How to fight Daesh without war
Last week I urged the defeat of Barack Obama's request for a new Authority to Use Military Force and for the revocation of the one which he has relied on thus far for his lovely little war.
I also said there are better ways to struggle against the fanaticism of Daesh - that is, ISIS - and I would lay out some.
Put in simplest terms, the key to fighting Daesh is not to try to destroy it but to isolate it and let it shrivel for lack of life support.
To do that, we have to start by realizing what Daesh wants, how it sees itself.
In the minds of the core of Daesh, they are the true revival of the early Islamic caliphate, destined not only to maintain but to expand their theocratic state. That's somewhat oversimplified for the sake of brevity, but not by much.
That extreme view of themselves and their destiny is not only their greatest strength because of the commitment and dedication it can engender, it is also their greatest weakness. For one thing, it makes it impossible for Daesh to find and keep allies, because all must offer total and absolute adherence to its extremist interpretation of Islamic law. And in their view, nobody, not even al-Qaeda, is pure enough.
It also means that once they declared the caliphate and announced that all Muslims around the world owed fealty to that state, their legitimacy came to depend on the continuing viability of their self-declared state. But states, unlike insurgencies, have borders to defend and, more importantly, they have for lack of a better term a sustainable business model to maintain. That is, they must have a functioning internal economy. And there are already signs that the supposed caliphate's "business model" is already starting to fail.
For example, it is already facing a potential food shortage because local farmers did not plant their normal amount of seed, either because they could not access their land, they did not have the proper fertilizers or adequate fuel, or they didn't expect the Islamic State would buy their crops as Baghdad had been doing.
Meanwhile, to sustain itself to this point Daesh has relief mostly on theft, but by now it has pretty much seized what there is to seize while making enemies of states in the region that might have been persuaded to offer support from the outside.
And, perhaps most importantly, building a sustainable economy within this so-called caliphate would require gaining support from within - hearts and minds and all that. But that would require Daesh to loosen its authoritarian rule while courting regional allies by limiting its expansionism, toning down its rhetoric, and reframing its core mission - none of which Daesh is ideologically or theocratically capable of doing without ceasing to be what it is.
Finally, and I have to say I've been saying this almost from the beginning, since last June, we need to realize that most of Deash's support in Iraq comes from disaffected Sunnis who have been first abandoned and then oppressed by the increasingly dictatorial rule of the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad.
With all that in mind, what's the better way? First, realize that bombing Daesh only makes them look like victims in the eyes of too many, including Sunnis of western Iraq. So stop it.
Next, go after the money supply. Hit Daesh economically. Daesh has been largely self-funded so far, again largely by just taking what it wants, but that can't continue and is already changing.
Third, crack down on the weapons supply, not only by cooperation with regional governments but by ending the flow of US arms to the region.
Fourth, address the political grievances of local populations, particularly the Sunnis. Tell Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi that all future US assistance to Iraq in all forms is dependent on a true rapprochement with the Sunnis and mean it.
Finally, provide humanitarian assistance to all who need it, regardless of political affiliation.
That is how you deal with fanaticism: not by destroying it but by dissolving it, not by killing the fanatics but by - if you will - killing the reasons other people would have for joining them.
As the great A. J. Muste said, "There is no way to peace, peace is the way." Exactly the same can be said for justice.
Sources cited in links: