Monday, November 2, 2015

Book Review: The Complete Infidel's Guide to ISIS

I don't do book reviews too often on this blog, because the books I normally read are fictional works, mostly sci-fi/fantasy and historical novels.  Basically, events that take place outside our world or current time.   In my job at Washington State Emergency Management, I spend my on-duty days bombarded by news--all of it bad.  Despite my interest in international relations and military operations, I get burned out reading/viewing today's sad state of affairs.
So when I'm away from work, I escape into the realm of fiction.
But the real world has a way of intruding on my leisure time.
One of these intruders is the Islamic State.  It seems like a day doesn't go by without some Islamic State minion committing some atrocity somewhere; or a "known wolf" dedicating their crime to this terrorist nation.  I use the word "nation," because unlike other terrorist groups, this "JV" team as Obama disparagingly called them, has managed to conquer a considerable swath of real estate.
(Image from Australia Broadcasting Company)
I'm also an admirer of Robert Spencer and his Jihad Watch.
Since I want to support Mr. Spencer's work and be better versed on ISIS, I decided to buy his latest work, The Complete Infidel's Guide to ISIS.
The book is divided into the following 10 chapters, along with an ISIS Timeline, Author's Note, Introduction, Acknowledgements, Notes and Index:
One--Born of Blood and Slaughter,  ISIS's founding.
Two--ISIS Comes to America, terrorist activities within the Ramparts of Civilization.
Three--Irresistible ISIS, westerners answering the call to jihad.
Four--How They Did It--and Who's Trying to Stop Them, how ISIS rose to power, and the world's response.
Five--Inside the Islamic State, a glimpse at "life behind the veil," from survivors/escapees.
Six--The Caliphate:  What It Means and Why It Matters, the impact of ISIS declaring itself The Caliphate.
Seven--The Caliphate's Bloody History, a brief look at the Muslim Conquests.
Eight--Is the Islamic State Islamic (Is the Pope Catholic?), an examination of ISIS's sole motivation--expanding Islam.
Nine--On the Islamic To-Do List, a look at what ISIS would love to do, if given half a chance.
Ten--How to Defeat ISIS--and Why We Must, a brief look at our current failed policies and attitudes, along with a general recommendation on changing both.
There are two recurring side-bars in each chapter:  Ostrich Alert and Not That This Has Anything To Do With Islam.
The Ostrich Alerts are select, politically correct (PC)-addled quotes from various leaders explaining how the latest ISIS atrocity has nothing to do with Islam.  While the Not That This Has Anything To Do With Islam, are select quotes from various terrorists explaining how there actions are completely in keeping with Islam.
Like Mr. Spencer's earlier works and on-line content, The Complete Infidel's Guide to ISIS is well-written, well researched (with 40 pages of footnotes), informative and I'd say "pleasant to read," if it were possible to use the word "pleasant" when reading about terrorist atrocities and their justifications for committing them.
Overall, I liked the book and had only a few quibbles about it.  First, is Mr. Spencer often repeats the same quotes.  True, this helps to reinforce a point, but it can get, well, repetitive. 
The second is that Chapter Nine contains extensive passages from ISIS's various e-books, such as Black Flags from Rome, along with four other e-books.  Each book is an outline on how ISIS would like to conquer various sections of the world, first by reconquering lands they use to rule over, as illustrated below: 
(Image from:  Express UK)
It's not that I have a problem reading terrorists wish lists, no matter how fanciful they appear to be, it's just that the passages Mr. Spencer uses are quite long. 
Finally, Chapter Ten provides general guideline defeating ISIS.  True, we have to acknowledge the religious-political ideology that's motivating ISIS followers--and that is Islam.  This is something our political rulers and news media refuse to do.  As to how to go about defeating ISIS once and for all, the only recommendation the author gives is to stick to our "cultural guns," so to speak.
To be honest, I don't have anything profound recommendations on  how to defeat an entire terrorist state either.  Since no one in position of authority is willing to confront the religious-political ideology of ISIS and their ilk, as the author recommends, I'm resigned to the idea that we're in for a multi-generational conflict with our jihadist enemies.
Now that my quibbles are out of the way, what I learned most from reading this book is how much of a big deal it is among jihadists to have a bona fide caliphate.  By declaring a caliphate--and holding territory to back up the claim--is an inspiration to jihadists world-wide.  As long as a caliphate exists in the hearts and minds of jihadi-wannabees and their supporters, they'll never pledge their allegiance to any other nation, no matter how many benefits are lavished on them.
The Complete Infidel's Guide to ISIS is a solid 4-star book.  And unlike the sci-fi and fantasy books I've read, then handed off to someone else, I'll be keeping this Infidel's Guide for future reference. 
I'm afraid I'm going to need it.
The overwhelming number of readers rated The Complete Infidel's Guide to ISIS higher than I did on, giving the book an average 4.4-star rating.  The few 4-star raters had similar quibbles to mine, while the 3-star raters felt the author's presentation was unbalanced.  The 2-star rater wrote a very supportive sentence, but still gave a low star-rating.
As to the five 1-star ratings; two accuse Mr. Spencer of racism, and two thought the book was poorly written and inaccurate.
The final one was a warning to Muslims to be wary of this book. That Mr. Spencer is a "...clear enemy of Islam..." and goes on from there about books like this should be boycotted, and blames us "...non [M]uslims who cause the problems in the first place."
Yeah, problems like authors exercising their First Amendment Rights, and readers exercising their freedom of choice to read the books they want to.
(Image found on Creeping Sharia)

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