Alex Massie contends that ISIS’s peculiarly evil worldview puts us at odds whether or not we choose to be:
Make no mistake, we may not consider ourselves at war with ISIS but they most assuredly reckon themselves at war with us. And with anyone else who does not share their murderous corruption of Islam. The world has rarely been short on horror but there is something especially horrifying about ISIS. If heads on pikes won’t convince you, what would be enough to persuade you this is an evil that must be confronted? And if not confronted today it will have to be confronted eventually. Because these are not people and this is not a worldview that will be content to carve out territory and then, once it has established its base, live quietly and peacefully ever after.
In the end, all the wrangling about cause and effect and who started what and who is to blame this or that becomes a form of dissembling dithering. In the end we are responsible. Not so much on account of the unforeseen consequences of past blunders but because we – the United States and its NATO allies – have the power, the equipment and the opportunity to do something about it.
David Rothkopf identifies the threat of radical Islam as “the principal source of threat to our interests, the stability of the region, and to our allies.” He argues that the US’s Middle East policy should address this threat holistically, rather than on a case-by-case basis:
While the conditions and specific upheavals in each state in the Middle East are, as noted earlier, different, it is this battle that is responsible for the greatest amount of today’s unrest and violence. Whether it is Ansar al-Sharia in Libya or the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hamas in Gaza or al-Nusrah Front in Syria, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or the Islamic State struggling to establish its caliphate, it is clear today that extremist Islam is emerging as a threat so broad that it must be seen in its totality to be contended with.
Further, the ties of these groups to others operating in the periphery of this region — from the Taliban to the Haqqani network, from Boko Haram to Uighur or Chechen separatists — both underscore the global scope of the problem and the potential for significant alliances to help combat it.
Certainly, our traditional allies in the Middle East have come to see the problem as one. Consider the degree to which Israel and Egypt have cooperated to deal with Hamas. Consider that unifying animus toward the Muslim Brotherhood that has linked together not only those two former warring states but also Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates.
Adam Taylor observes that ISIS’s extremist brand is catching on:
What’s really worrying is that despite all the confusion over its name, the Islamic State “brand” actually seems pretty solid — and worryingly global. It’s distinctive black-and-white flag was flown in London last week, and leaflets supporting it were handed out in the city’s Oxford Street on Tuesday. An American was arrested at a New York City airport this month after authorities were tipped off by his pro-Islamic State Twitter rants. The group has began publishing videos in Hindi, Urdu and Tamil in a bid to reach Indian Muslims. There are credible reports that the group is hoping to target Asian countries — and Indonesia is so worried that it banned all support for the Islamic State. The list goes on and on. Whatever you call it — the Islamic State, ISIS, ISIL, or something else — its brand is potent.
Indeed, even China is starting to worry:
China has been fighting a low-level separatist insurgency of its own in Xinjiang for decades and worries that foreign Islamic groups are infiltrating the region, emboldening the simmering independence movement. Uighur exile groups say China’s government overstates its terrorism problem and falsely paints protests that turn into riots as premeditated terror attacks. In any case, Beijing is likely alarmed by IS’s criticism of its treatment of the Muslim Uighurs and the group’s alleged plan to seize Xinjiang, no matter how far-fetched the idea might be. But just how actively authorities will deal with any IS threat remains to be seen.
Furthermore, Andrew Tabler cites “analysts and European and American officials” as saying that “hundreds, if not thousands, of ISIL and Al Qaeda operatives in Syria and the Islamic State are likely planning attacks either back home or elsewhere”:
These include Muhsin al-Fadhili, former head of Al Qaeda’s Iranian facilitation network; Sanafi al-Nasr, head of Al Qaeda’s Syria “Victory Committee”; Wafa al-Saudi, Al Qaeda’s former head of security for counter intelligence; as well as Al Qaeda founding member Firas al-Suri. Members of Al Qaeda Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) are also reportedly in Syria, indicating a growing opportunity for connectivity, coordination, planning, and synchronization with Jebhat al-Nusra and other jihadists. Taken together with national-based Jihadist units from China, the Caucasus, Libya, Egypt, Sweden, and beyond, the “Islamic State” is already the next Afghanistan or Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas in terms of a durable safe haven and training ground for global Islamic terrorism.
William Inboden believes the threatened Yazidi genocide opened Obama’s eyes to the scope of ISIS’s fanatical ambitions and is changing the president’s beliefs about terrorism, the Middle East, and American power:
I have written before about the close connections between religious persecution and national security threats. The vicious Islamic State campaign to exterminate Yazidis and Christians further reinforces this point. The Islamic State’s targeting of religious minorities is not merely a side effect of its territorial advances; it is central to the group’s identity and purpose. The worldview of the militant jihadist holds religious pluralism and religious freedom to be anathema, and the Islamic State perversely considers its own measures of success to include eliminating religious minorities. Just as the Islamic State’s persecution of Christians and Yazidis should have been an early indicator of the larger security threat it poses, the longer-term American response to the Islamic State will need to go beyond airstrikes to include a renewed diplomatic commitment to protecting and promoting religious freedom.