With that in mind, it seems wise and appropriate to consider a recent proposal by former U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. James Dobbins: to continue a siege of ISIS while the many foreign suppliers of the war in Syria pressure their clients on both sides to establish a cease fire. This would be a decidedly difficult diplomatic undertaking, would effectively partition the country for some time, and would leave Syrian President Bashar al‐Assad in office at least for the time being. But as Dobbins, joining specialist Graham Fuller, stressed, “any peace in Syria is better than the current war.” This would put an end to the bulk of the fighting, which currently seems mostly to consist of minor turf shifts and of the mindless lobbing of ordnance on civilian areas, a process that mainly creates refugees. A cease fire might help reverse the flow of refugees and would allow the primary military focus to shift to ISIS.
In recent statements, Assad seems essentially to have accepted an approach like this. And the Russian intervention may just possibly begin to convince straw‐grasping insurgents that they can’t win militarily. The best approach to achieving President Barack Obama’s desire for ISIS to be “degraded and ultimately defeated” may be to facilitate the group’s self‐destruction rather than relying heavily on direct, and often counterproductive, military measures.
ISIS could still provide inspiration to death cult sycophants around the world even if it essentially fails to exist. And, as the Paris attacks tragically demonstrate, potential targets for dedicated terrorists — peaceful aggregations of civilians — remain legion. But the number of people killed since 2001 by Muslim extremist terrorists in the entire world outside war zones has been some 200–400 per year. That’s 200–400 too many, of course, but it does not present a challenge that is existential. The Paris attacks should not be taken to suggest that this condition will necessarily change greatly.