Who is the Intended Audience for the James Foley Beheading Video?


The video showing the beheading of American journalist James Foley is gruesome in the extreme.

But for whom is it intended?

Writing for BBC News, former Assistant Secretary of State P.J. Crowley argues

the video's primary target is actually the Muslim world, those who already explicitly or tacitly support the Islamic State or those, particularly westerners, who may be attracted to join the twin conflicts. The narrator (who has a British accent) says their group has been accepted by a larger number of Muslims worldwide.

Taking a page from its previous experience in Iraq, Islamic State wants Muslims worldwide to view the American military campaign as a renewed war against Islam.

The Islamic State is unlikely to sway all that many minds through this video. Notwithstanding its stunning successes in recent months, there is little indication Muslims around the world or even in Iraq want to live in such a repressive society.

But it does reinforce the primary concern that governments have about the hundreds and perhaps thousands of young men from the United States and Europe who are now thought to have joined this "army".

The experience they gain in Iraq and Syria, and what they think and what they do once they go home, represents a potential long-term security threat.

Crowley, who served in the Obama administration until let go for making comments critical of the government's handling of Bradley Manning, says that the president has consistently tried to narrow the focus of the war ont terror since taking office in 2009. He continues:

[Obama] has tried to disaggregate the threat into discrete tactical campaigns—reluctantly forced into overt military action in Iraq while keeping Syria at arm's length, a broad international and regional approach to Nigeria's Boko Haram, and nominally covert campaigns in Pakistan and Yemen.

Read the whole thing.

While I find Crowley convincing that the main audience for the murder video is the Islamic world, I'm less convinced of his depiction of Obama trying to narrow U.S. focus in any consistent or coherent fashion when it comes to combating terrorism.

Obama's actions in Libya and his attempt to start bombing Syria without congressional authorization don't seem in line with that. Specifically, his statement regarding Iraq that the U.S. goal is to make sure ISIS "is not engaging in actions that could cripple a country" sounds like an open-ended commitment. Those actions and statements may mean something very different in the Middle East or the broader Muslim world, but here they sound very much like a president who has little sense of what to do next.

Given the relatively small numbers of true murderous extremists, it seems certain that the most effective actions will be very much on the granular level, of hunting down and killing specific individuals and groups with a minimum of fanfare. As Crowley notes, there is no mass constituency for violent, repressive rulers and taking out such monsters on a case-by-case basis is going to do far more to win over local populations than broad-based military actions are likely to do.

For more about Foley, go here.


NEXT: Watching ISIS James Foley Beheading Video Could Lead to Charges in U.K.; Graphic Images From Video Blocked on Twitter

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  1. It would seem the most apt target for this video would be the neocons in the USA. I think they collectively splooged once they heard about it.

    1. Actually, the new thing for neocons is to say he deserved it.

      1. That has to be a lie. You’re a liar. Stop lying. You really are the worst.

      2. Yep. They’ll probably just blame him for getting in the way of the military’s job, too.

  2. when I did a search on Google for that video, I got a screen telling me that I had violated Google’s terms of service and would not be allowed to continue using their service unless I confirmed my identity by submitting a captcha code. Seems kind of strange to me. I wish I had made a screen capture now.

    1. Damn, I watched the video last night with no issue. I remember watching all of the videos from the Iraq war too. Who knew Google would get so bitchy?

    1. Perhaps a poll could be taken? I wonder who has any experience polling “Millennials”?

      1. I bet Woody Allen does.

  3. Looks like another round is beginning in the War on Terrorism. Deep sympathies for this man and his family, but he’s now become a headless tool for the war machine and its liberty-fucking tentacles.

  4. of hunting down and killing specific individuals and groups with a minimum of fanfare.

    The center of gravity for a terrorist organization is its popular support. If it doesn’t have popular support, it can’t accomplish anything. The best way to get popular support is to win or appear to be winning. So killing these people without fanfare doesn’t help. You have to do more than kill them. You have to kill them and show the world at large it is a loser ideology.

    Unfortuately we have been doing this backwards. We should avoid fanfare not when we kill these people but when they kill us. The worst thing to do after a successful terrorist attack is act like it is a bigger deal than it is. Since our society is addicted to sentiment and mawkishness, however, we do just the opposite. We made celebrities out of the two losers in Boston and made it seem to the average Muslim that they had managed to do real damage when in fact they didn’t accomplish anything. In short, we should be celebrating our victories not our defeats. So, yes, every time we kill or capture one of these lunatics it should be a big deal so that the world understands that following this ideology is a ticket to a violent death or a long live in a cage or preferably a short life in a cage followed by a date with the end of a rope. Do that and it won’t seem very appealing anymore.

