However, the Islamic State's barbaric excess -- an integral part of its recruitment pitch -- has begun to undermine its political and military success. The jihadists have committed the Jacobin mistake. The French Revolution's Jacobin radicals employed the guillotine's blade in the public square; even when it wasn't chopping, its presence visually reminded citizens that Jacobins exercised absolute authority.
Until Jacobin excess united their enemies and led to their downfall. Jihadist crimes ignited international opposition. The Islamic State's genocidal assault on Yazidi Kurds galvanized it.
The political shape of an anti-Islamic State coalition is emerging. The Iraqi government has changed; so have American political calculations. U.S. and Turkish intelligence capabilities are focusing on the Islamic State. Though the mujahedeen dealt the Kurdish peshmerga a stinging defeat, U.S. air support gives the Kurds the edge in firepower. American military personnel are advising Iraqi Army officers. Islamic State mujahedeen could discover they are trapped between a peshmerga anvil and Iraqi Army hammer, both reinforced by U.S. airstrikes.
The Caliph and his fighters could retreat, but their ideological credibility would slide. Defending their territory, however, creates a targeting opportunity. It's called the Flypaper Effect. The mujahedeen who left Yemen, Libya and Europe to fight for the Islamic State suddenly discover they are in the bull's-eye of a 500-pound laser-guided bomb.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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