ISIS is an amalgam consisting of disaffected youth, displaced Iraqi and Syrian opposition fighters, and anti-Western fundamentalists. It is a relatively small force, and has only enjoyed the military successes it enjoys because of the weakness of its adversaries. ISIS is a group unworthy of much of the awe they have inspired in the West.
It is, however, an organization that does seek to function more like a state than a terrorist organization. ISIS has organized municipal services and humanitarian services. It collects taxes and fields a police force which enforces Sharia law. It provides water, electricity, and sewage to its residents. It produces oil and petroleum products and sells them on the black market for a reported $3 million per day in revenues. Perhaps most consequentially, ISIS has a propaganda arm as sophisticated as anything Goebbels ever managed.
For example, the Islamic State released a trailer on Wednesday for a new movie entitled Flames of War. It looks as well produced and action-packed as anything Michael Bay ever directed:
Most disturbingly, the minute-long trailer prominently features President Barack Obama assuring the nation that American ground forces will not be participating in combat operations against ISIS. The president’s insistence is juxtaposed with footage of American forces encountering resistance while serving in Iraq in the last decade.
The viewer is left with the impression that the Islamic State is eager to create the impression that the United States fears engaging ISIS on their terms. That is, no doubt, the propagandist message the terror group wants to project.
Whether Americans or ISIS likes it or not, U.S. ground forces may soon be again seeing combat in Iraq. On Tuesday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey conceded that there were some circumstances that would lead him to recommend to the president sending American troops to serve in a combat advisory role alongside Kurdish and Iraqi forces. If the president’s strategy aimed at rolling back ISIS in Iraq and containing them in Syria is to be believed, those circumstances will soon arise.