Editor's Note: This is the second of a two-part column on the Islamic State’s use of extreme brutality as part of its strategy. Part I looked at the roots and intended effects of that brutality. Part II examines whether extreme brutality is sustainable or will be the group’s downfall, and what that means for the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State.
The past week brought another example of the deranged brutality of the so-called Islamic State. In this case, a video surfaced showing the extremists burning alive four prisoners from a Shiite militia group. Far from an anomaly, this was tragically in character for the group. Brutality defines it.
In last week’s Strategic Horizon column I discussed how the Islamic State uses brutality to seek psychological effects. This week’s essay will build on that and assess whether this level of brutality is sustainable, or if it is a vulnerability that the United States can exploit. As is often true, history provides clues.