Episode 1: One-on-One with Dr. William McCants

In November 2015, NJOHSP and the New York State Intelligence Center, along with the NJ Regional Intelligence Academy and MAGLOCLEN, hosted a 1-day seminar joining together Clint Watts, Dr. William McCants, J.M. Berger, and Seamus Hughes, to discuss the current threat of violent extremists and how law enforcement and homeland security professionals may counter it. NJOHSP analysts had the opportunity to interview these experts and engage in valuable dialogue, surrounding a variety of terrorism-related topics.

In Episode 1, Dr. William McCants discusses the leadership structure of ISIS, to include current leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his significance to the future of the organization.




William McCants is a senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy and director of its Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World. He is also adjunct faculty at Johns Hopkins University and has held various government and think tank positions related to Islam, the Middle East, and terrorism. From 2009 to 2011, McCants served as a U.S. State Department senior adviser for countering violent extremism. He has also held positions as program manager of the Minerva Initiative for the Department of Defense; an analyst at the Institute for Defense Analyses, the Center for Naval Analyses, and SAIC; and a fellow at West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center. He is the author of "The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State" (St. Martin's Press, 2015)

McCants is the founder of Jihadica.com, an academic group blog focused on the global jihadi movement. The blog has been featured on the cover of The New York Times, and described by Wired magazine’s Danger Room as “the gold standard in militant studies.” In 2011 and 2012, he was named by Foreign Policy magazine as one of its FP's Top 100 "Twitterati.”

McCants is the author of numerous articles on Islamist politics and terrorism, including the headlining article of Foreign Affairs’ 9/11 Tenth Anniversary Edition. He also edited the Militant Ideology Atlas, which identified the key ideologues in the global jihadi movement, and also translated, from Arabic into English, a book written by an al-Qaida strategist. Much of his current writing is devoted to Salafi parliamentary politics in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.

His first book, "Founding Gods, Inventing Nations: Conquest and Culture Myths from Antiquity to Islam" (Princeton University Press, 2011), traces the history of cultural debate in the Middle East after the Greeks, Romans and Arabs conquered the region. He is also working on a book about the scriptural history of the Quran. 

McCants has a doctorate from Princeton University and has lived in Israel, Egypt, and Lebanon.


The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State

The Islamic State is one of the most lethal and successful jihadist groups in modern history, surpassing even al-Qaeda. Thousands of its followers have marched across Syria and Iraq, subjugating millions, enslaving women, beheading captives, and daring anyone to stop them. Thousands more have spread terror beyond the Middle East under the Islamic State's black flag.

How did the Islamic State attract so many followers and conquer so much land? By being more ruthless, more apocalyptic, and more devoted to state-building than its competitors. The shrewd leaders of the Islamic State combined two of the most powerful yet contradictory ideas in Islam-the return of the Islamic Empire and the end of the world-into a mission and a message that shapes its strategy and inspires its army of zealous fighters. They have defied conventional thinking about how to wage wars and win recruits. Even if the Islamic State is defeated, jihadist terrorism will never be the same.

Based almost entirely on primary sources in Arabic-including ancient religious texts and secret al-Qaeda and Islamic State letters that few have seen - William McCants' The ISIS Apocalypse explores how religious fervor, strategic calculation, and doomsday prophecy shaped the Islamic State's past and foreshadow its dark future.