The logic of violence in the Islamic State’s war -The Monkey Cage (WP)


In a departure from its usual practice of beheading its captives, the Islamic state recently burnt a Jordanian prisoner alive, and of course, distributed a video of the killing via social media. The act seems to represent an escalation in barbarity and begs the question: Why? To begin understanding why this is happened we must ask ourselves a broader question, what is the purpose of such violence, and violent spectacle, in a civil war?

This discussion reexamines a number of our ideas about the causes of violence in civil wars and suggests that it is a radical identity rather than an Islamic identity that drives the brutality. The violence consolidates identity,and identity provides organization and commitment within the organization which leads to success on the battlefield. But it also may lead to a backlash…