Thursday, August 21, 2014

Packer on ISIS

George Packer, one of my favorite political writers, offers his take on ISIS in The New Yorker.

Armed movements driven by an ideology like that of ISIS are expansionist as well as eliminationist. There is always a new enemy to defeat, a new threat to the dream of purifying the world. The Islamic State, whose success makes it a magnet for jihadists around the globe, has recruited hundreds of suicide bombers, who could carry out operations across the region. Its many hundred fighters holding European or American passports will eventually return home with training, skills, and the arrogance of battlefield victory. It’s hard to believe that the ambitions of ISIS will remain confined to the boundaries of the Tigris and Euphrates.

Only the President can explain to the public why containing and defeating ISIS requires deep, steady, patient engagement. Americans are justly haunted by the mistakes, the deceptions, and the tragedies of the Iraq War. Our toxic domestic politics make it extremely difficult to have an honest debate about this unfolding catastrophe—it’s far easier to assign blame. But fully absorbing the lessons of the past should mean being able to think clearly about going forward: Find partners, internationally and locally, and don’t get out in front of them. Understand the complexity and the importance of politics. Locate the elusive ground between overreacting and underreacting.. Pay attention to other peoples'nightmares, because they might be contagious.

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