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Opinion

Opinion: Why ISIS Terrorism Won't Work

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CNN // Jordanian Queen Rania, center, holds a placard during a demonstration in Amman, Jordan, on Friday, February 6, after the death of pilot Moath al-Kasasbeh by ISIS.Peter Bergen (CNN) — Does terrorism ever work? 9/11 was an enormous tactical success for al Qaeda, partly because it involved attacks that took place in the media capital of the world and the actual capital of the United States, thereby ensuring the widest possible coverage of the event.

If terrorism is a form of theater where you want a lot of people watching, no event in human history was likely ever seen by a larger global audience than the 9/11 attacks.

At the time, there was much discussion about how 9/11 was like the attack on Pearl Harbor. They were indeed similar since they were both surprise attacks that drew America into significant wars.

Opinion: Why Beheading Journalists Backfires

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AlFurqan Media // Image from video released by Islamic StateThe Christian Science Monitor — Journalists are frequently targeted simply for doing their job of helping others better understand the world. Most people want this truth-telling service and might even pay for it. But often those in authority or those with guns seek to jail or kill a news messenger.

These days, reporters from China to Egypt and even in the United States face various types of repression. But nothing quite compares to the beheading of three journalists in recent months by the Islamic State militants.

The latest reporter to be killed by the jihadist group, Japanese freelancer Kenji Goto, knew the dangers of reporting near a war zone like that in Syria. He had once been captured by Al Qaeda and released.

Opinion: America's Body-Bag Foreign Policy Won't Help the Middle East

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/AFP/Getty Images // Saleh al-Baradei, a Lebanese police officer kidnapped along with four soldiers by the Al-Nusra Front, the Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda, celebrates with relatives after his release on Aug. 31, 2014.John Farmer (The Star-Ledger) — To hear Republican hawks (and some like-minded Democrats) tell it, the way to deal with Islamist jihadists torching the Middle East is to go in there with American military might and kick their keisters.

It's a formulation with understandable appeal. It's simple and qualifies as a "policy," something everyone says we lack in the Middle East. A simple policy. What could be better? Or, more correctly, what could be more of a pipe dream?

Daily reports from that tortured region tells us that those who think American muscle is the answer underestimate how hydra-headed the Islamist threat really is, how many Islamist off-shoots are vying for dominance.

Opinion: An Incomplete Victory in the War Against ISIS

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Jake Simkin/AP/File // Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) soldiers walk near the town entrance circle heading to their strongholds in Kobani, Syria, on Nov. 19, 2014.Adam Chandler (The Atlantic) — Throughout ISIS’s three-month siege of Kobani, the heavily Kurdish Syrian border town, many wondered whether the battle would prove the Islamic State’s Waterloo. For a group that so heavily relies on propaganda and momentum, its apparent defeat there this week at the hands of Kurdish forces (backed by American airstrikes) stings far beyond the battlefield.

“ISIL’s defeat in Kobane further shatters the organization’s claims to invincibility,” Al Jazeera‘s Mohammed Salih writes, “particularly as it coincides with the group’s retreat from Kurdish and other Iraqi forces in northern and central Iraq.”

Some experts have emphasized the importance of the defeat in the context of the group’s efforts to mobilize foreign fighters. Australians, Canadians, Europeans, and recruits from across the Middle East were among the 1,200 killed in Kobani while fighting under the Islamic State banner.

Opinion: How to Spot a Jihadist

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Group H3 // Part of a poster produced by the government of FranceAndrew Giambrone (The Atlantic) — How do you spot a radical jihadist? According to the French government, several signs should alert people that “a process of radicalization is underway.”

“They” (meaning radicalized individuals): mistrust old friends, whom they now consider 'impure'… abruptly change their eating habits … no longer watch television or go to the movies because [these may show] images that are forbidden to them … change their attire, especially women, with clothes that conceal the body … [and] stop listening to music because it distracts them from their 'mission.'

These individuals, the French government states in new anti-jihadist literature published Wednesday, also “withdraw into themselves, displaying antisocial behavior, rejecting every form of authority, or life in community.” Not unlike a Symptom Checker post on WebMD, the guidance contains a caveat: “The identification of one or more of these signs does not necessarily indicate radicalization.” So how exactly is someone in France supposed to tell the difference between 'us' and 'them'?

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