Wednesday, September 3, 2014

ISIS' Miscalculation

Yesterday marked another tragic step in the story of the Islamic State, which has captivated news outlets as it expands its self-proclaimed caliphate in the Middle East and begins enforcing strict Sharia law on anyone within its control. ISIS released a video, since confirmed by the U.S., of Stephen Sotloff, an American journalist, being beheaded. Like the first video, featuring James Foley, another American journalist, Sotloff criticized American foreign policy in the region and warned of the repercussions from ISIS in the future. Again, like the first video, another living hostage was presented, with another warning towards President Obama that any further American engagement in the region will be met with more beheadings.

Foley and Sotloff are both courageous and will be remembered for their heroic foray into some of the most hellish places on Earth for the sake of reporting. Both videos were condemned by President Obama immediately upon confirmation, and were denounced by the entire Western world. And despite the fact that Obama vowed to continue airstrikes in Iraq against ISIS, they leaked Sotloff's video to the internet again. Why?

Sotloff, Courtesy of Time.

The gruesome nature of execution videos has very rarely achieved any goals, for anyone. Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl's execution video in 2002 resulted in the majority of those directly involved in the killing being sentenced to death themselves or indefinitely held at Guantanamo Bay. Efforts against Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan were substantially ramped up after the video became public, and it is not difficult to say that ultimately, nothing was accomplished by their inhuman execution of an innocent American.

The release of these videos is not an attack on the United States government - at least not in the same sense as a suicide bombing is. Rather, it is intended to bore unpleasant images into the heads of the public, so they cannot escape what is happening abroad. It's intended to frighten civilians.


These videos are a miscalculated attempt though, in the sense that the American public will view them as a personal attack - something that years of images of wartorn Syrian streets failed to accomplish - and will renew the fervor for action. In fact, it was shortly after the Foley video was released that President Obama publicly stated his contemplation for increased surveillance (and perhaps eventually military) engagement in Syria - something he wouldn't have dreamed of saying several months ago. ISIS has failed in their attempt to rattle the American public, and will only strengthen its solidarity and resolve to seek justice. One can only hope that no more innocent hostages have to die before ISIS understands this, and rethinks their scare tactic agenda.

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