Is ISIS evil?
The problem with that question is that the answer is as easy as it is useless. Yes, ISIS is evil and must be stopped. Saying so over and over again could very well make it harder to stop them.
There is only one good reason to denounce a group as evil — because you plan to injure them, and calling them evil makes it psychologically easier to do so. “Evil” is the most powerful word we have to prepare ourselves to kill other people comfortably.
The flip side is that “evil” is also a word that stops us from thinking.
There is no point in trying to understand evil because it is, in the most typical phrasing, “inhuman,” “senseless” or “beyond comprehension.” It is a fool’s quest to analyze the local realities and strategic imperatives of unthinking savages. There is something almost offensive about trying to understand such evil.
This sort of chin-yanking argle-bargle is a primary reason why I don’t pay much attention to big-domed public intellectuals.