Will McCants, The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State (St. Martin’s Press, 2015)
One year after the dramatic entry of the Islamic State onto the world stage of public notice, we continue to search for an understanding of how a brutal and anachronistic group has been successful at carving out a new state in the Middle East. Having struggled to contain the growth of this monstrosity, and having contributed in no small way to its rise in the first place, we are lucky to have a distinguished scholar in Will McCants to explain the group to us. Explanation will not be enough unfortunately, as he — correctly and honestly — raises more questions than he answers.
McCants’ book is based predominantly on primary sources in Arabic from jihadist websites, and his education in Islamic history at Princeton is most helpful in deciphering the importance of the Islamic State’s religious doctrine that informs their policies and strategies. His previous works, including an atlas of jihadi movement texts and a translation of the now famous Management of Savagery, make him uniquely qualified to be our guide in understanding the Islamic State.
ISIS Apocalypse is a short and well written account that flows effortlessly between the history of the movement and its founding by Abu Musab al Zarqawi in 2002, the development of its ideology, the history of its flag and its design, and the importance of apocalyptic beliefs to its key leaders. McCants, unlike many others, truly understands the continuity and singularity of a movement that has changed names and form several times but remained remarkably true to its founder’s vision. For these reasons alone, the book is a must-read for anyone who is searching for ways to deal with this group.