Policy Forum

Is ISIS Economically and Socially Sustainable?

Watch the Event

Join the conversation on Twitter using #CatoEvents. Follow @CatoEvents on Twitter to get future event updates, live streams, and videos from the Cato Institute.

Date and Time
May 18, 2016 4 - 5:30 PM EDT
1st floor/Wintergarden
Featuring Howard J. Shatz, Senior Economist, RAND Corporation; Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School; Director, RAND‐​Initiated Research; and Jacob Shapiro, Associate Professor, Politics and International Affairs, and Co‐​Director, Empirical Studies of Conflict Project, Princeton University; and author of The Terrorist’s Dilemma: Managing Violent Covert Organizations; moderated by John Mueller, Senior Research Scientist, Mershon Center for International Security Studies, Ohio State University, and Senior Fellow, Cato Institute.

Shatz and Shapiro are co‐​authors of the forthcoming, Foundations of the Islamic State: Management, Money, and Terror in Iraq, 2005–2010 (RAND).

Please join us for a discussion by two experts on one of the most important and consequential issues the United States faces today. In 2014, a militant group calling itself the Islamic State, or ISIL, but more generally known as ISIS, attracted widespread attention with several military victories in Iraq and Syria — particularly the takeover of Iraq’s second‐​largest city, Mosul. Cries of alarm escalated substantially a few months later after ISIS performed and webcast several beheadings of defenseless Western hostages. Unlike other groups designated as terrorist organizations, ISIS actually seeks to hold and govern — and then expand its control over — territory. Moreover, unlike the more wary al‐​Qaeda central, ISIS welcomes fighters from abroad. Some fear the potential return of people with Western passports who have joined it, as well as potential homegrown terrorists who might be inspired by ISIS’ propaganda or example.

ISIS obtains finances by selling oil and antiquities and by extorting, or taxing, people under its control. Key to its success or failure is whether it will be able to fund itself through such activities and whether its social and economic viability can be undermined. In this panel, Howard Shatz and Jacob Shapiro will assess the degree to which the Islamic State is a viable economic and social entity, and the degree to which it is vulnerable. Please join us for what will be a highly informative event about a situation of significant importance.