Colin Wight reviews 'ISIS: A history' by Fawaz A. Gerges

Colin Wight reviews 'ISIS: A history' by Fawaz A. Gerges

ISIS: A history

by Fawaz A. Gerges

Princeton University Press (Footprint), $59.95 hb, 381 pp, 9780691170008

After the prolonged débâcle following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, events in the Middle East in late 2010 and early 2011 seemed to be taking a turn for the better. The ‘Arab street’ had found its voice and democracy, we were led to believe, was on the march. Despite the setbacks that followed 9/11, perhaps Francis Fukuyama’s optimistic liberal triumphalism concerning the ‘end of history’ had been right all along?

By 2013 the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, or Da’esh) had put the final nail in the coffin of liberal triumphalism and stunned the world with its military successes. From relative obscurity, it had taken over leadership of the global jihadist movement from Al Qaeda, as well as controlling large tracts of territory in Iraq and Syria, an area roughly the size of the United Kingdom. All of this it had achieved with an army estimated to number no more than 30,000 combatants. What explains the emergence of ISIS, and how has it managed to position itself so effectively at the forefront of the global jihadist movement?

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Published in December 2016, no. 387
Colin Wight

Colin Wight

Colin Wight is Professor of International Relations and current Chair of the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney. He was Editor in Chief of the European Journal of International Relations from 2008 to 2013. He has previously worked at Aberystwyth University, Department of International Politics, the University of Sheffield, and the University of Exeter. His research interests are in International Relations theory, and political Violence. His most recent publication is Rethinking Terrorism: Terrorism, Violence and the State (Palgrave, 2015).

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