It is easy to see the violent jihadist wings of Islam as evil and crazy, and to conclude that we must expand our commitment to bloody war in the middle east. But I think a little deeper thinking is required.
Very shortly after the 9/11 2001 attacks a dear friend of mine pointed out that the mighty Roman Empire was unable to stop Christianity. Even they were unable to suppress a religious movement. Indeed the slaughter of Christians only created martyrs, which strengthened the growth of the religion.
At the time I was totally in favor of our invasion of Afghanistan, and later, Iraq. Over time, however, I reluctantly grew to realize that our military effort in Iraq was only creating more terrorists than we were killing. So, I concluded that our invasion of Iraq had been a terrible mistake. I do not want to see us repeat that mistake against ISIL.
The Spanish Inquisition lasted over 300 years, I believe. It took a lot of time for competing Christian philosophies to learn to live in peace. I wish I knew what ended the Spanish Inquisition, because that is what is needed now in Islam. (Maybe God managed to sneak in the idea that God was love, not vengeance or righteous punishment and dogma. After all, the religious at least pretend to pray to God, and maybe some of them listen in return? That is my vision.)
If seems to me that today's bloodshed is the result of a violent war between The Sunnis and the Shia. The West is essentially collateral damage in that war as each side targets us for as part of its war against the other. It seems to me that the west cannot settle that conflict, we can't even pick sides. We have no dog in that hunt. Our demand to both parties is that they stop killing us and that they find a way to live with tolerance for each other and for everybody else.
The main tool we have to defend ourselves is not military might, but rather modern philosophy. This is a war of ideas, not of savagery.The real war is the war of ideologies, and the West's best strategy is a powerful message of economic success coupled with emotional and spiritual fulfillment possible in the modern world.
How do we teach the intolerant to be tolerant? Demonstration is perhaps our strongest argument. We do manage to live with many religions in the West without endless bloodshed. And we need to vigorously protect ourselves against their crazies out to slaughter infidels and blasphemers - us.