New plan: let's extend diplomatic recognition to... ISIS?

We’ve recently had a robust debate on both sides of the aisle seeking to find the best method of dealing with ISIS. We’ve heard suggestions ranging from an Arab force using allied air support to tens of thousands of boots on the ground to carpet bombing. But in one of those “I could’ve had a V8” moments, I realized this morning that nobody thought to ask independent journalist and regular fixture at The Independent in Great Britain, Vadim Nikitin. This revolutionary thinker has come up with the one plan nobody in the United States seems to have struck upon: let’s give ISIS diplomatic recognition and begin treating them like a normal state.

Like the war on drugs, the war against Isis remains predicated on the flawed notion that acceptance implies legitimation. With the US and other Western countries are finally coming round to more reality-based drugs policies, the time has come to embrace the same principles of harm-reduction when it comes to international relations. Only by recognising and treating Isis as a bona fide state can we hope to understand its workings and motivations and, ultimately, contain its murderous advance across the region.

History shows that diplomatic recognition of extremist governments can make them more likely to moderate their behaviour. While pariahs are able behave with impunity, when brought within the international system, they become subject to constraints. The most striking example of this was the Soviet Union…

Isis exists, and wishful thinking cannot will it away… Only by accepting reality and extending diplomatic recognition to Isis can the West hope to gain a credible means to moderate and constrain its further advance.

One scarcely knows where to begin with this. How did President Obama not think of this by now? We simply recognize the caliphate as the rightful governing power across large swaths of two nations (and bits of a few more by this time) and go build an embassy. It’s genius! We’d be embracing “principles of harm reduction” which I’m pretty sure is precisely what we need… or at least it might be when I figure out exactly what that means.

I first saw this in the Morning Jolt yesterday, where Jim Geraghty was just a wee bit skeptical himself. But he also notes that this isn’t the first time such ideas have surfaced. One decade earlier, Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou of Harvard University (where Vadim Nikitin writes on occasion also) came up with very nearly the same idea for AQ.

Though dismissed widely, the best strategy for the United States may well be to acknowledge and address the collective reasons in which Al Qaeda anchors its acts of force. Al Qaeda has been true to its word in announcing and implementing its strategy for over a decade. It is likely to be true to its word in the future and cease hostilities against the United States, and indeed bring an end to the war it declared in 1996 and in 1998, in return for some degree of satisfaction regarding its grievances. In 2002, bin Laden declared: ”Whether America escalates or deescalates this conflict, we will reply in kind.”

If we wind up losing to the terrorists entirely some day, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. These attitudes, while not entirely pervasive at this point, crop up on the Left in various forms at an alarming rate. You see, we simply don’t understand our enemies and their perfectly legitimate grievances. If we could just sit down over some tea and biscuits we could probably sort all this out in no time.

Stop the world. I’d like to get off now, thanks.