Now, none of this is to say that ISIS is anything other than a horrific terrorist organization. The group is bent on subjugating large parts of the Middle East and imposing its archaic ideology on millions of people. The group holds to a strict version of Sunni Islam that views other Muslims, like the Shia who dominate Iraq's government, as apostates worthy of death.
ISIS may indeed have the intent to attack the United States; with hundreds of members who hold passports from the U.S. or from countries whose citizens can enter the U.S. without a waiver, ISIS might also have the capacity to do so.
It seems safe to say, though, that with the Iraqi army at least attempting to retake territory the groups has claimed, and the Syrian Air Force dropping bombs on its soldiers, the leadership of ISIS likely has more pressing things on its mind at the moment.
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As Hayden rightly pointed out, the Middle East in general, and the area where ISIS is operating in particular, is a terribly complicated place.
"Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, those are artificial states created by European diplomacy almost a century ago for the convenience of European diplomats," Hayden said. The rivalries of religious and ethnic factions, he said, have been suppressed for a century by colonialism and dictatorship, and they are now bubbling to the surface.
It would be overly optimistic to claim that the current mess in the Middle East can be sorted out without the application of U.S. military force – including the boots that everybody keeps promising will not be put on the ground. But if the experience of the last decade of war in Iraq has taught us anything, it ought to be that when blow-dried politicians show up on the Sunday shows telling us that we need to bomb somebody, it's time for Americans to take a deep breath.
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Consider: ISIS is being bombed by the same Syrian regime that has slaughtered millions of its own people and that members of Congress want the U.S. to help overthrow. It's also being attacked by Shia-dominated Iran – nobody's idea of a U.S. ally – which is backing the Shia-dominated Maliki regime. A regime which, by the way, was already widely detested by huge portions of the country before ISIS even turned up. And don't forget Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, which is pushing back against ISIS, but shows zero interest in cooperating with the Maliki regime in Baghdad.
Those who think the perfect seasoning for that toxic stew is a sprinkling of U.S. bombs, might just do us all a favor this time around by thinking twice.
—By Rob Garver, The Fiscal Times