Although the United States — which is armed, capable and powerful — lowered its ceiling of expectations from the war that it began waging against terrorism, and announced before its airstrikes campaign that its targets don’t exceed the purpose of weakening the Islamic State and curbing its surge, some among us are saying with absolute certainty that the defeat of the Islamic State group is possible, lies in the hands of the international coalition, and that it's only a matter of time.
Enthusiasts about a military confrontation with terrorism removed from their calculations the fact that third-generation wars are not resolved, even once, and that battles between uneven forces are long, costly and endless. The only powerful country didn’t manage to win such a war in Afghanistan or Iraq. Adding to that, Israel, which is the superior regional power, couldn’t win a series of big battles either in the Gaza Strip or in South Lebanon.
War in Afghanistan entered its fourth decade and remains without a visible end. The situation in Iraq is similar, as whenever a fierce round hurries toward it, an even fiercer round is born without the appearance of a candle of hope at the end of the long tunnel. The same case is applied to all the latest wars with Israel, which came to realize that every ceasefire is only a truce between two wars, the second of which is even more formidable than its predecessor.
What makes the matter more difficult today is that we stand in front of a player that outperforms all players belonging to nonstate actors that we witnessed before; the outperformance is in financial power and self-motivation, not to mention brutality and attractiveness and other factors which al-Qaida, for instance, lacks. The experience of the previous months shows, perhaps, that even the modest goal that America set for its coalition—the point of weakening the Islamic State group or restraining it—didn’t materialize, as it is still expanding and fiercely attacking.
I don’t believe that bringing the Islamic State group out of Ain al Arab (Kobani) marks the beginning of a retreat from the group’s side, which successfully and strategically misled the coalition forces, which consumed 75 percent of the airstrikes during four months; whereas its prime focus remained on the Iraqi area, which, during this period, seems more central to it than the Syrian field.
And if the Kurdish estimations about the strength of the Islamic State group in Iraq are true — 200,000 fighters who are centered in cities, fenced residential neighborhoods and wide deserts, who are in possession of the weapons of five military squads, which they seized from the Maliki army, and who receive an influx of around 100,000 foreign fighters each month — then, we stand in front of a big dilemma, which even the American ground troops, who previously failed during their war on Iraq, fail to confront. The U.S. troops withdrew under the blows of an opposition that never, on any given day, enjoyed the humanitarian, arms and financial resources, mass population, and the geographical area that the Islamic State group enjoys.
Above all of this, the terrorism phenomenon, after long years have passed, is no longer just a fleeting phenomenon that floats on the crust of the political and social life in our country after it gained ground, infiltrated the souls, and took over the Arab-Islamic scene, from the Taliban to the jungles of Boko Haram, and entered into a deadly attack in the Levant and North Africa, even if not having transformed to an epidemic which has no cure. This is a matter that America knows about for sure, and this is why it works on administering the crisis and not solving it. What to do then, if this uncertainty about victory is true? What is the option available to the small countries if the big countries refuse to engage in a ground confrontation?
What we call for is composure, patience and wisdom, and not slipping into a ground war, which could expand over decades without yielding anything. We should walk together to fortify the borders, consolidate the inner house, follow the policy of caution and control, dry up the sources of extremism and intolerance while they are at their roots, continue the political, economic and religious reform processes without hesitation; and perhaps, at the end of a medium-range path, we can curb this disastrous phenomenon and limit its dangers, and from there treat it as if it were a permanent deformity.