What used to be known as the Global War on Terrorism seems to be lurching from one defeat after another. In the Middle East, ISIS has taken control of cities from Palmyra to Mosul. Libya and Yemen and Syria and large swathes of Iraq have no effective governance, leaving their territory to be fought over between competing terrorist groups.
U.S. President Barack Obama came into office determined to end a seemingly endless war on terrorism. Obama pledged to make his counterterrorism policies more nimble, more transparent, and more ethical than the ones pursued by the George W. Bush administration. Obama wanted to get away from the overreliance on force that characterized the Bush era, which led to the disastrous U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.
There has been a recent shift in America’s counterterrorism ideology, argues Micah Zenko, which accepts the idea that the United States is in a perpetual war with terrorism and fails to recognize that the U.S. counterterrorism policy is failing. “The only ideology that the United States can influence or control is its own.”
Writing in Foreign Policy, Emerson Brooking argues that, given ISIS’ strategically significant use of social media for recruiting and messaging, any comprehensive plan to defeat the terror network must also neutralize its online presence. He proposes the creation of a bounty system that would pay hacktivists in anonymized Bitcoin to flag ISIS social media accounts and disrupt its websites.
Although the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are far from the costliest the United States has ever fought in terms of either blood or treasure, they have exacted a much greater toll than the relatively bloodless wars Americans had gotten used to fighting in the 1990s.
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon writes that the Obama administration’s lack of clear strategy in combating ISIS and its misunderstanding of ISIS’ appeal have kept the United States from making real progress in the conflict in Syria.
The United States has now conducted 500 targeted killings, which have killed an estimated 3,674 people, including 473 civilians. However, as Micah Zenko points out, these operations have not diminished the size of targeted terrorist groups.
When it comes to the fight against ISIS, the United States and Turkey are finding it difficult to cooperate because both have different goals, says CFR’s Steven Cook. While the United States is more focused on defeating ISIS, Turkey is more concerned with suppressing Kurdish nationalism, preventing the Syrian conflict from spilling over into Turkey, and bringing about regime change in Damascus.
Speakers: Jytte Klausen and Jeremy Shapiro Presider: Gideon Rose
Listen to Foreign Affairs contributors Jeremy Shapiro, former member of the U.S. State Department's policy planning staff and current fellow at the Brookings Institution,and Jytte Klausen, founder of the Western Jihadism Project,discuss the threat that foreign fighters returning from Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere pose to their home countries.
The authors argue that the United States has responded inadequately to the rise of Chinese power and recommend placing less strategic emphasis on the goal of integrating China into the international system and more on balancing China's rise.
Campbell evaluates the implications of the Boko Haram insurgency and recommends that the United States support Nigerian efforts to address the drivers of Boko Haram, such as poverty and corruption, and to foster stronger ties with Nigerian civil society.
Learn more about CFR’s mission and its work over the past year in the 2014 Annual Report. The Annual Report spotlights new initiatives, high-profile events, and authoritative scholarship from CFR experts, and includes a message from CFR President Richard N. Haass. Read and download »