Stopping ISIS

ISIS has now added a second murderous attack on Paris in 2015, this time hitting six targets.

Europe has joined forces, committing to collective- defense responses to ISIS. Russia took an important symbolic step by announcing that it was in fact a terrorist bomb had downed its plane over the Sinai Peninsula.

But no detailed common strategy has been shaped. Obama is correct (despite Republican disagreement) to say that ground troops should come mainly from the military forces of countries in the region. That judgment is not made from weakness, as Republicans would have it, but because under Obama, America will pursue the most effective strategy to eliminate ISIS.

The crucial component of a strong strategy is diplomacy, as demonstrated by the meetings in Turkey and Vienna with all the key international players present.  The U.S., Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia, Iran, Turkey, and the Gulf states haven’t yet agreed on everything, very importantly including the place of President Assad in a Syrian peace agreement. Yet they have agreed on destroying ISIS (with other objectives, explicitly or implicitly, ranked lower in importance).

To defeat ISIS, we must listen to ISIS. Many western commentators–at least before last weekend’s carnage—emphasized western responsibility for the turmoil in the Middle East.  Among the corollaries was the position that western attacks gave the terrorists the excuse they needed for their barbarism.  Also, it has been popular to say that we shouldn’t send in troops to Syria because that is what ISIS wants.

Whatever the truths of western responsibility, ISIS doesn’t care. Its goal is to kill as many infidels as possible. They want an Armageddon battle and to recruit soldiers on that heady narcotic. They have also proved definitively that they don’t want to be left alone in their caliphate.

They want the world, and the world must stop them.” The strategy to do this has been immediately launched. Russian, French and American planes and Kurdish troops took back the ISIS capital of Raqqa November 17, depriving ISIS of some territory and inhabitants to tax. ISIS needs trucks to raise revenue from exporting its oil. American planes have taken out 100 trucks so far and are cutting the key route from Syria to the Iraqi border.

Such broad-based determination suggests the likelihood that a plan for transition in Syria will be set in motion. On the negative side, we can certainly expect more high-profile attacks. Not all will fail.

Elizabeth Spiro Clark, Chair
International Affairs Task Force

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