The Terrible Calculus of ISIS

The drumbeat of war sounds loudly as the world turns its focus on to Iraq and maybe even Syria. The Islamic State, or ISIS according to its previous name, has taken terrorism, regime change, and war to new heights of violent gore. They have executed hundreds or thousands of captured soldiers. They have murdered, kidnapped, raped and sold into slavery persecuted minorities. They have beheaded prized foreign prisoners on digital media.

They oppose Bashar Al-Asad of Syria but that is not good although he is a mass murderer as well. The Islamic State opposes Iran and Hezbollah, enemies of the United States and Israel but this is not good either. What we have is a fanatical group of violent, well-armed men who butcher and maim at will with few strong enough to oppose them.

The permutations and complications are vast enough to fill a dozen books. Consider the list of those directly involved: Syria, Turkey, Kurds, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Hezbollah, Sunni tribes, Shiite tribes and Syrian militias. Add those who are just a half-step removed and list grows to contain the Druze, the Alawities, Israel, Hamas, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Lebanon, Kuwait, Western Europe and the United States. While confined to a specific geographic area, the implications are global.

Even without listing the specifics of every group, tribe and country given above, the idea of a comprehensive strategy to defeat ISIS seems remote. There are too many players with too many justifiable agendas for an elegant answer. Whatever the arising coalition chooses to do, the instruments will be blunt and create will many terrible consequences that will highlight the shortcomings of the decisions being made now. A lot of innocent people are going die.

Then again, if the nations of world do nothing, then a lot of innocent people are going to die. What a terrible calculus.

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