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Why bombing ISIS could make it more of a threat to the US

Why is the United States bombing the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)? The obvious answer is that the US wants to kick ISIS out of the territory it conquered. But that answer raises a more fundamental question: Why is it worth going to war to boot the violent Islamist group out of land that's thousands of miles away from the US?

There are two obvious answers. One is humanitarian: ISIS is evil, and they shouldn't be allowed to slaughter civilians and destabilize the region with impunity. Another is self-interested: ISIS' caliphate is the world's greatest safe-haven for violent jihadis, the kind of place that could spawn another 9/11-style plot.

Whatever you think about the humanitarian claims (I find them compelling), the national security justification may actually be far weaker than most people think. Conversations with experts on ISIS suggest that, right now, the group isn't focused on attacking the United States. But the more the US bombs them, the more of a target the US becomes — meaning that the strikes could create more danger than they prevent.

Al-Qaeda wants to hit America, ISIS wants to seize territory


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