How to Defeat ISIS: Alternatives to War

John Kerry

Secretary of State John Kerry is leading the U.S. effort to negotiate a ceasefire and leadership transition in Syria, which could pave the way for a more united front against ISIS. Photo courtesy of Cliff.

"It's clear from ISIL's strategy that their objective is to cause us to engage in what they believe is an apocalyptic war with the west...."

                                --General Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, December 9, 2015

Calls for military action against ISIS – everything from air strikes to troops on the ground – are growing. Even for those of us who are concerned that war isn’t the answer, it can be difficult to know what the alternatives look like.

Yesterday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Paul Selva told Senators why a bigger military response could actually make us less safe.

The costs of war are real, and there are real alternatives to military action. Here’s a roundup of military and foreign affairs experts’ takes on the best approaches to ISIS – that aren’t war:

  • The immediate goal should be to further isolate and weaken ISIS and cut off its vital sources of finance and supply.”

                        --David Cortright, Director of Policy Studies at Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies

  • If territory is going to be taken away from ISIS, then it has to be occupied by somebody else…..The "somebody else" has to be local. And for "local" to work, there has to be a diplomatic agreement between the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran.”

                        --Robert Naiman, Just Foreign Policy

                         --Andrew J. Bacevich, Professor Emeritus, Boston University

                        --Win Without War

  • “[D]on’t forget that there are soldiers in those “boots” that many politicians are rashly suggesting we deploy to the deserts of Iraq and Syria. Almost 4,500 pairs of those boots came home empty to grieving families in the 2003 to 2011 Iraqi quagmire….”

                        --Brian Glyn Williams, Informed Comment

From sanctions to negotiations, these experts outline steps the U.S. should take without resorting to yet another Middle East war. They must be heard.