(Re-published from The Daily Orange, Nov. 30, 2015) US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter agreed that the US is at war with the Islamic State during a Nov. 19 MSNBC interview, adding that the US must and will defeat ISIS. Carter’s comment came a few days after French President Francois Hollande declared France is at war with the extremist group, which claimed responsibility for the terrorist attacks in Paris that killed more than 120 people. The Daily Orange interviewed Robert Murrett, Deputy Director of INSCT; Isaac Kfir, a Visiting Assistant Professor of Law at SU College of Law; and Mehrzad Boroujerdi, Professor and Chair of Political Science at SU Maxwell School, about Carter’s remark and the future of US strategy against ISIS.
The Daily Orange: Do you agree with Carter’s remark?
“I don’t think anyone can say that the counterinsurgency online or offline has worked well.”
Robert Murrett: First, I completely agree with what Secretary Carter said in the interview. Certainly the campaign that has been ongoing for some time now—both in terms of special operations and also a very significant air campaign against ISIS (or ISIL or Daesh)—does represent an “armed conflict,” and I think the Secretary was certainly accurate to describe it as such.
Isaac Kfir: Technically, the US is not in a state of war with ISIS as under the Constitution, and I would also add that it is important to be careful when using such terms as “war,” as it is such a loaded concept that calls for the total mobilization of resources of the state.
Mehrzad Boroujerdi: I believe Secretary Carter is using the word “war” loosely here. The first prerequisite for waging a successful war is to have a clear strategy. But the administration has not made it clear whether its strategy is one of destroying or containing ISIS. At this moment, I don’t see a holistic plan to fight ISIS. You won’t be able to defeat it with an aerial campaign, the same way it did not work against a determined nemesis such as the Taliban.
D.O.: Do you see President Barack Obama changing his strategy anytime soon because of international pressure after the Paris attacks?
I.K.: It seems unlikely that President Obama would change US policy at the moment, such as commit US ground troops. This is because the administration is still trying to figure out its own response to ISIS. Second, it was President Obama who brought the troops back from Iraq, which is why he is unlikely to send troops back to Iraq. Third, in the US we are also heading for an election year, and it is unlikely that President Obama would commit US troops and leave the matter for the next president.
R.M.: I think the strategy that the US has set with respect to insurgent groups worldwide—not just the ones that we are dealing with now by recent events—will continue to evolve and continue to be responsive because strategy cannot be static ever. I think the administration has continued to modify their strategies as time goes on.
D.O.: Do you think the kind of attacks that happened in Paris would be a new norm in Western society?
R.M.: I would say that it already is. I remained very concerned and I would also state that, yes, there will be more significant attacks by Sunni extremists and other affiliates and like-mindeds well into the future.
D.O.: ISIS has embraced the Internet as a tool of recruitment and spread its ideology. Are you satisfied with the current level of engagement online to defeat and degrade IS?
M.B.: Judging by the fact that ISIS has had no problem attracting foreign-born recruits—estimated to make up 20% of its manpower—and its leader has now secured the allegiance of 36 affiliate groups around the world, I don’t think anyone can say that the counterinsurgency online or offline has worked well.
View the original article here.