Before taking any potential action taken against ISIS, the president has to consider both international and domestic American politics. He also has to weigh the consequences of any action considered against taking no action at all. Before looking at potential uses of military force against ISIS, it is worthwhile looking at the requisite considerations prior to even reaching that point.

One of the quirks of democratic governments is that, unlike dictatorships, the presidents of free nations have to make direct appeals to their citizens and garner public support for their actions. Deep into Obama’s second term, his administration has displayed a schizophrenic foreign policy that seeks to defer decisions on any and all international crises. Essentially, the Obama administration is “kicking the can down the road” for the next administration. The crisis in Iraq and Syria has now reached a breaking point, however, and kicking the can is more unpopular than picking it up and doing something with it.

Indeed, failure to take action against ISIS at this juncture will result in consequences almost too horrifying to contemplate. The humanitarian crisis, which ISIS has created, already stretches across Kurdistan, Turkey, Iraq, and Syria. ISIS has created more than three million refugees. It has killed and executed civilians, including men, women, and children, on a scale that can legitimately be described as genocide. ISIS has sexually enslaved women and girls as young as nine. The human rights crisis in the region has spiraled out of control.

Refusing to take action against ISIS will ensure that it continues to capture territory across the Middle East. As ISIS grows in strength with each successful battle, it will set up the infrastructure of something resembling a functional state. That is to say, it will become a self-funded organization making millions of dollars from oil revenue. Left unchecked, it is hard to say how powerful it could become. The dream of a pan-Islamic caliphate is most certainly beyond its reach; however, it could carve out a very large swath of the Middle East for its empire.
Perhaps the most frightening scenario is if ISIS is able to capture Baghdad and unseat what is left of a functional Iraqi government, and then heads south to Saudi Arabia. If ISIS were to capture the two most holy sites of the Islamic faith, Mecca and Medina, the entire Middle East might very well implode.