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Containment Is Not Enough: ISIS Must Be Defeated

The BriefGet Up To Speed

In June 2014, the Sunni militant group ISIS declared that it had established a new caliphate spanning territory in Syria and Iraq. Since then, the region under its control has expanded, despite airstrikes and the deployment of U.S. military advisors, and Jihadist groups across the Muslim world have pledged their allegiance. What should the Obama administration'€™s next steps be? Should the U.S. goal be containment, or can ISIS be defeated?


Background information on the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

Monday, May 18, 2015
Zachary Laub and Jonathan Masters

The Times’ coverage of ISIS.

Wednesday, December 31, 1969

The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse.

Sunday, March 1, 2015
Graeme Wood
U.S. Goals

Our mission to destroy ISIL and to keep our country safe will be difficult. It will take time. There will be setbacks as well as progress.

Monday, July 6, 2015
President Obama

We all agreed that ISIL represents a grave threat. And that it must be – and will be – dealt a lasting defeat.<a name="factsheet" id="factsheet"></a>

Tuesday, July 7, 2015
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter

Our goal is clear: to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy so that it’s no longer a threat to Iraq, the region, the United States, and our partners.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Office of the Press Secretary

The administration’s rhetoric on IS has been all over the map

Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Peter Feaver
Operation Inherent Resolve

Targeted operations against ISIL terrorists.

Wednesday, December 31, 1969

Among the effort, the deployment of an additional 450 troops to Iraq, bringing the total up to 3,550.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015
The White House

For a military campaign that allegedly intends to inflict a “lasting defeat” on the dispersed and large militant army that is the Islamic State, there is a relatively limited—though understandable given the concern of civilian casualties—number of bombs being dropped each day.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015
Micah Zenko
Commentary on Goals and Strategy

What kind of strategy is that? A compressed and more aggressive form of the George Kennan strategy of Soviet containment.

Thursday, September 25, 2014
Charles Krauthammer

U.S. policy now should be ‘containment, plus amplification.’

Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Thomas Friedman

The United States needs to address the means-ends mismatch in its strategy. It has devoted inadequate resources in pursuit of a goal—to ‘degrade and eventually destroy’ ISIL.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Michael Eisenstadt

Four commentaries on why containment is (or is not) such a bad idea for ISIS, terrorism, or any foreign policy, for that matter: 1) <a title="Even Containment Needs Boots on the Ground" href=" Containment Needs Boots on the Ground</a>, 2) <a title="Contain ISIS, then Roll It Back" href=" ISIS, then Roll It Back</a>, 3) <a title="Like It or Not, Containment Is What It Is" href=" It or Not, Containment Is What It Is</a>, and 4) <a title="Why Containment Is a Myth" href=" Containment Is a Myth</a>.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Jerry Meyerle

<em>Foreign Affairs</em> asked a pool of experts to state whether they agree or disagree with the following statement and to rate their confidence level about that answer: ‘The United States should significantly step up its military campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.’

Sunday, December 14, 2014
Foreign Affairs

Arguing in favor of intervention were Michael Doran and Michael O'Hanlon. Arguing against were Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn) and Jeremy Shapiro.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Michael Doran

A discussion reviewing developments since the fall of Mosul, the struggle ahead against ISIS, and the conditions enabling their continued operations.

Monday, June 29, 2015
Stephen Kappes