Agitators have existed in the society from time immemorial in one form or the other. Some of the major objectives of these individuals include upsetting the status quo prevailing in the society (Bowers, Ochs, Jensen & Schulz, 2009). The motivation for such actions may be, among others, political, social, or economic. Agitators usually use other people to achieve their desired results of social alteration in the society.
The Islamic State (IS) is an example of an agitator operating in the modern global arena. The group is also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant/Syria (ISIS/ISIL). It has emerged as one of the most prominent agitating organization in 2014. The entity is a Sunni Islamist terrorist and insurgent group. It has operations in various nations around the world (Wood, 2014). It is believed that ISIS controls a number of regions in northeastern Syria and northwestern Iraq. The areas have been under the group since 2013.
The current paper is written against this background of agitator groups in contemporary society. The agitator in this case is the ISIS. In the paper, the author analyzes how the organization is opposed to the U.S, which is regarded as the establishment for the purposes of this study. The various elements revolving around this conflict will be reviewed in detail.
The ISIS as Agitator and the U.S as the Establishment
ISIS has become a major threat to the security of both Syria and Iraq. The apparent socio-political risk has attracted a lot of attention from the international community. The terrorist group has its strongholds in the remote civil war torn provinces of Syria and the disaffected Sunni Muslim-residing regions of Iraq (Katzman et al., 2014). ISIS tactics in have attracted the ire and anger of the international community, especially the United States of America.
The U.S as an establishment has apparently been a global leader in combating terrorism globally. ISIS is considered as a direct threat to the interests of the U.S. in Middle East (Katzman et al., 2014). ISIS level or significance of direct threat to the U.S. homeland security however remains currently unclear. Matthew Olsen, the National Counterterrorism Center Director in September 2014 advanced that ISIS poses a significant and direct threat to Syrian and Iraq civilians, as well as Americans at home (Harvey & Pregent, 2014).
The chief argument for the potential threat posed by ISIS to the U.S. is related to the strategic goal of the group to establish an Islamic Caliphate. Wood (2014) argues that ISIS major objective is to establish the Caliphate through an armed conflict, especially with governments the group considers apostate, such as Syria, Iraq and the U.S. According to Harvey and Pregent (2014), no credible information regarding ISIS attacking U.S. has been gathered. However, the threat of ISIS foreign fighters with Western passports and their potential of attacking the U.S remain very apparent.
The Growth and Rise of ISIS
The ideological and organizational roots of this group date back to as early as 1999. The group was led by Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was a Salafi Jihadist (Wood, 2014). The organization was initially referred to as Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad. It started by focusing its hostilities not on the coalition forces, but on civilian targets and hostages (Wood, 2014).
Abu Musab al Zarqawi established the terrorist group in Iraq from 2002-2006, on the basis of Tawhid wal Jihad (Monotheism and Jihad), and Al Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers [also known as Al Qaeda in Iraq, or AQI] (Katzman et al., 2014).
ISIS was born in June 2006. The rise followed the death of Zarqawi. It started when the U.S forces were operating in Iraq (Katzman et al., 2014). Consequently, the group repackaged as a coalition referred to as ISIS. The U.S. eliminated top leaders of ISIS in 2010, following withdrawal of the American forces from Iraq in 2011. Under new leadership of Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al Badri al Samarra’i (Abu Bakr al Baghdadi), ISIS resulted to building its capabilities, such that by early 2013, the group had conducted dozens of attacks inside Iraq (Katzman et al., 2014).
Currently, ISIS regards itself a sovereign political entity and a state, and argues that it has no affiliation to Al-Qaeda, but deference (Wood, 2014). Out to stamp the authority of the group, ISIS is popular for genocidal tactics, especially slaughtering of Shi’ite as well as other religious minorities in areas of northeastern Syria and northwestern Iraq. The group for instance in early August, ISIS fighters slaughtered at least 500 members of Iraq’s Yazidi sect within one week (Harvey & Pregent, 2014).
According to Bowers et al. (2009), agitation arises when individuals of groups outside the normal social decision-making establishment choose to upset the state of affairs. The agitators can do this by advocating for significant social changes. Usually, the agitators might encounter some degree of resistance from the existing establishment (Gronbeck, 2013). For instance, the establishment might require utilization of more than the conventional means of persuasion such as discussion (Gronbeck, 2013).
Essentially, the conflict between the U.S. as the establishment and the ISIS as agitators reflects tension for control and alteration of the status quo. Bowers et al. (2009) view agitation as a continuum of behaviors. The behavioral patterns range from normal argumentation to outright revolutions. They include such acts as persuasive speaking, as well as instrumental and non-symbolic actions.
The actions of ISIS fall into the category of instrumental action, since the group is pursuing agitation through terrorism activities. Bowers et al. (2009) argue that agitation movements usually progress through the agitation continuum step by step. For instance, agitators can begin by persuasion, progressing to outright confrontations.
Compared to other terrorist outfits, such as Al-Qaeda, ISIS started on a low note. However, today, the group is not only a major threat to the establishments of Iraq, Syria and the Western countries, but also more especially to the U.S. It has declared itself a sate. The declaration will not only determine the fate of Iraq and Syria as independent states, but also the politics of Middle East and the course of global terrorism (Gronbeck, 2013).
