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Why There is No Military Solution to ISIS

Like most people, I am heartbroken about the recent attacks in Paris and elsewhere and fearful of a similar attack happening in the U.S. While I don’t claim to have answers to the problem of ISIS, I do know that there is no military solution.

  1. Militaries attack states. ISIS is not a state; it just aspires to be one. It’s a global religious movement — a distorted, right-wing version of Islam. It can’t be bombed away.
  2. According to the Washington Post, many of the attackers came from within Europe. There are radical Muslims in countries all over the world. Attacking Raqqa — while it might make us feel good — will do nothing to prevent radicalized Muslims who live in Europe and the U.S. from launching attacks.
  3. We tried a military solution before, and it didn’t work. We attacked Afghanistan to destroy the Taliban. The problem is that the Taliban lives there, and they are “back” (i.e., never left). Unless we are willing to engage in genocide, they will continue to reside there, and they have a lot of support.
  4. We cannot change another society’s culture with military force.
  5. ISIS wants to lure us into a military response. That will just make them stronger. Looking like we are at war with Islam (which we are not) or engaged in some sort of “clash of civilizations” (as if Muslims don’t worship the same God as Jews and Christians) will make us look like Crusader enemies in the eyes of potential ISIS sympathizers, which will help build their movement.
  6. They don’t hate us because we are free. They hate us because of our foreign policy. And our invasion of Iraq exacerbated the situation.
  7. The ISIS network should be treated like organized crime because that is what it is. We need a law enforcement response, not a military one.

Violence begets violence. It is not the solution to anything.

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