Every once in a while an idea or an insight comes along that demands the widest possible audience. I doubt that I have very many readers who do not also read the very excellent OldNFO blog Nobody Asked Me but I figured it is worth risking Mr Curtis's ire to spread the message.
The Atlantic Magazine published an article by Graeme Wood in the March 2015 issue titled What ISIS Really Wants. Mr Wood's article is NOT the recitation of stale, over-quoted boilerplate. Mr Wood interviewed Muslims in Australia, Britain and Philadelphia. He interviewed peer-recognized experts from Princeton and other places.
Viewed through the wrong lens
The cornerstone of Mr Wood's essay is that we are guilty of viewing ISIS from the perspective of the secular west. From that perspective, ISIS is a bad LSD trip that never pops into focus.
Viewed through the lens of Koranic prophesy, ISIS is logical, coherent and very dangerous.
An example that will resonate with Bible reading Christians is to imagine a cult leader who has meticulously crafted his ministry to tag every "box" in the Revelations "end times" list.
An example that might resonate with more secular readers is to consider Hitler's message. The German peoples of the 1930s were humiliated and marginalized. Hitler presented them with a script. In this script, the German peoples...the Aryan Nations...had been selected by God. They were the superior race whose birthright had been stolen by envious, crafty, inferior races.
Hitler held up a template populated with cherry-picked "facts": Do these things and we will be reinstated as humanities rightful, legitimate, God-appointed rulers.
Eric Hoffer's book The True Believer (1952) is an extended essay on how this message is received by people who feel that they are marginalized, powerless, alienated. This message is psychic heroin for the humiliated (WWI) German nation. They lapped it up like a dog gobbles up its own vomit.
And so it is for the tens of thousands of Muslims streaming to ISIS, feeling that they are called by God to be agents in the inexorable, unstoppable, cataclysmic shifting of history.
Graeme Wood proposes that ISIS will self-immolate when there is sufficient evidence that the Caliphate is not authentic, that it is neither inexorable nor unstoppable. The best way to make that evidence visible is to contain the Caliphate.
By all means, recognize the Caliphate as a viable foe, if not a legitimate state. Bomb the oil facilities that provide them with revenue. Deny fertilizers and agricultural chemicals that can be used for explosives and chemical weapons respectively. Blockade all food that they import. Force them to demonstrate their fitness-to-rule by denying them all external scapegoats and external enablers.
Life is hard. Death is even harder.
It is a hard, biological reality that the entire body will die if even a few of the body's cells (as a percentage) are infected with HIV. The entire body will die if even a few cells in any organ cease to function or start to multiply without bound. This is unfair by Western standards but it is the biological reality.
ISIS is not "The Junior Varsity Team. ISIS is a carcinoma. It poisons its environment. The body that tacitly tolerates the first cells of ISIS is no less doomed than an untreated HIV positive patient. Those people who will be identified as "collateral damages" are already dead. Only the details need to be written. It is not fair. But it is a reality.
ISIS is a carcinoma that must be rooted out by Muslims in the middle East. It will likely require some boots on the ground to sort out the players. It will likely require boots on the ground to avoid a repeat of the power vacuum that lead to the first infestation.
Attempting to bend the realities of ISIS to conform with the secular, western, candy-coated paradigms is as stupid as tripping on dirty LSD. ISIS is a rabid animal. It should be isolated so the viruses will die. The host can either mount an immune response and throw off the infection or it can die. From an epidemiology standpoint, the only important thing is that the infected host dies or recovers without infecting any more victims.