The Islamic State is a nasty bunch. They kill captured men, sell the women into slavery and do 'unspeakable' things to the children.
Yet they seem to be moving from strength to strength. Instead of being isolated and wiped out by the more civilized armed factions in Syria in Iraq, they rapidly appear to taking over the joint. Even Bashar Assad's military is now being driven back in disarray from fixed positions.
How can this be? How can such a nasty bunch of savages be growing in popularity?
I would argue that it is a rather simple calculation, one conquerors have long used to improve their stature: fear.
Let's face it, no one is afraid of the United States. Oh, they were, a few years ago. Back in 2002, our enemies crapped their pants because they thought we were coming after them. When Saddam was pulled from the spider hole, Americans were People With Whom You Do Not F*ck.
But since then, we're pretty much the safest game animal in the jungle.
We want to talk to everybody - Iran, Russia, Hamas - you name it. I'm sure some of our top people are even now seeking to open a dialog with ISIS.
Which is the problem.
ISIS has sent a clear and unmistakable signal and their neighbors are reading it loud and clear: If you resist them and fail, you will die. Not only that, your loved ones will be tormented and killed as well.
So if you are a Syrian conscript, an Iraqi militiaman or a rival ganger, the safe play is to stay away from them.
The Mongols knew this. The Romans knew this. While head-hacking and child slavery may cause elite Western leftists to click their tongues in disapproval, it does wonders out in the actual theater of operations. Even the Kurds are hunkering down and digging in.
At this point, it is hard to have much optimism for the world. While ISIS continues to build it strength with its Road Warrior campaign across the Fertile Cresecent, our own elites are terrified that scary words might be uttered near college co-eds.
History will record that the same week and American journalist was defiantly killed, the newspaper of the national capital considered the name of a local sports team to be a burning issue.