Invitation to a Beheading

Borrowing a title from the book by Vladimir Nabokov, we can say that the beheadings of innocents in Syria have changed everything. Two British aid workers, two American journalists, and one American aid worker, executed for all the world to see. Events too horrible for our children to look at.

As Jeffrey Goldberg pointed out at the Harvard Kennedy School's Shorenstein Center on November 18, journalists in the past were often regarded as neutral intermediaries between hostage takers and those willing to pay ransom. Now it is unsafe for journalists to go anywhere near ISIS.

The upside for ISIS is that it attracts more recruits, including European natives such as the two Frenchmen who were present at the murder of the latest victim, the American Peter Kassig. The downside is that it has attracted the implacable enmity of the West. Just ask Osama bin Laden.

The debate over boots on the ground in Iraq and Syria has now lost its meaning. The U.S. has got to respond to the beheading of innocent American citizens. The beheadings have turned around American public opinion.

ISIS has taken a fateful step too far. It may not fully realize this, or it may not care.