Islamic State Fighters pose on horseback in IS's Dabiq Magazine

Comment: Learning To Live With Islamic State

Islamic State Fighters pose on horseback in IS's Dabiq Magazine
So you bomb Syria. Inside the Washington DC beltway they say it is something you do until someone comes up with a good idea. Lethal mood music but then what do you do? 
Here is the conundrum: we have a short term plan that cannot work because no one has come up with any true concept of what the threat really amounts to. 
Okay, so let us bomb. Then what, what do we do in the long term? 
The sharper minds talk about the long term as ten, twenty, thirty years ahead. But how do we live in that concept?
The clue may be in the mind of a man who died ten years ago, George F. Kennan. In 1946 Kennan was the US Charge d'Affaires in Moscow who taught us how to handle the ambitions of post-World War II USSR.
His 8,000 word telegram to the State Department recommended "firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies". The following year, the containment document was published under the nom de plume Mr X in the American journal Foreign Affairs.
Here, some are re-reading Kennan. They begin with the notion that the mighty military and political powers of the US led coalition cannot destroy ISIS. There can be military success with many ISIS killed, but the surviving leadership “now across three continents“ will continue to threaten so-called sophisticated Western society in ways, and with consequences, that it cannot handle.
Therefore the Kennan option has to be imagined.  
The resources of the US-led coalition has to devise a military and political option to "live with" the threat. This is the 1946 American policy of containment.
The most remarkable concept is this: containment may be the only defence the West has but as ISIS increases its success as a caliphate so it will become hogtied by all the restrictions of holding the ground and government.
Kennan's containment anticipated three or four decades of Cold War and then the "uncertainty of common interests“ which is what we have now between Washington and Moscow.
As ISIS moves from AK-47 to using drones and worse, containment becomes the only option. An Islamic State move on fellow Wahhabi, Saudi Arabia, can only be imagined.
But for the moment this may be the only game in town: bomb to clear the ground for mechanised infantry warfare; the recognition of new boundaries and then the containment of something that is effectively a new world order.
A new order in the world? Re-read Kennan. Got a better idea?
Christopher Lee is a the BFBS Defence Analyst. As well as writing for he can be heard on Sitrep, the only weekly radio programme devoted to discussing the big issues in Defence. You can listen live every Thursday at 6.30pm on BFBS via DAB, Listen Again on the website or download the podcast for Android or Apple devices

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