David Ignatius is about as level-headed a writer on foreign affairs as you’re likely to find in the American press. So when he says the IS/Caliphate has “staying power,” you have to take notice. Here’s the conclusion to his latest WaPo column:
My takeaway from this unusual briefing was that the Obama administration needs a broad strategy that gradually degrades this group back to its earlier size. That won’t be quick or easy: Baghdadi has benefited from all of the failures of rival Muslim and secular revolutionaries in the Arab Spring. The Islamic State won’t implode because of its own mistakes. It will have to be fought, patiently and subtly.
Read the whole thing, of course.
Ignatius gives me hope that President Obama’s “months” long bombing campaign might be a good first step against the Islamic State, which Ignatius reports has international fighters “going home” to countries throughout the Middle East, Europe, and North America, “with or without orders, to start cells.” But the next step will have to be rallying Arab armies (the Kurds can’t do it all). Some — many? — of those Arab soldiers might prove sympathetic to the Caliphate, as we’re seeing indications of in Lebanon.
The second step might require more than just American “advisors” working against IS forces, which doesn’t seem like the thing Obama has the stomach for — he’s almost always preferred his “death from above” approach to dealing with terrorists. I like a dead terrorist as much as the next person, but that approach does have its limits, especially as the Caliphate ensconces itself into cities.
The third step (it’s a concurrent one, actually) is heightened domestic security against, yes, Muslims. While I trust the FBI probably has a good handle on who and where the bad guys are, the Administration seems wedded to its Kumbaya approach.
But we allowed the IS to fester for years, and Obama threw away our presence in Iraq and now lack the means to counter it directly. So now we’ll have to counter them here.