The difficulty of fighting ISIS

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The difficulty of fighting ISIS

Jessica Park / Chief Illustrator

Jessica Park / Chief Illustrator

Jessica Park / Chief Illustrator

Jessica Park / Chief Illustrator

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Jessica Park / Chief Illustrator

Jessica Park / Chief Illustrator

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has captured Western media’s attention after another round of high-profile executions, this time of two Japanese nationals and one Jordanian pilot, which took place over the past few weeks.
Both the Japanese and Jordanian governments attempted to negotiate with ISIS for the release of the hostages. Jordan even offered a trade for pilot Moaz al Kasasbe in exchange for al-Rishawi, a jihadist imprisoned for her role in a suicide bombing in Jordan in 2005.
Nonetheless, both Japanese journalists and the Jordanian fighter-pilot were brutally executed, on video.
The Japanese government has provided non-lethal aid to the coalition forces fighting ISIS and will continue to do so, despite the warning and execution.
The Jordanian government, however, pledged to avenge al Kasasbe’s death. As of Sunday, Feb. 8, the Jordanian military has already launched 56 airstrikes against ISIS targets. Jordan’s Air Force Chief, Mansour al-Jabour, stated on Sunday that these airstrikes were “just the beginning” of their campaign to avenge the death of the pilot. Al Kasasbe’s father has demanded the “annihilation” of ISIS to revenge his son’s death. Meanwhile, most Jordanians have rallied behind King Abdullah’s plan to crush ISIS.
Surprisingly, with almost every country in the world condemning the actions of ISIS, Jordan is the first country not directly involved in the fighting (i.e., Iraq and Syria) to call for the annihilation of ISIS. Despite the United States’ direct involvement in Iraq since 2003, this country hasn’t done too much more to stop ISIS, beyond sporadic air strikes and aid to other countries fighting the group. It seems the administration is trying to toe a middle ground between supporting countries more directly affected by the group while also avoiding greater incursions into a region Obama has attempted to avoid during his presidency.
We debated Jordan’s new conviction. Some of our editors expressed trepidation with Jordan’s new attitude, thinking that the country may be playing into ISIS’ hands. Others believe that they shouldn’t judge the actions of Jordan, with a few citing the hypocrisy of Americans judging the knee-jerk reaction of Jordan to a threat abroad.
While ISIS’ conquest of more territory has largely stalled, the extremist group still holds an enormous swath of territory in the countries of Iraq and Syria. Since its first gains and the declaration of a Caliphate in June 2014, the group has proved remarkably resourceful and brutal. The group has managed to recruit thousands throughout the world with an extensive Internet infrastructure to broadcast its message, goals and executions.
Unlike any other terrorist group, ISIS has managed to control territory, aggressively push for more territory, bring in a massive number of new recruits, manipulate the fractured nation states of Iraq and Syria and benefit from an international system unequipped to destroy one of the most brutal and oppressive groups seen in decades.
It is ISIS’ territory that makes the group so bizarre in comparison to other terrorist groups. One editor commented that the reason most terrorist groups are nearly impossible to destroy is that there are no targets to neutralize, no tanks, no bases; there are no easy determinants of success.
Terrorism based on ideology is idea-based and it’s impossible to destroy an idea. ISIS is especially dangerous because it has territory and possesses an idea that is proving attractive to a startling number of people.
One editor asked if there was any way of getting rid of ISIS and other extremist groups. The answer seems impossible and is more complicated than many people give credit for. Nonetheless, we must continue to ask that question and challenge the answers we give.