ISIS’ Embrace of Violence Strategic Rationale and Long-Run Implications


  • Davis Jones



Much of the popular scholarship on the Islamic State has highlighted the group’s embrace of violence as an indication of their irrationality. Here I argue that dismissing this violence as irrational ignores the ways in which the group uses it to their strategic advantage. This paper attempts to analyze the Islamic State’s embrace of violence through an instrumentalist lens, using a modified theory of outbidding to explain not only why the group has embraced violence, but also why this approach is ultimately counterproductive. Drawing on primary sources from the Islamic State’s English language magazine, Dabiq, as well as Jabhat Al-Nusra’s Al-Risalah, I explain violence in instrumental terms – and highlight the Islamic State’s usage of it as a recruiting tool and means of differentiation. I conclude by discussing why this strategy is ultimately counterproductive, highlighting some opportunities to leverage the Islamic State’s strategy to hasten the group’s downfall.




How to Cite

Jones, D. (2016). ISIS’ Embrace of Violence Strategic Rationale and Long-Run Implications. Political Science Undergraduate Review, 1(2), 131–139.