The cancer of ISIS

A nuanced approach is neccessary when dealing with the jihadist group

By the time you read this, President Obama will have given his address to the nation outlining his plan for confronting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Let’s hope it reflects a realistic view of America’s march of folly from Iraq to Libya.

As should be amply clear by now, we failed utterly to create anything resembling a bastion of democracy in Iraq—at the cost of nearly 5,000 American lives and the lives of more than 100,000 Iraqis. Instead, we created a polarized state with an army that ran at the first sign of conflict, allowing ISIS to occupy a huge part of the country.

With Libya, NATO was so eager to topple the dictator Muammar Gaddafi that, urged on by the United States, it bombed into shreds the country’s already fragile infrastructure and handed it over to well-armed (by us) Islamist militias that have been fighting for power ever since. This has resulted in widespread chaos, regional instability and the deaths of thousands of civilians.

ISIS’ barbarous execution of two American journalists has inflamed American sensibilities, but it would be a mistake to play into the terrorists’ hands by launching another major intervention. That would just attract more jihadis to the cause. It’s enough for now to keep ISIS from expanding further.

ISIS has been likened to a cancer. It needs to be treated as such. First stop it from growing, then stop feeding it. Ultimately, cutting off its sources of revenue from countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar will have more effect than bombs will.

The president is wise to proceed gradually. He’s working to develop a long-term coalition, has explained his plan to the American people, and should get the backing of Congress. Relying solely on military intervention has been a colossal failure to this point. It’s time for a more nuanced approach.