Just when you thought human brutality in 2015 could not get worst, the Islamic State released a video of the burning alive of a captured Jordanian pilot. Western and Japanese civilians were only beheaded; now a Muslim military pilot is burned to death by Muslims. The President must consider what type of response the U.S. and its allies can take before or together with the expected Jordanian response to the brutal murder of its airman. There are no easy choices but it is rapidly becoming clear that the potential for human barbarity is only growing in the region.
The continuing failures of the West to have any influence on the brutality and terrorism which is engulfing the entire Middle East–from Turkey and Libya to Yemen and Afghanistan—also ought to make the fear of Iranian nuclear weapons even more frightening than it appeared to many until now. If the mentality of those in the region can tolerate this type of brutality, perhaps there is a genuine reason to believe that should Iran achieve nuclear weapons capability it will not be deterred from using them. Similarly, the increased Russian escalation in Eastern Ukraine suggests that unless the U.S. and its allies are prepared, at a minimum, to elevate sanctions against Russia and provide increased weapons and support to the Ukrainians, it too is likely to fall into chaos—at best.
Picking sides in all of these conflicts is not easy. Trying to restore order is also not simple. Economic sanctions, even when there is a cost at home, seem to be a no-brainer with increased military engagement a more realistic possibility. The U.S. Government needs to decide who its friends and allies actually are, and then it must be prepared to let the chips fall where they may. America’s European allies must deal with the realization that while they first would like to attend to their own internal economic problems, a failure to endure the economic consequences of elevated sanctions now, may make the geopolitical consequences in the days ahead seem like children’s play.