President Obama attracted a lot of criticism when he told an interviewer the day before terrorist attacks in Paris that ISIS was “contained.” What he meant was that the expansion of the land ISIS controls had ceased, not that its ability to strike out had been negated. There’s a larger issue that has gotten lost in all the back-and-forth, though, specifically what strategy is most likely to work in defeating jihadists. During the Cold War Washington adopted a strategy of “containment,” predicated on the belief — first articulated by George Kennan — that a messianic movement like communism could not survive if it ceased growing into new areas. That turned out to be true: when its expansion was blocked, the Soviet empire began rotting from within and ultimately collapsed. ISIS isn’t Russia, but there’s a lot to be said for applying the logic of containment to the threat it poses. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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