Al-Qaida, behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America and scores of other massacres worldwide, is beginning to look like an unorganized gang of amateurs - in comparison to the so-called Islamic State.
Formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, Islamic State seems to have more militant followers and more resources than al-Qaida. It certainly controls more territory.
Wherever Islamic State terrorist troops go, the Sunni Muslim group slaughters those who do not adhere to their severe religious beliefs. That includes Shiite Muslims, Christians, Jews and others.
Already, the Islamic State controls part of Syria and much of Iraq.
Recently the Islamic State expanded its zone of aggression to Lebanon. It claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Beirut. That is a clear demonstration the Islamic State has militant supporters in that country, possibly poised for more attacks.
For some time it appeared the Islamic State was just another splinter terrorist group, similar to others inspired by al-Qaida.
Now we know better. The Islamic State is a major threat to the entire Middle East - to hundreds of millions of people and resources including vast deposits of petroleum. Continuing Islamic State attacks could spark a region-wide war.
What, if anything, do U.S. officials have in mind to curb the Islamic State? Even in Iraq, President Barack Obama's administration has adopted an arms-length attitude toward fighting the terrorists. What will happen if they step up their assaults in Lebanon or move into other countries?
We know now al-Qaida's success might have been prevented by U.S. action. Will we adopt the same attitude toward the Islamic State?