If you're having trouble telling the good guys from the bad guys in the complicated world of global conflict and geo-politics, here's a hint: the people who saw other people's heads off with a combat knife and upload the videos on YouTube are the bad guys.
For the better part of a dozen years, there's been a widely-shared consensus that gray areas in western (i.e. American) foreign policy and military and intelligence tactics preclude the simplistic notion of white hats and black hats - a sentiment that gains credibility when the supposed good guys invade sovereign countries under false pretenses, torture suspects for information and violate their own citizens' right to privacy. But the butchers representing the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria are shining horrible light on the fundamentals of the post-9/11 struggle.
The videotaped beheading this week of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by the forces of the ISIS was only the latest shocking reminder of what Islamic jihad - or Holy War - stands for. The ISIS agenda, which they themselves faithfully document in gory detail on social media, is one of unapologetic and unremitting slaughter and destruction, and they pursue it fanatically - to the point where they've been disowned by Al-Qaeda. Think about that. The people who flew commercial airliners loaded with passengers and aviation fuel into office towers teeming with unsuspecting people starting their work day are unsettled and alienated by the extremism of ISIS.
If any good can come of the cruel, calculated murder of James Foley, it's that the moral equivalency crowd should finally understand that no matter how misleading or suspect American military and intelligence policy might be, it's being conducted on a war footing and is predicated on securing and protecting western interests and values from something far more insidious and evil.
Even if you're still not clear whose side you're on, it's abundantly clear who's on your side.