    1. We made celebrities out of the two losers in Boston and made it seem to the average Muslim that they had managed to do real damage when in fact they didn’t accomplish anything

      But they did accomplish something, they made a major American city collectively shit its pants and descend into shrieking terror and a police-military lockdown over two poorly armed idiots.

      1. Perhaps that reaction is a bit counterproductive and we should start working on not having it in the future.

        1. Too late, too many pussies applauding the cops and other government agents involved in the lockdown-illegal searches-panic fire fiasco.

        2. The assholes here think it was a success.

          There are Watertown Strong stickers all over the place here. Because in modern America, fucking up still gets you a trophy!

    2. There are certain countries in the world that live under the constant threat of actual terrorism – what they must think of us…

  5. As Crowley notes, there is no mass constituency for violent, repressive rulers

    Yes there is Nick. That is why they use guns and violence. Let someon walk into Reason and shoot Welch and put a gun to your head and I bet you would be part of their natural constituency real quick.

  6. This is the part where all the chicken-hawks come in, flapping and screeching about how we’re supposed to kill everyone in that area to get ISIS, right? Because collectivising guilt is the hallmark of liberty, or something.

    1. “chicken-hawks”? I thought that term went out in late 2004?

      1. Bloodthirsty, Internet tuff gais never goes out of style.

        1. But if we kill all the bad guys in Iraq, that will solve the problem!

        2. Bloodthirsty, Internet tuff gais

          Cyto will be here shortly…

          1. Bloodthirsty Canadian internet tuff gai is a much more novel angle.

        3. But didn’t the names/theme get updated – “chickenhawk” was one of those ‘you don’t get an opinion since you didn’t fight’ things. Which appeared to mean people who were too young or old or disabled or such didn’t get to have an opinion…?

    2. Since when does fighting a war require or imply killing everyone in the area? More importantly, who other than the voices in your head has ever seriously argued that we should kill everyone in the area?

      I thought all of the evil chinckhawk NEOCON’s crime was that they wanted to nation build and become the new colonials. Or is that the idiotic talking point on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and “they want to kill everyone” the one for Tuesdays and Thursdays?

      1. Since when does fighting a war require or imply killing everyone in the area?

        It doesn’t, but there have been posters on H&R suggesting we do just that.

        1. How about everyone in the volume. Space-Time.

      2. “Since when does fighting a war require or imply killing everyone in the area?”

        Carthage? Dresden, Hamburg, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki…?

        1. Just because it can involve it doesn’t mean it requires it.

  7. At the risk of being accused of having a 9/10 mentality – indict the murderers of a U.S. citizen (the beheader *and* those who gave the orders or enabled it by keeping the beheader in their group), demand that they turn themselves in, when they don’t, send a task force to seize them – if they resist, kill them, otherwise try them and hang them.

    1. This is one of the “rare” cases where the death penalty would be called for. Terrorists are always getting released as part of amnesties and what have you, or their colleagues hold hostages for the release of their “comrades,” so the argument that life imprisonment is a safe alternative doesn’t work here.

      1. Here’s hoping they resist arrest.

    2. Dear, sweet, naive Notorious. No. The only way to rectify this is by throwing another trillion dollars and another 4500 American lives at it.

      1. What is the point of our drone army if we don’t use it?

        When he is drunk asleep, or in his rage,
        Or in th’ incestuous pleasure of his bed,
        At game a-swearing, or about some act
        That has no relish of salvation in ‘t?
        Then trip him, that his heels may kick at heaven,
        And that his soul may be as damned and black
        As hell, whereto it goes.

        1. OK, maybe that’s a bit excessive, but only a bit.

          This is why outlawry can be a good thing. If you don’t turn yourself in to answer the serious accusations against you, then you’re a marked man – any vigilante or mercenary band can go in and kill the shit out of you.

    3. The problem is that we don’t swiftly try and hang people anymore. If we had tribunals that resulted in people being hung, the law enforcement approach to terrorism very well might work. But since we don’t, the law enforcement approach just causes them to either never be tried and sit in jail getting older and more sympathetic by the year or worse they are tried but in a way that poisons our justice system.

