A detailed study of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria from its rise out of al-Qaida to its intended fulfillment of apocalyptic prophecies.
Stern (Terrorism Studies/Harvard Univ.; Denial: A Memoir of Terror, 2010, etc.) and Foreign Policy contributor Berger (Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, 2011, etc.) begin their treatise on ISIS with the same iconic image most Westerners associate with the group: the beheading of a civilian, kneeling on the ground in an orange jumpsuit. From there, the authors track not only the origins of the terrorist organization, but their growth, media campaigns, mindset, and goals, as well as the far-reaching ramifications of the group’s tactics. The authors separate these aspects of ISIS into different chapters, a structure that is helpful but also causes some repetition. Stern and Berger often reference specific anecdotes or historical points multiple times, with included notes to see another chapter for more information. Chapters on social media contain important analysis and insightful points about ISIS and terrorist organizations in general, but they include so much detail about the technology that they will likely exasperate tech-savvy readers. Still, Stern and Berger provide a wealth of useful information, from a clarification of how the U.S.–led invasion of Iraq helped to create the perfect ISIS breeding ground to a demonstration of the way government and corporate policies influence the fight against the organization. In an appendix, the authors deliver a brief, easy-to-digest history of Islam and its practices (and abuses), ensuring that readers are at least somewhat familiar with the basic tenets, splits, and specific groups most prone to jihad. They also include a glossary and timeline, beginning with the declaration of war against Iraq in March 2003.
Despite being dense reading, this book offers much to learn about ISIS and an expanded understanding of current events.