Developing U.S. Strategies for ISIL and the Middle East

  • Lieutenant Colonel Thomas R. Powers

Since 2001, the United States has led a multinational war on terrorism and expended significant blood and treasure replacing corrupt regimes with fragile, democratic institutions. Yet, in just a handful of years, deteriorating conditions in Iraq threatens to erode the hard-won gains achieved in the early days of the military campaign. Towards that end, the United States should renew efforts to resolve the underlying political problems in Iraq and Syria as part of its long-term strategy to degrade and destroy the Islamic State. Military operations should be conducted as part of a whole-of-government approach, but Coalition military action is just a supporting role to the more important diplomatic efforts. Absent new political frameworks, military action is irrelevant. Additionally, U.S. and Coalition efforts must be actively managed below the national policy level. The existing strategy, if nested within a larger diplomatic effort, balances risk and reward over the long-term and offers the greatest opportunity to succeed.