Now, it seems, allied strikes along with local forces will not accomplish the military defeat of ISIS, but rather defeat will come from dissention within the Islamic State over its ultimate failures to sustain its economy and its people. This presents a very different means, and likely a very different time frame, for defeating ISIS. In Cold War terms, it is more in the nature of Containment of ISIS, until it “ultimately” rots from within, than of a military plan to defeat it outright.
Until then, there will be a terrorist state in the heart of Arabia. We will not “tolerate terrorist safe havens,” President Obama had told the UN. Iraq, he said, “has created a fertile recruiting ground for terrorists who inevitably export this violence.” Such terrorists, he had noted, have “access to technology that allows small groups to do great harm.” This will persist as Containment runs.
How long does President Obama envision Islamic State rule? How long is “ultimately?” How long can states govern in an “unsustainable” way? Obama does not say, but later in his Fareed Zakaria interview he applies the same terms to explain that authoritarian states—Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and absolute monarchies in the Middle East—will be less and less “sustainable” and will “ultimately” not be effective. “Authoritarians to some degree depend on the ignorance of people,” he asserts, which the “internet and social media” challenge. Yet, surely these states promise to last a long time.