The killing of American journalist James Foley by the Islamic State was brutal and counterproductive in terms of any desire it may have had to achieve acceptance as a political entity.
The extremist group is attempting to seize and hold parts of Iraq and Syria, taking advantage of the political turmoil in both to establish an Islamic caliphate in primarily Sunni Muslim regions. Whether the Islamic State will be able to hold on to territory in the face of the Iraqi, Syrian, Kurdish and international response is not clear.
Targeting journalists for kidnapping and killing runs counter to any organization’s interests, even if it professes to care little about its public image. No responsible government would allow its actions to be influenced by the kind of heinous act that was carried out against Mr. Foley and that is being threatened against another kidnapped journalist, Steven Sotloff.
The ransom demand for Mr. Foley removes any pretense that there was a quid pro quo in his killing related to U.S. bombing and drone attacks on Islamic State assets in Iraq.
More discussions on heightened U.S. military action against the militant group followed the Foley murder, although Americans are reluctant to engage in more warfare in the Middle East, glad that the Iraq war is over and unwilling to intervene in Syria. It is also unclear what kind of U.S. action would be effective against the Islamic State.
President Barack Obama would be forced to assemble a coalition of support for any broad military intervention, even before going to Congress for authorization. That would be complicated by the fact that the Islamic State is a Sunni Muslim group and is likely receiving unofficial support from America’s Sunni allies in the region, namely Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf emirates.
Regardless of what the United States does next, the world has a right be appalled and angered by this medieval-style murder of an American journalist.