilla).
    The temptation for Russia to assist in causing trouble is extreme.


    Posted on October 15th, 2014 at 7:22 pm Reply | Quote
  • RorschachRomanov Says:

    Your assessment couldn’t be more diametrically opposed to War Nerd’s- is it me, or does ole John Dolan sound like the Neville Chamberlain of the late 30’s. “Peace For Our Time” anyone?


    admin Reply:

    He thinks all this stuff is neighborhood gang warfare, with the homies having an overwhelming advantage. It’s by no means a stupid model, and I’d be very tempted by it, if it wasn’t for the fact that the Iraqi Sunni/Shia difference has a definite Tutsi/Hutu flavor to it — the former just do this stuff better than the latter in each case. If the restoration of the Caliphate continues to pick up momentum, it becomes a self-confirming fatality — superior morale, more recruits, disheartened enemies, captured equipment, money … Anyway, we’ll see soon enough.


    Fyrdsman Reply:

    It always seemed to me like Shia/Tutsi is a more apt comparison. Minorities, typically more civilized and educated, less of a tendency towards genocidal populism etc.


    Posted on October 15th, 2014 at 8:24 pm Reply | Quote
  • Ex-pat in Oz Says:

    Edit: You mean the election of Obama in 2008…unless I’m missing something


    admin Reply:

    [*facepalm*] Thanks — “It was late (or something)” — I’ll fix that immediately.


    Posted on October 15th, 2014 at 9:00 pm Reply | Quote
  • northanger Says:


    N.A. Shilling

    Westerners and Arabs are often moving in parallel lines, which never converge, in their perceptions of political events and the meaning of these events to them. Since they often start from widely different assumptions and readings of the same set of political facts, the difference in conclusions is not surprising, but one group often has no idea what the other is thinking, or that it holds such widely differing perceptions, which often impact on business decisions.


    Posted on October 15th, 2014 at 10:28 pm Reply | Quote
  • Lesser Bull Says:

    *Asabiyyah is useless for anything but war, and it dissolves into dust with peace.*

    And we all know that war is unimportant. Didn’t you recently adopt the dictum that War is Truth? Must have been some other blogger.

    Call it cohesion if you like, but its also important in peace. In fact, its the number one deficiency of the Monarch-CEO model, which is why Moldbug had to go off into squirm-inducing fantasies about perfect weapons locks and magically powered aliens named Fnargl.

    None of which is to say that I am particularly worried about Islam. Radical Islam is Karposi’s Sarcoma.


    forkinhell Reply:

    There was ‘War is God’. Might be the same thing?


    admin Reply:

    How does that snippet contradict the rest of what you say? When the dust clears, China is still going to have a chunk of the future, and these guys will have a pile of blood-soaked sand.


    Hanfeizi Reply:

    Bloodsoaked sand or not, the Caliphates of old stood for centuries.


    Posted on October 15th, 2014 at 10:41 pm Reply | Quote
  • sobl Says:

    The war nerd has slipped big time. It’s like he needs a GOP prez to write very well similar to Limbaugh needing a Dem prez to get some spirit.


    Posted on October 16th, 2014 at 12:30 am Reply | Quote
  • Scott Alexander Says:

    I continuously find myself disagreeing with predictions you assert very strongly.

    In accordance with the rationalist tradition, do you have any interest in betting on them?

    You write: “Baghdad will almost certainly have fallen by the end of the year, or early next.” I will bet you my $100 against your $200 that the Islamic State will not control the majority of Baghdad by March 1 2015.

    You also write: “Ebola really is a zombie plague, it could sweep the earth in under a year (with ~70% lethality)”. I will bet my $200 against your $200 that there will not have been one million or greater deaths from Ebola in the First World (ie OECD countries) by October 1, 2015.


    (if admin isn’t interested, same offer extends to any reader who I know well enough to trust will pay up)


    admin Reply:

    The Ebola ‘prediction’ is not mine, and I nowhere even hint at endorsing it. You’re misinterpreting strictly neutral media reportage as prophecy. I would certainly bet the other way, with considerable confidence.

