That, of course, has not happened. Indeed, in many areas across the globe, ISIS is the law. The group has established working governments in zones they control from Africa to Afghanistan (see map). Its leaders have exploited civil wars and native Muslim populations to ring the globe with lands paying tribute to their often far-away sovereigns in Syria and Iraq. The “joke” has been on us.
Increasingly, in fact, it has been the West that has lost the power to control its own borders and national integrity. The efforts of European nations to defend their own sovereignty have been less effective, in many ways, than ISIS’s ability to create a sovereign nation from scratch in the Levant. Thus the spectacle of the mastermind of the Paris bombings, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, gloating that he freely traversed Europe despite being on multiple wanted lists there. He freely calls out European nations for welcoming Syrian refugees and enabling his exploits.
Will unusual alliances form to counter this threat? In the wake of the worst attacks on French soil since World War II, French President Francois Hollande naturally seeks to restore the alliance that helped end the evil at the heart of that same struggle. He has called upon the United States and Russia to put aside their differences to combat ISIS, just as the Allied Powers overlooked profound ideological and strategic goals in vanquishing the Nazis.
It is striking, at such moments, how little has changed in the balance of geopolitical power since the Second World War. France, which helped create America, now regularly relies upon it to safeguard the freedoms both nations cherish. Despite the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia remains America’s global rival.
And radical Islam tenaciously defies them all.