The first mistake we must not make in fighting ISIS is to assume the task is simple. The challenge is stupefying in its complexity, involving, among other things, the split between Sunni and Shia Muslims, a bitter history of Western interventions including blowback from America’s war in Iraq, overlapping power struggles today among at least six nations, the ongoing political chaos of the Middle East, unrelenting poverty and social and political decay throughout the region, and the power of an ISIS vision that welcomes dying in an apocalyptic battle.

(For more detail on these factors, please see, “What Drives ISIS?“ and “Who Joins ISIS and Why?“)

Defeating ISIS demands an approach that is patient, highly sophisticated, and multi-pronged, one tightly focused on their vulnerabilities, and a thorough knowledge of the group’s history, intentions, motivations and strategies.

ISIS relies much more on the power of its ideas than on the power of its guns. Their leaders have created a core ideology, mission and message that have been enormously successful in attracting recruits, ongoing fealty and financial support. That ideology combines two of the most powerful yet contradictory ideas in Islam—the return of the 7th century Islamic Empire—and the end of the world. Understanding these two elements is vital to Western strategies.

Read more at Huffington Post

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