    I’ll chew the Baghdad offer over. (I’m fairly impoverished, and would feel bad about taking food from my kids’ mouths in order to feed my ego.) Any reason why you’re fixing the 100:200 thing in your favor? That would definitely have to fall to even odds for me to find it attractive — poor people do the lottery, not scrounging for dimes beneath steamrollers.


    admin Reply:

    My counter-offer on the Iraq question would be (even odds, affordable sum — $100 would be OK) that the Iraqi regime will either have collapsed, or be supported by substantial Iranian military support (20,000+ combat presence) by end 2015.

    If you’d prefer the Baghdad option, how about end of Iraqi regime control over the city (although quite probably continued urban warfare by militias) by end April 2015? If you don’t think that’s worth even odds, your disagreement is being over-stated.

    (Once again, Iranian involvement is an unknown factor — I’d be eating that as part of my risk package in the second version of the bet.)

    The long-understood problem with this approach is the incentive effect it generates. Simply thinking about it is already throwing me into a berserk “Go ISIS!” mode. Once the betting contract is locked in, I’ll be pretty much forced to raise a Tech-Comm NRx brigade to support our Jihadi brothers against the Shia heretics. Likely hideous carnage as it skirmishes violently with your Rationalist-Mahdi volunteer legion in the Baghdad suburbs.


    Scott Alexander Reply:

    All right, sorry about the Ebola thing, I misunderstood because it was no longer in italics. Is there any Ebola bet (with me being on the “fizzles out” side) you would be willing to make?

    The reason I put the odds in my favor was that you said Baghdad would “almost certainly have fallen”, which to me means you have very high probability and should be willing to bet as such.

    I’m not sure I’m willing to take your bet as written, because although I believe ISIS won’t take Baghdad, I agree most of the reason it won’t take Baghdad is because of Shiite militias or Iranian support.


    admin Reply:

    My Ebola stated ‘prediction’ is radical uncertainty, but this includes significant downside risk. I could be tempted by a wager based on a major (1,000 cases plus) outbreak in a non-African country by early 2015 (end March?) — but I’m not sure I want to lure myself into such stark economic identification with Ebola-Chan. Earning $100 through a Mumbai plague would be dark, even by my standards.

    Rasputin Reply:


    If Nick can be lured into economic identification with Ebola-Chan, I would be happy to cover his side of the bet. The bet would be between the two of you and it would be up to you to agree the exact terms. I won’t interfere, I will just cough up $100 if Nick loses. Nick, I am happy to transfer the money to you well in advance of whatever deadline you agree, just in case anything happens to me – like I die of Ebola, or something.

    Posted on October 16th, 2014 at 2:09 am Reply | Quote
  • pythias returns Says:

    Nick, how do you see the ‘consummation of jihad’? It surely has no bounds to its pretensions for a new world order. And this is only to mention the military aspect of jihad. There is also a ‘non-violent’ jihad being played out the world over in the spheres of education, law, media and finance, enacted by influencing policy within the liberal democratic order with a view to transforming it, and by influencing Muslim communities in terms of their compliance with shari’a. There is a thin membrane between the violent global jihad – which can be broken down in all of its component parts, near enemy, far enemy – and the cultural jihad. Though within the body of the jihad there are key fault lines over leadership and even the legitimacy to define Islam and chart its future. Numerous key organisations are involved in both, even if at arm’s reach. So, curious as to how you see this conflict in its kinetic form burning out and its relation to global Islamic subversion.


    admin Reply:

    The only easy thing to say here is that when Islam runs out of war, it runs out of everything, and almost immediately falls into utter decadence. I challenge anybody to take a look at Islamic history and come to a different conclusion.


    pythias returns Reply:

    My point is that ‘war’ is not just kinetic for Islam. The military jihad is only one mode of Islam’s struggle for supremacy, albeit the key one. Islam won’t run out of everything in the absence of military jihad since it has other fronts. IS’s war might burn out but the jihad will continue. There are, if you, like competing jihads – IS’s being the most effective right now – and I don’t see any relenting even with an IS burn out in the ME and surrounding regions. I’m curious to know how you think a burn out might occur for IS and how, more widely, you think a burn out might occur for the entire jihad effort.