The reaction of U.S. as the establishment against ISIS is based on the position of being the largest stakeholder globally, in the war against terrorism. According to Gronbeck (2013), the establishment has the duty of countering agitators. Since there are various means used by agitators alter the status quo, the establishment also has various methods of achieving controlling over the agitation.
The Control Tactics used by ISIS
ISIS has actually gained actual apparent control between significant territories of northwestern Iraq, and northeastern Syria. Actually, the group has exerted its control in a vast region, equivalent to some nation-states in the contemporary world. The ideals, beliefs, founding principles of ISIS however cannot allow for recognition of state led by the group (Bowers et al., 2009).
According to Bowers et al. (2009), agitators can pursue their course through various approaches, beginning with petitioning for establishment. Other approaches can include for instance promulgation, solidification, polarization, escalation or confrontation, to Gandhi and guerilla methods (Bowers et al., 2009).
The main control strategy adopted by ISIS in its campaign is apparently escalation and control from the beginning. According to Bowers et al. (2009), escalation and confrontation strategy seeks to gain sympathy or support of the uncommitted, as well as neutralize the opposition from those siding with the existing establishment.
The key goal of escalation and confrontation is to gain over-reaction. In addition, the various tactics employed under escalation and confrontation includes threatened disruptions, contrast, offensiveness and non-negotiable demands.
Various testimonies collected from those who have been under the control of ISIS reveal an extensive application of escalation and confrontation and escalation. For instance, ISIS has sought to subjugate the various civilians under its realm of control and dominance in all aspects of life (Katzman et al., 2014). Some of the tactics employed by the group have included instilling terror, indoctrination, as well as providing services to those who agree to be its subject (Katzman et al., 2014).
The group has also sought to entrench military extremist ideologies into the population by indoctrinating children, as well as suppressing all forms of freedom of expression (Harvey & Pregent, 2014).
Consequently, the group has effectively gained control by instilling fear in people through punishment. In addition, the group has effectively inhibited significant dissent through extensive surveillance, coupled by coercion (Harvey & Pregent, 2014). Ultimately, ISIS also facilitates and implements gender discrimination, as a form of propagating rigid social norms in areas under their control.
According to Katzman et al. (2014), ISIS has been very effective in perpetuating propaganda in advancing their course. The group for instance has designed and embraced a type of the Muslim Standard Black Flag, depicting an emblem which is very symbolic to the world of Islam (Katzman et al., 2014).
The group also established Institute for Media Production referred to as al-Furqan in 2006 (Harvey & Pregent, 2014). Al-Furqan main agenda entails production of CDs and DVDs, as well as posters, web content, and pamphlets for spreading the group propaganda (Harvey & Pregent, 2014).
The group has also subsequently established other media outlets for propaganda including I’tisaam Media Foundation (Harvey & Pregent, 2014). Al-Hayat Media Center established in 2014 has however become very significant to other establishments especially those of the Western world. Apparently, al-Hayat Media Center targets the Western audience through production of material in English, Russian, German and French (Harvey & Pregent, 2014).
ISIS control tactics, especially use of force have enabled the group into becoming one of the present day greatest threats to the regional and Western establishments, especially the U.S (Katzman et al., 2014). Apparently, the group is garnering amassing support even from the Western world, since some of the present fighters of ISIS hail from European countries, especially in France (Harvey & Pregent, 2014). The tactic of spreading propaganda has apparently proven very effective in garnering support from distant countries.
The U.S as the Establishment and its Control Response Tactics
The current goals of ISIS have focused on establishment of an Islamic State in both Syria and Iraq (Wood, 2014). The actions of the group have not only undermined the stability and interests of regional authorities, but also primarily those of the U.S. in the region and abroad.
According to Katzman et al. (2014), Al Baghdadi in January 2014 issued a direct threat to the U.S. The group leader declared that the proxy war by the U.S. will not be of any help. In addition, the group leader advanced that soon, and God permitting, ISIS would directly confront the U.S. Perpetuation of the English language propaganda by the group, as well as execution of American hostages such as Stephen Sotloff indicates the threat of ISIS to U.S. establishment (Katzman et al., 2014).
According to Bowers et al. (2009), the establishment is entitled to respond to agitation in various manners. The main tactics for responding to agitation from agitators such as ISIS include avoidance, suppression, adjustment, and capitulation. Each of the response methods has its own merits and demerits depending on the type and the level of agitation perpetuated by the agitators.
ISIS is apparently major threat to the security of U.S. as an establishment, both in the homeland, or elsewhere. Harvey and Pregent (2014) for instance advances that the U.S. establishment has recognized that extremism in Iraq and Syria is bound to spread to the rest of the region, Western Europe, and eventually into the American homeland. Considering the nature of aggression perpetuated by ISIS, the control responses tactics also need to be duly effective. Harvey and Pregent (2014) further advance that the U.S. is already responding to ISIS agitation through various control responses tactics.
