Fighting against insurgencies are always difficult, but almost impossible when the two sides have asymmetric goals for the outcome of the confrontation.
Fighting against a force that is not only willing to commit actions of genocide, but also expect an apocalyptic ending to the world, is almost impossible.
Even winning through annihilation gives them an ideological victory.
Who Is the Imam Mahdi?
While there is no actual reference to this character of Islamic prophecy in the Qu'ran, this concept was popularized in the hadith and continues to be taught in many -- especially extremist -- Islamic schools of thought.
The appearance of the Imam Mahdi coincides with the second coming of Jesus Christ (which is in the Qu'ran) and will usher in a short 'glorious' period by the sword before the day of Judgement.Many believe that the Imam Mahdi will only appear to a pure Islamic people, untainted by western ideals (hence the ideological foundations of the Islamic State).
This is not a prophecy genre that is wholly exclusive to Islam. Anyone familiar with Christian texts understands a similar occurrence in "the winepress of God's wrath" found in the Book of Revelation -- where unbelievers are ruthlessly slaughtered at the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Former-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was believed to be fascinated by the Imam Mahdi prophecies, often claiming that the United States was out to get the Imam Mahdi.
But it was also speculated that this was why he, and the Guardian Council, were so intent on weapons of mass destruction, as both a measure of protection and a means to usher in this apocalypse.
And while this is a very oversimplified description of the Imam Mahdi, the relevance should be clear -- those who believe in this prophecy are intent on bringing about an apocalyptic prophecy, even at the risk of their own demise.
How Can You Fight Against an Apocalyptic Sect?
It's not just ISIS we have to worry about; it's the reaction of the world's other billion or so believers in Islam we have to really worry about.
If we had the will (right or wrong) we could wipe out the Islamic State overnight in one of the most spectacular examples of genocide in modern warfare.
But then what?Part of their ideological battle would be won; after all, they expect to be attacked by their enemies. Are we willing to make them martyrs?
Even worse, are we willing to keep spreading war until we run out of Islamic countries to fight?
We must accept that we are fighting a totally different war against the Islamic State, one not even fought against Al Qaeda.
Al Qaeda's goals were economic, territorial, and religious -- seemingly in that order. With the Islamic state, the reverse seems to be true.
Until more moderate Islamic states, like Jordan, are willing to fully condemn ISIS as apostates of Islam and actively fight against them, most of our own military actions are playing right into ISIS' ideological plans.
If we ever really needed to have a sitting government in the United States that could build coalitions, the time is now.
Our role should not be to protect these moderate Islamic nations from further ISIS incursion, but to teach them and expect them to fight for themselves -- fully renouncing the Islamic State as they do so.
It is only once the Islamic State is isolated from all other Islamic nations that they lose their ideological 'currency' in the battle.