ISIS will be defeated by the United States and a multinational coalition. In a worst-case scenario, the Obama administration will stall as long as possible and pass the buck on to the next administration. However, it seems highly unlikely that he will be able to do so, and he is already giving way to the inevitability of America’s need to address the crisis unfolding in Syria and Iraq. More than likely we will be looking at a radically different situation by early 2015, including an overt U.S. military force deployed against ISIS.

Even after ISIS is removed, America will be facing a larger and more difficult problem. Despite our aversion to nation building, and despite our distaste for yet another war in Iraq, the Middle East is a region of the world that the United States has not been able to extricate itself from. Whatever our political views, our military continues to be deployed to this part of the world to fight the battles for American interests.

Because of this, we need to change from short-term reactions and start thinking about long-term strategies. How can we build strong partnerships and an aligned view of the future in the region? Military action has never and will never be enough. Many Americans throw their hands up in the air when discussing the Middle East and suggest that we should just use nuclear weapons turn it into a glass parking lot. Veterans understand where this frustration comes from, but it is just that, frustration, which leads nowhere and is not a realistic policy option.

We might not like the idea of nation building, yet we keep finding ourselves caught up in costly entanglements in the Middle East. Unless we want to fight Gulf Wars 4, 5, and 6, we need to reassess our current approach.

The aftermath of our war against ISIS will leave in its wake a massive humanitarian crisis and a power vacuum that will be ripe for other bad actors in the region to fill if we don’t recognize this now and prepare for it. The long-term solution to ensure that America does not have to continue fighting these wars is a massive economic program rivaling FDR’s New Deal.

Iraq and Syria will need education programs, schools built, and job training. Constructing and staffing these education centers is something that a Western coalition can help with. These education centers will also help counter the propaganda of radical Islam. Graduates of these programs will also need jobs.

Refugees (United Nations)
Refugees (United Nations)

America and our partners can bring in experts and employ Iraqis to modernize the country’s electrical network, build power plants, construct modern sewage and water systems and desalination plants, and introduce modern agricultural techniques to farmers. The entire economies of Syria and Iraq will have to be overhauled, modernized, and turned into market-driven systems that actually serve their citizens, instead of autocracies that fill the pockets of the rich, politically connected, and corrupt.