To state the obvious, the so-called Islamic State (IS) is now a colossal problem for the peace-loving people of the world.
We started hearing about that extremist group as ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). Then as it became evident that their goal and scope was larger, it began to be called ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.)
(The Levant is an area that includes not only Syria but also Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Cyprus, and part of southern Turkey.)
On June 29, the group announced that its name is now just “Islamic State” and that they have established a caliphate. The caliph, who is the “leader for Muslims everywhere,” is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Still, IS is a threat not only to the non-Sunni people of the Near East but also to peaceable people everywhere. It is a vicious terrorist organization bent on controlling more and more territory by force, as well as by propaganda.
To better understand IS, a “must-see” video can be viewed here. It was made by VICE News journalist and filmmaker Medyan Dairieh, who for three weeks had unprecedented and exclusive access inside IS.
This video presents an alarming account of a truly terrifying group. Something must be done to stop their relentless spread across Iraq, and elsewhere. But what?
A couple of weeks ago, 50 religious conservatives publicly stated that the U.S. must "destroy" IS. (Russell Moore, about whom I recently wrote, here, was one of those 50.) That sounded a lot like a questionable call for a holy war.
And even peace-loving Pope Francis has said with regard to IS,
. . . where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say this: it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underline the verb: stop. I do not say bomb, make war, I say stop by some means. . . . To stop the unjust aggressor is licit.
James Bretzke, a priest and professor of moral theology at Boston College, declares, “This is the most pronounced endorsement of the use of force of any pope . . . in the last 100 years.”
To be sure, doing nothing with regard to IS and its relentless spread is not a viable option. The question, of course, is what could and should be done.
The Pope went on to say that no country should act alone, and that there should be an agreement within the international community, possibly through the United Nations, before embarking on a military campaign.
He also warned against an all-out war, insisting that force could be justified only to "stop" the Islamic State.
Then on Wednesday, 53 religious leaders sent President Obama a letter encouraging him to “move beyond” war in Iraq/Syria.
That seems to be what the President is trying to do at this point.
Many conservatives are opposed to that, calling for the destruction, not just the containment, of IS. For example, Princeton University Professor Robert P. George has authored a petition calling upon the President and Congress to not stop, not contain, but destroy IS.
George’s petition can be found here, and the first signature after his is Russell Moore’s.
But seeking the containment, or isolation, of IS is far better—because it is less violent and would elicit less retaliation.But is IS isolatable? Probably. But it certainly won’t be easy.