Erin Niemela and Tom H. Hastings
President Obama’s Wednesday night address on the Islamic State (ISIL) reintroduced a war weary nation to more violent intervention in Iraq, another war weary nation. The Obama administration claims that airstrikes, military advisors and a Muslim states-American military coalition are the most effective counterterrorism tactics, but that is demonstrably false for two major reasons.
One, the history of US military action in Iraq is a repeatedly failed strategy featuring extremely high costs and poor outcomes.
Two, scholarship in both terrorism and conflict transformation indicates this mix of strategies is a statistical loser.
The people in ISIL are not a “cancer,” as President Obama claims. The massive and multifaceted global public health problem is violence, which shares characteristics with many diseases, such as cancer, meth addiction, the Black Death and Ebola. Violence is the disease, not the cure.
This metaphor applies to the violence committed by ISIL and the US alike. Both claim to be using violence to eliminate injustice. Both ISIL and the US dehumanize entire swaths of people in order to justify that violence. Much like drug addicts, both armed groups alienate and indiscriminately harm others while claiming it’s in everyone’s best interest.
The disease of addiction isn’t eradicated when police raid the addict’s family home, accidentally gun down his brother and then shoot him in the head. An addiction–in this case, violence by militarists on all sides–is vanquished with an entirely different approach that scholars in counterterrorism and conflict transformation have found and recommended for years–continually ignored by successive US administrations despite the growing evidence. Here are eight scientifically supported treatments for the ISIL threat that both realists and idealists can and should advocate.