Paris: The War ISIS Wants Scott Atran and Nafees Hamid AP Photo An Islamic State flag in Sadiyah, Iraq, November 2014 The shock produced by the multiple coordinated attacks in Paris on Friday—the scenes of indiscriminate bloodshed and terror on the streets, the outrage against Islamic extremism among the public, French President Francois Holland’s vow to be “merciless” in the fight against the “barbarians of the Islamic State”—is, unfortunately, precisely what ISIS intended. For the greater the hostility toward Muslims in Europe and the deeper the West becomes involved in military action in the Middle East, the closer ISIS comes to its goal of creating and managing chaos. This is a strategy that has enabled it to confound far superior international forces, while enhancing its legitimacy in the eyes of its followers. The complexity of the French plot also suggests how successful ISIS has been at cultivating sources of support within the native populations of secular Western countries. Attacking ISIS in Syria will not contain this global movement, which now includes more than two thousand French citizens. As our own research has shown—in interviews with youth in Paris, London, and Barcelona, as well as with captured ISIS fighters in Iraq and Jabhat an-Nusra (al-Qaeda) fighters from Syria—simply treating the Islamic State as a form of “terrorism” or “violent extremism” masks the menace. Dismissing the group as “nihilistic” reflects a dangerous avoidance of trying to comprehend, and deal with, its profoundly alluring mission to change and save the world. What many in the international community regard as acts of senseless, horrific violence are to ISIS’s followers part of an exalted campaign of purification through sacrificial killing and self-immolation. This is the purposeful violence that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State’s self-anointed Caliph, has called “the volcanoes of Jihad”—creating an international jihadi archipelago that will eventually unite to destroy the present world to create a new-old world of universal justice and peace under the Prophet’s banner. Indeed, ISIS’s theatrical brutality—whether in the Middle East or now in Europe—is part of a conscious plan designed to instill among believers a sense of meaning that is sacred and sublime, while scaring the hell out of fence-sitters and enemies. This strategy was outlined in the 2004 manifesto Idharat at Tawahoush (The Management of Savagery), a tract written for ISIS’s precursor, the Iraqi branch of al-Qaeda; tawahoush comes from wahsh or “beast,” so an animal-like state. Here are some of its main axioms: Diversify and widen the vexation strikes against the Crusader-Zionist enemy in every place in the Islamic world, and even outside of it if possible, so as to disperse the efforts of the alliance of the enemy and thus drain it to the greatest extent possible. To be effective, attacks should be launched against soft targets that cannot possibly be defended to any appreciable degree, leading to a debilitating security state: If a tourist resort that the Crusaders patronize…is hit, all of the tourist resorts in all of the states of the world will have to be secured by the work of additional forces, which are double the ordinary amount, and a huge increase in spending. Crucially, these tactics are also designed to appeal to disaffected young who tend to rebel against authority, are eager for for self-sacrifice, and are filled with energy and idealism that calls for “moderation” (wasatiyyah) only seek to suppress. The aim is to motivate crowds drawn from the masses to fly to the regions which we manage, particularly the youth… [For] the youth of the nation are closer to the innate nature [of humans] on account of the rebelliousness within them. Finally, these violent attacks should be used to draw the West as deeply and actively as possible into military conflict: Work to expose the weakness of America’s centralized power by pushing it to abandon the media psychological war and war by proxy until it fights directly. Eleven years later, ISIS is using this approach against America’s most important allies in Europe. For ISIS, causing chaos in France has special impetus. The first major military push by the Islamic State Caliphate in the summer of 2014 was to obliterate the international border between Syria and Iraq—a symbol of the arbitrary division of the Arab and Muslim world imposed by France and Great Britain after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, seat of the last Muslim Caliphate. And because the lights of Paris epitomize cultural secularism for the world and thus “ignorance of divine guidance” (jahiliyyah), they must be extinguished until rekindled by God’s divine radiance (an-Noor). The fact that the EU’s replacement rate is 1.59 children per couple and the continent needs substantial levels of immigration to maintain a productive workforce—at a time where there is a refugee crisis and amid greater hostility to immigrants than ever—is another form of chaos the Islamic State is well-positioned to exploit. French authorities have found the passport, possibly doctored, of one Syrian national associated with the Paris attacks, as well as two fake Turkish passports, indicating that ISIS is taking advantage of Europe’s refugee crisis, and encouraging hostility and suspicion toward those legitimately seeking refuge in order to further drive a wedge between Muslims and European non-Muslims.