      In this case, it really isn’t “terrorism”. ISIS is an organized army and insurgent government that controls territory. They have, by killing an American committed an act of war against the United States. The United States is therefore perfectly justified to defend its citizens and make war against ISIS. That could take the for of either some kind of punitive expedition or an outright invasion and occupation and return of the ISIS occupied land to the government of Iraq.

      1. Dear lord, not another occupation! No, kill the bastards and let the survivors work out a way to govern themselves.

        1. Then launch a punitive expedition. And we don’t need to occupy. Just turn it over to the Iraqis. If the expedition is done properly, whatever is left of ISIS will decide that maybe invading Iraq and beheading Americans is not the best strategy.

        2. Maybe the French and the Germans could do the occupation for us? Might as well ask?

      2. “The problem is that we don’t swiftly try and hang people anymore.”

        OK, if the ISIS leaders surrender (rather than resist arrest and get shot), turn them over to the Iraqis like we did with Saddam “hung high as Haman” Hussein.

        1. Saddam didn’t wait on Iraqi death row for several decades while they wrung their hands about what to do with him.

    4. On the off chance that there was a body of water just out of view of the camera, I move for letters of marque and reprisal.

  8. Given the relatively small numbers of true murderous extremists

    …citation needed? Mind you, I’m not one of those fanatics who thinks we should occupy the Middle East for the next 100 years or that we should extinguish all life in the Fertile Crescent, but you just haven’t been paying attention if you’re not aware of current attitudes in the Middle East and even abroad wrt Islam’s relationship with other religions.

    1. Reason’s polling operation doesn’t extend that far.

      1. Never underestimate Reason-Rupe if Millenials are there- whether future or distant lands.

    2. I think it is fair to say that there are still small numbers of specifically murderous extremists, relative to the overall Muslim population.

      1. 0.1 is still a significant number when you’re talking about 1.7 billion muslims.

  9. I wonder how many Shikha the Dipshit Dalmia has “stirred the soup” while watching this video.

    1. Fuck off.

      1. My guess is only around three times so far, given that the executioner is masked.

        1. You don’t listen too good.

  10. I used to complain about drone killings in Yemen and the like. Turns out there is a group aching for a droning so hard even I can get behind it. Fuck you ISIS, behold the robot army of death from above.

    Here’s to hoping we can avoid collateral damage. But if they are moving outside a city we can kill them. If they are trapped in cities they are limited in the powers for destruction. The world will see skynet’s lust for blood and stand aghast in horror.

  11. Give al Qaeda some tactical nukes on the condition they use them to take out ISIS. Then install al Qaeda as a puppet government in Iraq and watch as a murderous rebellion destroys al Qaeda. Lather, rinse, repeat. It is basically an escalation of our historical policy in the Mideast, which is to simply manage the conflicts of local adversaries to maintain enough chaos to keep them too weak and unfocused to be a threat to us. Where the neocons failed is by believing we had the ability to fix all those problems that we perpetuated for so long.

    1. Note this was written tongue-in-cheek. The best option remaining to us is to walk away and convince the Europeans to draw a cordon around the Middle East, killing with fire any attempt by ISIS et al to expand beyond the traditional boundaries of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, etc. Let the Europeans deal with a mess in their back yard for once without our money and blood.

      1. The best option for the EU is to pull some horror movie or Hot Fuzz shit and create an entire fake town filled with nothing but cops, and have the newspaper in that town constantly print offensive shit about Mohammed. Angry Muslim yoots from around the world travel to that town with murder on their mind, and are never heard from again.

  12. there is no mass constituency for violent, repressive rulers

    So universities don’t exist then?

  13. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go? to tech tab for work detail


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  15. ” The experience they gain in Iraq and Syria, and what they think and what they do once they go home, represents a potential long-term security threat.”

    Hopefully they experience a bullet (or two) to the head on their Jihadi Holiday.

    ISIS is the best thing since sliced bread. Attract all the lunatic theocratic totalitarians of the world to a barren desert where they can get their wish and be martyred.

    That’s what I call a win/win proposition.

    And please, any bozo flying off to Syria now will have “I’m a Jihadi” tattooed to his forehead in neon for life, and that’s if we and he are so unfortunate that he doesn’t get martyred by a drone and sent to paradise.

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