ISIS follow up - Islamist power in civil war

As a follow up to the ISIS response I posted last week, here’s an article that I came across today. The abstract below states the main conceit, which is that Islamists have a structural advantage in selling security services in the conflict security market.

“In civil wars across the world, certain Islamist groups have competed exceptionally well against their rivals. The conventional wisdom points to either religion or ethnic politics to explain Islamist success. These ideological and identity-based explanations, however, tend to overlook the powerful economic influence that the local business class has over civil war outcomes. Civil war can be modeled as a market for security, wherein protection must be purchased from multiple substate rackets. Using this market model, a close investigation of the Somali case reveals why and under what conditions the interests of the profit-driven business class align with those of ideologically motivated Islamist groups. Security costs are of critical importance to businesses in a civil war, and Islamists are uniquely competitive in lowering these costs. The business-Islamist alliance is therefore driven by rational, economic considerations, which can contribute to the rise of Islamist power.”

The general point made in this article comes on page 96:

“Because Islamists are able to sell security across ethnic and tribal divisions, however, they can offer more competitive prices than groups that primarily sell protection to a narrower pool of prospective buyers. By charging lower margins across the board,Islamists have the ability to capture a larger share of the security market than ethnic or tribal groups. As their market share increases, they can lower their rates further to price out their rivals. Therefore, not only do Islamist groups give businesses the option to leave coercive relationships with ethnic or tribal protection rackets, but they also offer more competitive prices to do so”

This makes sense to me, and the case study of Somalia illustrates the point pretty well. Although there isn’t an official civil war in Syria/Iraq, citizens in the area dealing with ISIS based on rational models makes much more sense than most of the narratives in the media.