With its attacks on Paris, ISIS has triggered the war it wants. By defining itself as a unified government within defined borders – a state – it has achieved its objective of establishing a Sunni country under Sharia Law. Its amorphous predecessors had hidden under proxy governments in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Now, the West has a target and a casus bellum, a justification for war. By declaring war on the IS, Europe recognizes its statehood. To the fanatics in charge of the new state, the war will, at least for awhile, legitimize their movement in the bloody minds of the naive. A unified, militarized Europe will solidify the EU and NATO – if the USA is willing to provide leadership. Otherwise, the war effort may cause irreparable rifts in the European alliance.
Russia’s involvement risks a different set of challenges, but perhaps opportunities for a united Western Europe to assert itself against Russian influence in Central Europe. The challenge is really Putin’s – how will he react to an EU fighting for the same geography south of Turkey? Is he willing to risk a Ukrainian Front?
The United States is, once again, the indispensable nation. American capabilities will be essential if the war is to be won. American diplomacy will also be tested in directing the alliance, requiring a steadiness of purpose from the White House and Congress.