    Mark Warburton Reply:

    On the ISIL have you seen this, Nick? Seems English students (The Scots aren’t buying this shit) are in a race to get to the zone of self-flagellation just before total Left Singularity…..

    Utterly absurd.


    Posted on October 16th, 2014 at 5:38 am Reply | Quote
  • Brother Nihil Says:

    An important read here is “The Management of Savagery” by Abu Bakr Naji — it’s basically the playbook ISIS is following over there. It reads like an Islamic Sith/Mein Kampf/Machiavellian guide to world domination. In other words, it’s great stuff.


    Razzia Reply:

    Thanks for the reference. The book – fascinating reading – is here:

    Its amazing how intricately conceived this ‘barbarism’ is, at least in this book. Not sure how widely its been read on the battlefields though. That would be an interesting empirical study (maybe Harvard might follow up on the funding it provided for the translation of this book for some research into its real impact).


    Posted on October 16th, 2014 at 11:31 am Reply | Quote
  • William Newman Says:

    “Asabiyyah is useless for anything but war, and it dissolves into dust with peace. ”

    Asabiya is an old concept that gets interpreted in the modern world in different ways by different people. The way I interpret it, it doesn’t seem to me that it dissolves into dust, unless perhaps you mean it is part of the soil in which the Industrial Revolution grew.

    It seems to me that asabiya serves as a decent term for what is maybe the first principal component of generalized social capital, and the extent to which a society can maintain asabiya at any given scale (citystate, continental empire, whatever) bears very strongly both on military effectiveness and on economic effectiveness. Justified confidence that the people you do business with won’t let you down or steal from you seems likely to be strongly related to justified confidence that your comrade in arms won’t let you down or betray you, and justified confidence that your political rulership won’t let you down or steal from you seems likely to be strongly related to justified confidence that your military leadership won’t let you down or betray you. When Xenophon is needled by his Spartan fellow merc about the Athenians being skilled at stealing public money, and when the Old Testament tells the story of David sending Uriah to his death, it seems to me in both cases the main intended significance of the story is asabiya, and in both cases it is hard to separate it either from wartime significance or from peacetime significance.


    Posted on October 16th, 2014 at 5:44 pm Reply | Quote
  • vxxc2014 Says:

    Great Post, all correct.

    Islam will never heal until the hole in their hearts caused by the ending of the Caliphate is filled.

    Turkey may or may not get this, in any case it’s pursuing a course of both Turkish Interests and a dream of the re-established Turkish Empire and populist and elitist Islam. Turkish core interest is Anatolia. They are unlikely to forget it. It’s how they took the Romans.

    However Turkey may also be under the delusion they can ride the Tiger and harness it for their own purposes, this is already exploding in their faces. I don’t blame them for hanging up the phone on DC, but they’re fools to play with this self-guiding and quite intelligent fire.

    Now here’s a fascinating link to how ISIS organizes and fights: it seems to be Ausfragstik mission orders and small groups are concentrated and swarmed through social media.


    Posted on October 17th, 2014 at 10:56 am Reply | Quote
  • Lightning Round – 2014/10/21 | Free Northerner Says:

    […] take on the coming caliphate. Related: The culture and technology […]

    Posted on October 22nd, 2014 at 5:02 am Reply | Quote
  • Gringo Bush Pilot Says:

    The US had better get an orderly Embassy evacuation plan in order, otherwise there will be hell to pay. Americans and Iraqi employees can be flown out of Iraq in a manner that looks like a staffing adjustment. If we wait till the last moment there will be another national wart on Uncle Sam’s nose that will make Saigon seem like child’s play.
    ISIS Commanders know that the closing of the US diplomatic mission in Baghdad is the prize. Once the US mission is closed, their mastery and sovereignty of Iraq is a done deal.
    What a steaming cauldron is that thing we call American politics. Cheney and crew created this Frankenstein monster, and Obama will be crucified for the failure. Sad.

    “Stay the course / bring ’em on / mission accomplished.”

    Adios Baghdad!


    Posted on November 5th, 2014 at 5:04 am Reply | Quote

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