Iconoclash: It's the Clash, Stupid
From 9/11 to the most treasured temple in Palmyra, Islamist destruction reminds us that we have objects and values we hold as untouchable and inviolable. It also makes us question whether we have a strategy to save them. This iconoclash has cycled through the angry pointing cleric clip, the beheading video, the burning man in a cage gif, the vandalism montage, the full-on terrorist attack. It is a clash through the exchange of icons and images, and each ‘side’ in the war on terror has shown trophies of valuable dead people, objects, targets destroyed or being destroyed, a tit-for-tat of shock and awe. We will match your orange Guantanamo jumpsuit with our orange hostage jumpsuit. Yet if we are to properly respond to this iconoclasm, we must understand why it is happening. It is happening in part because of Islamists’ drive to restore pride and dignity and avenge historical humiliation by creating a game of equals. However, this iconoclash is ultimately driven by geopolitical strategy. For Islamic State, the clash is about winning that game on Islamic State’s terms.