In the annals of warfare there have been few conflicts as asymmetric as the United States against the Islamic State, which pits a global superpower at the head of an international coalition against a brutally ambitious terrorist group.
That dynamic of the strong against the seemingly weak was underscored in recent days, when President Obama used the pomp and ceremony of the annual United Nations General Assembly to rally the international community against an ideologically driven movement of extremists.
After chairing a rare U.N. Security Council meeting on the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIL or ISIS), Obama was uncharacteristically blunt in describing the nature of the challenge ahead. “The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force,” Obama said in his address. “So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.”
As if to reinforce Obama’s point, the Islamic State engaged in a display of coalition warfare of its own: Islamist militants in Algeria with sworn allegiance to IS released a video depicting the beheading of a French hostage in apparent retaliation for France’s participation in the U.S.-led air campaign.