Having kept silent in the wake of bloodshed after the 2010 Iraqi elections, the Syrian regime's atrocities against hundreds of thousands of people and the slaughter of thousands of civilians in Egypt, why do some people express such panic in the face of ISIS? So long as they avoid providing a coherent answer to the above question, we simply cannot find out how exactly they intend to fight the organization. There is a clear need to explore the relationship between their unwillingness to speak up against Nouri al-Maliki, Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and Bashar al-Assad, as well as the emergence of ISIS as a major threat to the region. The above questions are particularly important to understand why ISIS has been able to garner such high levels of support in Syria and Iraq.
The cost of avoiding a realistic and genuine confrontation far outweighs the cost of the present and future ISIS threat. Similarly, such a confrontation would represent the first step in persuading the peoples of the Middle East to keep a greater distance from the organization. Today, the question of ISIS is rapidly evolving into a new vicious cycle akin to the al-Qaida challenge of the past decade. Al-Qaida, which emerged and was presented as a key phenomenon after 9/11, had actually served to help the U.S. government keep the global political deadlock under control. To be sure, the legacy of the Western campaign against al-Qaida is hardly positive, since the organization, whose power was largely confined to Afghanistan prior to 9/11, currently operates in nearly 50 countries. As Islamophobia surfaced across the Western hemisphere, certain Muslim countries have exploited these sentiments to crack down on Islamic movements through violent means.
Today, we are witnessing the emergence of ISIS as a new al-Qaida-style phenomenon. It is as if people are expected to believe that we can tackle the entire range of the world's problems by associating them with ISIS. The first outcome of this approach was for all actors that have something to do with the ISIS issue to invent their own individually customized ISIS. Although it is an atrocious organization that engages in bloodshed on the ground, ISIS really is an amorphous group of contractors – something that each and every actor can identify, exploit and consume as they please. As such, the organization's capacity to provide ample visual material to anyone relying on their atrocities can conveniently distract attention from other issues across the globe.
Obviously, one could not possibly suggest that the current situation represents a serious crisis for ISIS itself. An organization feeding from exactly this type of sentiment, after all, has no reason to be concerned about the rapid increase of attention.
Meanwhile, the actual crisis, which threatens all parties that are invested in ISIS, continues to grow every day. As such, those who suffered from an over-consumption of al-Qaida in the first decade of the new millennium, and subsequently failed to respond to the Arab Spring revolutions, are witnessing the rise of the next great challenge. At the end of the day, al-Qaida was a mobile and mission-oriented organization which prioritized causing damage and attracting attention over territorial expansion. They were not interested whatsoever in staying in one place. Similarly, the organization did not pursue logistical operations beyond evoking a sense of solidarity among large groups of people. In these regards, ISIS significantly differs from al-Qaida.
As the question of ISIS rapidly evolves into a new, al-Qaida-style vicious cycle – and considering that the Western campaign against al-Qaida has led to the organization's geographical expansion, rather than curbing its influence - what the world needs to do to reach different results is to adopt structural policies. Most importantly, however, the world needs to face ISIS, once and for all.