How to Make ISIS Fall on Its Own Sword
How to Make ISIS Fall on Its Own Sword
By Chelsea Manning / readersupportednews.org
Sep 17, 2014
Degrade and destroy? The west should try to disrupt the canny militants into self-destruction, because bombs will only backfire

The Islamic State (Isis) is without question a very brutal extremist group with origins in the insurgency of the United States occupation of Iraq. It has rapidly ascended to global attention by taking control of swaths of territory in western and northern Iraq, including Mosul and other major cities.

Based on my experience as an all-source analyst in Iraq during the organization’s relative infancy, Isis cannot be defeated by bombs and bullets – even as the fight is taken to Syria, even if it is conducted by non-Western forces with air support.

I believe that Isis is fueled precisely by the operational and tactical successes of European and American military force that would be – and have been – used to defeat them. I believe that Isis strategically feeds off the mistakes and vulnerabilities of the very democratic western states they decry. The Islamic State’s center of gravity is, in many ways, the United States, the United Kingdom and those aligned with them in the region.

When it comes to regional insurgency with global implications, Isis leaders are canny strategists. It’s clear to me that they have a solid and complete understanding of the strengths and, more importantly, the weaknesses of the west. They know how we tick in America and Europe – and they know what pushes us toward intervention and overreach. This understanding is particularly clear considering the Islamic State’s astonishing success in recruiting numbers of Americans, Britons, Belgians, Danes and other Europeans in their call to arms.

Attacking Isis directly, by air strikes or special operations forces, is a very tempting option available to policymakers, with immediate (but not always good) results. Unfortunately, when the west fights fire with fire, we feed into a cycle of outrage, recruitment, organizing and even more fighting that goes back decades. This is exactly what happened in Iraq during the height of a civil war in 2006 and 2007, and it can only be expected to occur again.

And avoiding direct action with Isis can be successful. For instance, in 2009 and 2010, forerunners to the Isis group attacked civilians in suicide and car bombings in downtown Baghdad to try and provoke American intervention and sectarian unrest. But they were often not effective in their recruiting efforts when American and Iraqi forces refused (or were unable) to respond, because the barbarity and brutality of their attacks worked against them. When we did respond, however, the attacks were sold to the Sunni minority in Iraq as a justified response to an occupying government favoring the Shia government led by former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Based on my intelligence work in Iraq during that period, I believe that only a very focused and consistent strategy of containment can be effective in reducing the growth and effectiveness of Isis as a threat. And so far, Western states seem to have adopted that strategy. With very public humanitarian disasters, however, like the ones on Mount Sinjar and Irbil in northern Iraq, and the beheadings of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, this discipline gets tested and can begin to fray.

As a strategy to disrupt the growth of Isis, I suggest focusing on four arenas:

 

  • Set clear, temporary borders in the region, publicly. This would discourage Isis from taking certain territory where humanitarian crises might be created, or humanitarian efforts impeded.

 

 

  • Let Isis succeed in setting up a failed “state” – in a contained area and over a long enough period of time to prove itself unpopular and unable to govern. This might begin to discredit the leadership and ideology of Isis for good

 

Eventually, if they are properly contained, I believe that Isis will not be able to sustain itself on rapid growth alone, and will begin to fracture internally. The organization will begin to disintegrate into several smaller, uncoordinated entities – ultimately failing in their objective of creating a strong state.

But the world just needs to be disciplined enough to let the Isis fire die out on its own, intervening carefully and avoiding the cyclic trap of “mission creep”. This is certainly a lot to ask for. But Isis is wielding a sharp, heavy and very deadly double-edged sword. Now just wait for them to fall on it.

4.3 ·
7
Trending Today
"The Myth of Time" - Martin Luther King Jr.
3 min · 12,899 views today · Excerpt from MLK Jr.'s last sermon, "Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution". Delivered at The National Cathedral on March 31, 1968 (4 days prior to his...
Surviving Capitalist Depression
Michael Emero · 6,462 views today · We live in a toxic society filled with toxic people. Even the ones with the best hearts- including ourselves- have been raised in ignorance, with disinformation. Our examples...
Real Underground Kingdom That Has Existed for Millions of Years Went Unnoticed, Until Recently...
Kid Krunk · 6,462 views today · 28 Stunning Photos Of The World’s Largest Cave
How a Lack of Touch Is Destroying Men
Mark Green · 6,354 views today · Why Men Need More Platonic Touch in their Lives
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 3,387 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Hans Rosling Brilliantly Explains Complexity of Population and Resource Issues Using Simple Tools
3 min · 2,227 views today · Let me show you the world, says Swedish academic Han Rosling as he demonstrates the dynamics of population growth, child mortality and carbon dioxide emissions. The challenge...
How Wolves Change Rivers
4 min · 1,988 views today · When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the United States after being absent nearly 70 years, the most remarkable "trophic cascade" occurred. What is a...
A Hauntingly Beautiful Short Film About Life and Death
5 min · 1,899 views today · The Life of Death is a touching handdrawn animation about the day Death fell in love with Life.
True Justice Should Have Compassion in It
Thich Nhat Hanh · 1,891 views today · I believe that true justice should have compassion in it. When someone does something harmful, destructive, the destruction is done not only to the person who is the victim...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,817 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
The Price of Certainty
7 min · 1,179 views today · It’s alarming to see how polarized politics have become in the United States. The wider the gulf grows, the more people seem to be certain that the other side is wrong...
What It Really Means to Hold Space for Someone
Heather Plett · 890 views today · How to be there for the people who need you most
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 778 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
How to Fire Your Boss: A Worker's Guide to Direct action
IWW · 650 views today · The indignity of working-for-a-living is well-known to anyone who ever has. Democracy, the great principle on which our society is supposedly founded, is thrown out the window...
Touch Isolation: How Homophobia Has Robbed All Men Of Touch
Mark Greene · 638 views today · Homophobic prohibitions against male touch are hurting straight men as well.
Meet the Earthship
7 min · 397 views today · Outside of Taos, New Mexico, you'll find a community of people living in off-grid homes made of garbage. The homes are called Earthships and were invented by Michael Reynolds...
The Importance of Empathy
3 min · 380 views today · With an increasingly polarized and divided world, we need empathy more than ever before. Too often we are talking at each other, unable to listen and jumping to entirely wrong...
HUMAN (2015)
382 min · 367 views today · What is it that makes us human? Is it that we love, that we fight? That we laugh? Cry? Our curiosity? The quest for discovery?  Driven by these questions, filmmaker and artist...
Growing Huge Amounts of Food on 1/2 an Acre - Urban Abundance
5 min · 337 views today · In the small town of Oxford, Kane and Fiona Hogan have transformed their urban 1/2-acre property into abundant veggie gardens. Their business Urban Gardener aims to build...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 330 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
Load More
What's Next
Like us on Facebook?
How to Make ISIS Fall on Its Own Sword