The Islamic State is a perfect vessel for what Orwell diagnosed as “transferred nationalism,” the phenomena that allows men to be much more nationalistic and much more cruel than they ever could be on behalf of any existing nation with which they had intimate familiarity. The Islamic State also offers the chance of pillaging and raping enemies. Jihadi tourists will also find acceptance by joining the Islamic State. Some of the docu-journalism about the movement coming from Vice has subjects saying they are finally “comfortable” living in the Islamic State. The beliefs of radical jihadis unite their identity with that of the emergent state.
Finally, the Islamic State not only has the romance of revolution, and the promise of action and power, but also religious and apocalyptic appeal. Establishing the caliphate is a way for Muslims to “immanentize the eschaton,” to bring about the final, God-ordained order to a political reality. This is a persistent desire in human history in Europe and the Levant. These religious impulses can be sublimated within Western liberalism, but only with great difficulty. The Islamic State holds out real appeal for some men who have difficulty believing themselves to be just another part of a long, ambiguous history of human civilization, and who long for something more than a vote, a job, and a life that will be forgotten in a generation or two. It seems every so often, Western liberalism will help produce enemies bent on destroying its all-too-human order, and replacing it with one that has the imprimatur of the volk, the verdict of History, or the laws of God.