Understanding the Islamic State: The Key to Effective Strategic Planning

  • Lieutenant Colonel (P) David R. Hibner

The United States and other nations have struggled to find a widely accepted strategy to defeat the Islamic State because they oversimplify understanding the operational environment by focusing on what can be seen by an outsider as a reflection of their own biases and experiences. The resulting lack of understanding of the deeper culturally and religiously oriented values and assumptions that provide the strength and purpose to ISIS and its corresponding strategic objectives is perpetuated throughout the strategic planning process. In order to develop effective strategies and policies to solve these problems, the Islamic State's culture, objectives, and strategy must be clearly understood from the perspective of those doing the fighting. By analyzing and understanding Islamic State operations from the deeper aspects of values and underlying assumptions of the organization, strategists and policy makers will have a better understanding of the unique strategic implications of the Islamic State, which is a necessary foundation for defining and following an effective, widely accepted strategy to contain or defeat them.