Why does ISIS continue to do things to make their “enemy” even more determined to go after them?

Why does ISIS continue to do things to make their “enemy” even more determined to go after them? From the Politics section of StackExchange.

Why do groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda continue use terrorism attacks, which only do temporary physical damage. It seems to have the primary effect of aggravating huge military entities such as N.A.T.O or the U.S.

Answer 1:

The stated goal of ISIS is to eliminate “the grey area”. Today there is a sizeable minority of Muslims living in western society. ISIS wants to show that it’s not possible for Muslims to live in the western world. Their method is to perform terrorist attacks in the hope it will cause a backlash against Muslims living in the western world.

ISIS states this very clearly:

“the time had come for another event to … bring division to the world and destroy the grey zone”


“the world today is divided into two camps”: that of kufr, or unbelief, and that of their own warped interpretation of Islam. In between these lies the “grey zone”, inhabited by those who call themselves Muslims yet fail to join Daesh.”

Answer 2:

The aim of a terrorist group isn’t usually to be left alone, but more to provoke conflict, or as a form of violent protest against what they believe is a wrong.

You are mistaken when you claim terrorism “only does temporary physical damage”.

  • The value in a terrorist attack isn’t really the attack itself, but the reaction that accompanies it. People and governments react to terrorism by becoming more fearful of certain subsections of the population, fearful to carry out actions they may previously have no problem in doing (e.g. going to a concert, boarding a plane etc.) or fearful of the group itself i.e ISIS/ Al-Qaeda. All three of these things benefit terrorist organizations:

    Fear of a certain subsection of the population (e.g. Muslims). Leads to oppressive laws and environments for them to live in for example racial profiling, watch-lists/registry, a rise in hate crime and other generally discriminatory things. When people are oppressed they are more susceptible to an extremist ideology – so more recruitment for the organization.

  • Fear of carrying out normal actions. One of the major ways to win a war or any form of war is to disrupt normal life in your enemy state.
  • Fear of the group. The ultimate macho objective, if people think your group can go head to head against the country with the most powerful military on earth and cause significant damage (9/11) – then suddenly they want to negotiate with you, join you etc. you gain a lot of soft power, and ability to blackmail e.g Give me X or I will bomb the White House.

hat-tip Matthew