...why do they slaughter people? The Islamic State in particular, with its Baatho-Islamist cadre—what is its motive? On this point, too, there is no mystery. The Islamic State has been eager to reveal its own thinking. The Islamic State slaughters for religious reasons—which is to say, for reasons that are bound to seem incomprehensible to us. It is piety that requires the efficiently organized jihadis to slaughter the poor unoffending Yazidi minority in Iraq; and to slaughter the Shia, which they have been doing for many years now, one suicide bombing after another; and to slaughter Christians; and would surely require them to slaughter the Jews, if only the Israeli Defense Force would do them the kindness of getting out of the way. Given the opportunity, the Islamic State would slaughter most of the world, if I understand the takfiri doctrine correctly. Slavery, too, is piety, in these people’s eyes. They pray before raping.
And they have prospered! Their successes bear out political theory on a few points, but mostly they are a rebuke to political theory. They are the enemy and conqueror of every doctrine that has ever supposed human behavior to be predictable. This is the bafflement. Anonymous is right. They have scored a triumph over every theory of human progress that has ever been proposed. They are not the first people to score such a victory. We have needed their reminder, though. In recent decades we have liked to tell ourselves that, after the Nazis, mankind has learned its lesson. But mankind is not a lesson-learning entity. Civilizations can learn lessons. But civilizations come and go. Impassive mankind remains uninstructable and stupid, such that, if once upon a time the barbarities of the 7th century thrilled and inspired a substantial portion of mankind, we can be confident that 7th-century barbarities will remain forevermore a viable possibility.And 7th-century barbarians who employ state-of-the art technology--in which category I'd include the Grandiose Ayatollah and his barbaric nuclear crew--could prove to be unbeatable.