Once the media decided ISIS was unstoppable, they couldn’t let the idea go. For the past two years, ISIS has been getting pummeled in Syria and Iraq, and is now close to losing the last sliver of its territory, and thus of its caliphate. Yet many observers are reluctant to acknowledge the scale of this defeat for ISIS, convinced that it will shape-shift into something even more fearsome. Some can’t even bring themselves to use the word defeat, perversely sounding like ISIS propagandists who spin every loss as but a temporary setback on the path to inevitable triumph. They focus on the fact that the group has strongholds elsewhere—in Afghanistan, for instance—and argue that it will return at some later stage, revitalized…

No doubt it’s true that ISIS has some life left in it. Journalists and experts ought to counter Trump’s bombastic rhetoric that “we have defeated ISIS” and point out nuances and complexity in the ongoing fight against the group. But they are also under an obligation to concede the glaringly obvious: ISIS will not be able to replicate the scale of violence and chaos it unleashed when it had large areas of land and all the resources and potential income that went with it. Loss of territory will also, as Georgetown’s Bruce Hoffman has pointed out, reduce the Islamic State’s global appeal, making it difficult to recruit and retain supporters.