The murder of journalist James Foley, a United States citizen, by Islamic State fighters, should serve not as an impetus for increased military action in Iraq and Syria, but as a reminder of the depths and dangers of religious extremism.
That’s what Islamic State is all about: the global proliferation of a radical, fundamentalist form of Sunni Islam that the vast majority of us would find totally intolerable. Anyone who stands in the way of the achievement of Islamic State’s goal will, they hope, be killed.
That’s what is at stake, and it’s what each of us should stand up against.
The world, as a whole, has become increasingly secularized with the passage of time. That trend has likely aided the rise of extremist groups from across the religious spectrum. It’s the responsibility of each and every one of us to champion religious and personal freedom, and also the right to be free from being subject to anyone else’s religious practice, and to defend those freedoms here in the United States.
While we’re defending those freedoms here at home, with both word and deed, it must also be recognized that a solution to the rise of Islamic State might not be immediately forthcoming.
The political situation in Syria and Iraq — a complete lack of a competent, inclusive government in both countries — means that even a total defeat of Islamic State will leave fertile ground for another terrorist group to take its place. Any military action in those countries should serve as an accessory to the implementation of political systems that will take into account the needs of every Syrian and Iraqi — and not necessarily systems that solely serve U.S. interests.
We had a client state in Iraq with the CIA’s handpicked Nouri al-Maliki, whose fruits Iraq is now reaping. Syrian’s sectarian dictator Bashar al-Assad may be a valuable partner in dismantling Islamic State, unfortunately, but his style of leadership is outdated and has no place in the modern world.
He should recognize that on his own terms and step down once the situation in his country as stabilized, or he may pay for indecision with his life.