Engaging ISIS in a long campaign may create more jihadists than it eliminates

Written by R. James Towe  james@sollicitus.us

America's F-22 Raptor (US Air Force)
The analysts discussing the current air campaign against ISIS have one view in common: they believe that stamping out the Islamic State will be a slow and arduous process, taking years, not months. 

In an area perpetually mired in conflict, a lengthy American presence is distasteful among many Arabs. Current events reinforce a tenet of al-Qaeda and Islamic State doctrine that decries the evils of Western imperialism and decades of US support for tyrants. Arguing the invalidity of that perspective and recalling the delicate balance the West had to maintain during the Cold War is useless in this time and place. The West's tinkering with the Middle East is viewed by the region as just that: abuse at the hands of imperial powers.

Avoiding civilian casualties and initiating a propaganda campaign against ISIS appears to be of central concern to  President Obama. This is all right and  good, but it  is  likely that a 'hearts and minds' approach will prevent a vaunted war machine from completing the task at hand.

A long-term engagement will create continued refugee flows into Jordan and Turkey. There is little reason to doubt, based on past experiences in the region, that over time, the combination of refugees and collateral damage by US and allied airstrikes will serve as a recruiting tool for terror organizations. To counter this, countries in the new coalition would be well advised to show an aggressive strategy to ebb this trajectory. A stronger show of force now may prevent a larger and more hardened enemy later. 

One senses a lack of commitment by President Obama while confusion and fear are dominant among European leaders. Evidently, the beheading of Westerners, for no reason beyond their nationalities, has not provoked a fury against the terrorists. There has been some heavy rhetoric, but certainly no fury.

The 'pin-prick' from the air strategy will allow for ISIS and others to  adjust, regroup  and continue  the fight.  The current American reactive approach to terrorism will further harden the will of these fanatics. It is quite likely that an anemic air campaign will, in fact, swell the ranks of ISIS and other similar groups. 

This   simplistic   long-term    approach   increases  the   risk   of  a devastating attack on a European or  American city.  Terrorists will use the air campaign as a 'jihadi' recruiting tool, while civilians fall further into despair, living with a  ruthless occupier in ISIS.  Sadly, the  West  lacks the  fortitude and  will to face  the  barbaric enemy with its full might.