This excellent article in The Atlantic comes out against the idea of a”smash and leave” war against ISIS of the type the US tried and failed in Iraq and Afghanistan. It warns that just defeating ISIS militarily at great cost and then withdrawing–as opposed to staying and supervising–would accomplish worse than nothing: It would drive ISIS underground, the next radical Islamist group would rise up to take its place…and then what?
In exceptional style these days, though–the Atlantic article links to the opposing arguments throughout. So with this one source, you can spend as long as you like researching the thinking of leading military and political science minds about the issue.
Here is another point that isn’t developed but warrants close consideration. Anyone my age who’s had to take off shoes at an airport should agree:
In our view, U.S. politics overreacts to terrorism—an important problem but not an existential threat to the American way of life unless Americans’ own reactions make it so.
The article advocates containment of all the radical Islamic threats. Where it stops, though, is just before defining what exactly that means , and a clear prescription of what should be done instead of all-out war.
It does mention the humanitarian efforts that can be undertaken, but I believe those are the key to repairing the damage to the West’s image in the Mideast starting from its colonial heritage and extending through the disastrous “smash and leave” operations of the immediate past, especially the US-led war in Iraq.
For a fraction of the money being spent on military operations, the US and its allies could be helping the millions of refugees from the region’s conflicts, allowing them to stay in the region instead of flooding Europe, for example, and giving them acceptable lives while they’re waiting for the dust to settle so that they can return home–which is what the vast majority of them want to do.
It’s worthwhile noting that impoverished refugee camps are crucibles for radical political and religious behavior, so that the camps themselves could generate a security threat in the not too distant future.
Concentrating on helping the refugees is a win-win-win-win deal. It gives aid to the people who are in need, it overrides their drive toward Europe, it refurbishes the damaged image of the West, and it contributes to security.
No other policy offers so many wins.