After the dramatic and horrible Paris terror attacks last Friday, many are alarmed that the ISIS threat is out of control. In a reactive pose that has become routine for the group, it has claimed responsibility for — or, more accurately, boorishly celebrated — the tragic venture that killed 132. But whatever ISIS’s degree of complicity in the Paris attacks, it does not deserve credit for great military prowess.

ISIS’s ability to behead defenseless hostages certainly should not be taken to suggest its military might. Its major military advance, the conquest of the city of Mosul in Iraq last year, was essentially a fluke. Its idea was to hold part of the city for a while in an effort, it seems, to free some prisoners. The defending Iraqi army, trained by the American military at enormous cost to U.S. taxpayers, fell apart in confusion and disarray, abandoning weaponry, and the city, to the tiny group of seeming invaders.
After its advances of 2014, the vicious group’s momentum has been substantially halted, and its empire is currently under a form of siege. On close examination, its once highly-vaunted economic capacity — selling a lot of oil and antiquities — seems to be proving to be as illusory as its military prowess. And it has to work hard to keep people from fleeing its lumpen Caliphate. (As we are constantly reminded, however, its ability to tweet remains strong.)