It is one of the ironies of violence and strife that huge numbers of dead and dying don’t count. The world takes it in its stride and the casualties become meaningless as we have just seen in Gaza. Tut-tuts of sympathy and regret are the general response as the brain short circuits from sensory overload. But individual tragedies resonate so dramatically and change things. The macabre killing of journalist James Foley sent across the world on video will do more to galvanize rage and action against the ISIS (now IS) in Iraq than the indifferent and often casual approach to their invasion of the country and the establishment of intent in no uncertain terms. Suddenly, arming the Kurds is no longer enough to combat the threat.
The dark shadow falling upon Syria which is ostensibly the next target for the militants has been registered and recognized but not much has been done about it in tangible global terms.
But this incident and the fact that a second journalist is in captivity and marked for a similar fate does put the pressure on the global powers to look beyond the window dressing that has been the hallmark of action in the past few months.
It is, at the same time, surprising why the IS would take such a brutal visual step and bring such enormous pressure upon itself. It is difficult to find the logic behind this deliberate provocation but Foley’s last words could well be the beginning of a crisis period not seen since 9/11. After all, WW I started with a single bullet killing Archduke Ferdinand. Just last week Britain’s PM David Cameron called for a more concerted action but stopped short of considering the dispatch of troops to Iraq. This could change things if he and President Obama decide that the singular killing is generating a massive wave of outrage in their countries. One more such heinous attack on a civilian could spark turmoil and see western military manpower back in Iraq.
That is no longer a remote possibility. From what one can glean the IS leadership seems prepared to respond to any global alliance that takes it on and there is just no room for any sort of negotiation.
That the man wielding the knife had purportedly a British accent indicates a huge purge in the UK and into that net will be tangled several innocent people with the wrong name and color and passport and more stress will be placed on the security systems. Those steps must already have been initiated especially since the British are aware that several of their nationals have gone to Iraq and Syria to fight on the side of the IS. Their network must be under severe scrutiny.
For Obama the irony is inescapable. He came into power to end the presence of US troops in Iraq and bring the boys home. Now, he may discover he will go into the final straight of his career having to seriously consider sending them back as the current Iraqi government flails against the rising conquests of the IS that seem determined to establish a new order.
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