In a joint piece for The Atlantic magazine, Biddle, an adjunct senior fellow for defense policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Shapiro, professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton, lay out why the war against the jihadist group isn’t likely to end in the neat and clean way that American officials might have hoped it would.
“We have a lot of evidence on wars like this and how they typically end. But it’s not a very encouraging story. The Islamic State threat is likely to persist, in one form or another, for a long time. In the meantime, we’re going to be stuck with a policy that amounts to containment and damage limitation, whose shortcomings will frustrate many Americans,” the experts note.
The reason for this, they suggest, stems from the nature of the war: “Civil wars of the kind in which the US conflict with the Islamic State is embedded are notoriously hard to terminate and typically drag on for years. Datasets vary slightly, but most put the median duration of such conflicts at seven to 10 years; and an important minority drag on for a generation or more.””When they do end, it’s rarely because an empowered, victorious army marches into the enemy capital, pulls down the flag, and governs a newly stable society.”