The U.S. on September 2014 embarked on a strategy incorporating multilateral coalition in response to the threat of ISIS (Katzman et al., 2014). The strategy seeks to degrade, and then ultimately defeat ISIS through progressively decreasing the geographic area held by the group (). The strategy also seeks to undermine the political influence of the group, destroy its manpower, as well as the financial resources available and utilized by the group.
The form of strategy employed by the U.S. establishment against ISIS agitators is essentially that of suppression. According to Bowers et al. (2009), the suppression strategy of agitation control responses entails leaders’ harassment, banishment, denial of demands, and murder (Katzman et al., 2014). The U.S. establishment under the coalition forces has essentially resorted to usage of force in countering ISIS.
ISIS has essentially proved to be employing very effective confrontation and escalation strategy which cannot be easily countered otherwise. The U.S. establishment control response strategy of suppression entails assigning various responsibilities to the coalition forces (Katzman et al., 2014).
For instance, various members of the coalition are assigned varying measures, such as direct military action. Other coalition members are tasked with supporting partner ground forces in both Syria and Iraq. In addition, other coalition members are tasked with gathering and sharing of intelligence, whereas others are assigned financial measures (Katzman et al., 2014).
The key objectives of the U.S. establishment in responding to ISIS do not at present incorporate full military intervention of the U.S. in either Syria or Russia. On the contrary, the U.S. has set out on a mission to advice, train, assist, and target, gather intelligence, and protect personnel and facilities in the region (Katzman et al., 2014).
The U.S. in alliance with coalition members has embarked on establishing training facilities for the Pershmega and Iraq forces, in Iraq (Katzman et al., 2014). In addition, the U.S. establishment has been providing similar support to the Syrian rebels, fighting against the Assad regime. More importantly, however, is the fact that the U.S is supplying various weapons to both the Iraq forces and Syrian rebels. In addition, it is training them adequately to counter attacks and even launch offensives against ISIS fighters (Katzman et al., 2014).
Due to the advanced organization and armament of ISIS, suppressing the group has not been easy, nor is it expected to be easy soon. However, the suppression strategy by the U.S. is gaining ground against the agitators, considering that advance of ISIS in Syria and Iraq has been considerably altered (Katzman et al., 2014).
According to Gronbeck (2013), suppression strategy is very effective as a control response strategy. The U.S suppression strategy has helped attain some level of control for the regional establishments of Iraq and Syria to some extent. For instance, U.S. led airstrikes helped in halting the progress of ISIS on Irbil (Katzman et al., 2014). In addition, the airstrikes also enabled safe evacuation of Yazidi’s and other internally displaced persons in the Sinjar Mountain (Katzman et al., 2014).
Alternative Solution to the Problem
Since its inception, ISIS has operated towards a common purpose, guided by a well established organizational structure, character ranks and membership (Wood, 2014). The organization is very cohesive and coordinated well, regarding the level of resistance against the establishment, as well as ground control attained. Apart from gaining territory and desire to subdue and control the civilian population therein, the group has also exhibited immense desire gain natural resources for its operations.
An alternative solution proposed by (Harvey & Pregent, 2014) is a more robust presence of the U.S. presence in the both Iraq and Syria, fighting against ISIS. The U.S. needs to lead greater ground combat offensives against ISIS occupied cities, towns and villages. This will be attained if the U.S. sends in more troops into the U.S., since no other form of communication seems more effective against ISIS.
Since the U.S. has the support of coalition forces and other Western nations, the concerted effort of forces can be more effective as opposed to those of empowered Syrian rebels and Iraq forces. Apparently, ISIS seems to be attracting more fighters, especially with the persuasion of establishment of a Caliphate in ISIS. Consequently, ISIS might eventually developed a larger military force than the already has, posing a greater threat not only to the U.S. establishment, but also worldwide.
ISIS is essentially growing stronger by day, through combination of the various control strategies adopted. To counter the threat to the U.S establishment, the agitation has to be suppressed in every possible manner. Earlier Caliphates in Islam have been known to have been very ruthless and tactical in achieving desired objectives.
The U.S, on the other hand, is a key stakeholder in the war against terrorism. It faces the greatest threat from this group. Despite of the reluctance of the U.S, coalition forces and other establishments have come together to deal with the threat through ground combat. Consequently, the U.S must embrace extreme tactics to gain control and to effectively counter and suppress ISIS before the group becomes uncontrollable.
Bowers, J., Ochs, D., Jensen, R., & Schulz, D. (2009). The rhetoric of agitation and control (3rd ed.). Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.
Gronbeck, B. (2013). The rhetoric of agitation and control confronts movement theory and practice. Poroi, 9(2), 1-8.
Harvey, D., & Pregent, M. (2014). The lesson of the surge: Defeating ISIS requires a new Sunni awakening. Washington, D.C.: New America Foundation.
Katzman, K., Blanchard, C., Humud, C., Margesson, R., Tiersky, A., & Weed, M. (2014). The “Islamic State” crisis and U.S policy. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service.
Wood, G. (2014). The secrets of ISIS. New Republic, 245(15), 14-17.