The US government has confirmed what we all know: the Islamic State did indeed execute James Wright Foley, an American journalist who was captured by the group in Binesh, Syria on Nov. 22, 2012. The Islamic State issued the gruesome video yesterday, and it was clear that the person who spoke and was then beheaded was Foley. In a statement on Foley’s death, US Secretary of State John Kerry described the Islamic State as “evil”:
There is evil in this world, and we all have come face to face with it once again. Ugly, savage, inexplicable, nihilistic, and valueless evil. ISIL [Islamic State] is the face of that evil, a threat to people who want to live in peace, and an ugly insult to the peaceful religion they violate every day with their barbarity.
The question that remains is how the US will respond to the very public and extremely brutal execution of an American citizen. Will President Obama order an end to the US airstrikes? Will he continue to strike at limited targets? Or will he expand the effort to confront the Islamic State head on, work with partners in Iraq, and open a front in Syria to defeat the jihadist group? If the Islamic State is indeed “the face of that evil” that threatens our very way of life, then the obvious answer is the latter.
As of now, US officials are saying the airstrikes will continue. But President Obama has recently made clear that US military operations are limited in scope (even if he has moved the goalposts already) and that the US will not send in ground forces or serve as the Iraqi military’s air force.
If the US maintains the course, then expect the Islamic State to issue another beheading video, this time of Steven Joel Sotloff, who was shown at the end of the Foley execution video. Additionally, there are three other Americans who are reported to be missing in Syria: Austin Tice, and two others who have not been named. If the Islamic State has them, it may continue to roll out execution videos in an effort to break the Obama administration’s will to continue the strikes.