We the People: ISIS’s atrocities demand strong, rapid action

We are blessed with a democratic way of life and a republic created to protect the rights of its citizens. We must reject the urge to believe that the world’s problems are so immense and our capabilities so minute that nothing can be done to stop anarchy and despotism in the far corners of the world.

ISIS has broadcast a video of the mass murder and beheading of 21 Coptic Christian men in Libya. The spokesperson for the grisly video spoke to the camera in English, “All crusaders: safety for you will be only wishes … we will fight you all together,” and “the sea you have hidden Sheikh Osama Bin Laden’s body in, we swear to Allah we will mix it with your blood.”

There are also reports that ISIS is harvesting the organs of people executed to complement its other atrocities. There is a report that a dozen doctors were executed in Mosul for refusing to participate in organ harvesting. It is obvious that these extremists are purposefully choosing shocking and terrifying methods to murder and impose their power on other people.

A better understanding of ISIS by the U.S. would help us fashion a batter response to its activities. President Obama referred to ISIS as “not Islamic” and the “jayvee team” of al Qaeda.  This lack of understanding may encourage an apathetic response but that is a strategic error.

Abu Bakr al‑Baghdadi, the ISIS leader, declared himself to be the first caliph in over 1,000 years, which has sinister implications for the rest of the world. It is easy to dismiss the group as a bunch of homicidal maniacs who will bring about their own demise without intervention from the West, but we would be mistaken.

The Islamic State is being run as and its ideology requires that it be operated like a legitimate nation state with territory, infrastructure and a bureaucracy. It does not operate like a terrorist organization. The group has a commitment to returning civilization to a seventh‑century social and legal environment designed ultimately to bringing about the apocalypse.

Princeton scholar Bernard Haykel, a leading expert on ISIS, told Graeme Wood, a contributing editor at The Atlantic, that Islamic State fighters are deeply infused with religious zeal. He said they “are smack in the middle of the medieval tradition and are bringing it wholesale into the present day.”

The failure to appreciate the essential differences between ISIS and al‑Qaeda has led to dangerous indecision and seeming apathy by the U.S. The U.S. was aware of ISIS back in 2011 but we did nothing because it was one of many terror groups in Syria and Iraq, and we did not want to be pulled into the civil war in Syria.

However, its spokesperson announced that the group intended to “restore the Islamic caliphate,” and he alluded to the apocalypse, by saying, “there are but a few days left.” Before ISIS captured Raqqa, a Syrian city of 500,000 people, al Baghdadi started calling himself “commander of the faithful,” a title reserved for caliphs, and a substantial number of foreign fighters started coming to Syria.

If we had identified the seriousness of the ISIS threat earlier and realized that the vacuum in Syria and Iraq that we permitted to occur would give the movement space to grow, we may have gotten involved earlier.

The Islamic State has attached great importance to the Syrian city of Dabiq, near Aleppo. The Prophet reportedly said that the armies of Rome will meet the armies of Islam there for battle near the end of days.

We can continue to bleed ISIS slowly, through air strikes and warfare conducted by Kurdish and Iraqi forces but that will not be a proper response.

We have enough moral capital to support an international coalition to suppress ISIS and thwart its mission. If it cannot expand and if it cannot impose its laws on others, it will fail.

We will not need to commit large numbers of troops to keep the Islamic State from fulfilling its mission of expansion if we reach out to our allies. Every month, a coalition of legitimate states that prevents ISIS from expanding will make it resemble less a conquering state of the Prophet and more like what it is, another failed tyrannical state in the Middle East. The time to act is now.

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