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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

ISIS makes fatal mistake by executing an American Journalist

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or "ISIS" made what will prove to be a fatal mistake by publicly executing James Foley, a U.S. journalist captured in Syria in 2012.

ISIS's claim to have established a caliphate, or radical Islamic State, may have seemed laughable at first. However, having claimed large swathe of Syrian and Iraqi territory made it somewhat believable. Clad in menacing looking black robes, flying pirate like black flags and marching in two by two formations through captured villages, made for good photo ops and propaganda, important recruiting tools for a terrorist organization in need of young blood.

Depleting banks in Mosul of billions of Dollars in cash has given ISIS the unusual capability to purchase influence and weapons. ISIS has de facto become an employer to large numbers of Iraqi and Syrian villagers by providing paid jobs and subsidizing businesses. This is a far more dangerous success than any weapon on the battlefield can currently provide. However, the access to large quantities of cash will also provide access to far more sophisticated weapons like surface to air missiles, aircraft and dirty bombs.

Much of ISIS's early success came by flying under the International Media Radar and therefore out of the public eye. This changed when ISIS captured Mosul and made quick gains toward Baghdad. However, the Media attention waned again until ISIS began to persecute and displace Christians and Yazidis in an aggressive effort to cleanse their self declared Caliphate of non-Muslims. By putting the Yazidi cause front and center before the public, the Media eventually forced a more than reluctant Administration into a very limited military role. While President Obama seems to declare success and victory at the first sign of any positive developments against ISIS, the reality is that until now it has been too little and seemingly too late.

In comes the gruesome, public execution of James Foley, a journalist who's only fault was his nationality. This is a classic example of acting on rage, without understanding the consequences and more importantly, your enemy. While the U.S. has a long and bloody history of misunderstand other cultures, the beheading of James Foley is a glaring example that this is also the case with ISIS. Taking on the U.S. Government will only yield action if it is in the geo-economic-political interest of the Administration. The main exception to this general rule are situations where the mounting pressure of public opinion and general outrage forces the hand into action. Inaction in this situation can be costly in terms of reelection votes, the most treasured of all commodities.

So, what was ISIS's fatal mistake? Taking on the International Media. From here on out, the Media will keep ISIS in the headlines. Any atrocity committed by ISIS which may have received little attention in the past, will now be broadcast in detail. Journalists will go to great length to write compelling stories mixed with graphic Images to bring ISIS to our living rooms. ISIS will no longer fly under the radar. An Administration who would love nothing more than living out its current term without any further conflicts, will be forced into a broader, more sustained multi-national effort to contain ISIS.

ISIS was far more dangerous before they attacked religious minorities. They had cash, military success, captured territory, and a growing following of local and international recruits. With time, they could have consolidated their territory, created an organized, very well equipped army and controlled precious resources.

James Foley's tragic and cruel death may have saved the live of many others. ISIS was on its way to hold us all hostage. Now, the media coverage will not stop until ISIS is contained. While it may take many months to achieve, this is the beginning of the end for ISIS.

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