I normally pay very little attention to Thomas Friedman, mainly because he so rarely takes a break from openly pining for Chinese-style autocracy to say anything even remotely useful. Now Friedman is trying to compare ISIL to the Joker from The Dark Knight. I should probably ignore this drivel too, but I just can't stand seeing someone use such a great movie to make such a shitty analogy.
If you insist on comparing ISIL to a Batman villain, then they are clearly Bane, not the Joker. ISIL doesn't "just want to watch the world burn", they want to run it; they want to be the ones who get to decide which cities are spared and which cities are burned to the ground. ISIL doesn't see itself as an agent of chaos, it sees itself as a check against the decadence of the West, much as The League of Shadows sees itself as a check against the decadence of Gotham.
( And of course, Friedman being Friedman, his ultimate diagnosis is that Iraq and Syria just weren't enough like China to keep ISIL from spreading. Sigh. )
By the way, if anyone is like the Joker here, it's Obama. The Joker wanted to upset the order of things; he wanted to turn the heroes of Gotham City into villains by repeatedly forcing them into making impossible decisions. Obama seems pretty intent on upsetting the order of things too. ( Hey, remember his promise to fundamentally transform the country? How did that work out for everyone? ) The Joker detests what he calls planners and schemers. Obama doesn't seem to much care for people who have plans either; he told us about eleventy billion times that if we liked our plans we could keep our plans, but of course that was always a pernicious lie. Speaking of lies, the Joker tells so many conflicting stories about himself in The Dark Knight that you can't tell if there is any truth at all there buried under all the fabrications; he might as well have been Obama's ghostwriter. And how can anyone watch that scene where the Joker sets a great big pile of money on fire just to piss people off without thinking of Obama?