Five "big ideas" to guide us in the war against Islamic extremism

Fourth, it is becoming clear that the path the United States and coalition partners pursue has to be comprehensive and not just a narrow counter-terrorism approach. It is increasingly apparent that more than precision strikes and special operations raids are needed. This does not mean that the United States has to provide the conventional ground forces, conduct the political reconciliation component or undertake the nation-building tasks necessary in such cases. In Iraq at present, for example, it is clear that the Iraqis not only should provide those components, but also that they have to do so for the results achieved — with considerable help from the U.S.-led coalition — to be sustainable.

Fifth, and finally, it is clear that the U.S.-led effort will have to be sustained for what may be extended periods of time — and that reductions in our level of effort should be guided by conditions on the ground rather than fixed timetables. While aspirational timelines for reductions in our efforts may have some merit, it is clear from our experiences under both post-9/11 administrations that premature transitions and drawdowns can result in loss of the progress for which we sacrificed greatly — and may result in having to return to a country to avoid a setback to U.S. interests.