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A nation must think before it acts.
Kinetic operations—either overt, covert, or clandestine— should only be employed with ample forethought as to what they are intended to achieve and whether the costs are worth the benefits. Notwithstanding their advantages and disadvantages, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) will not be defeated through kinetic operations alone. When linking tactical operations to the strategic goal of degrading a terrorist threat, post-conflict stabilization and rebuilding are often required to cement tactical victories into a desired and sustainable end state. Terrorism, including ISIS, is not an existential threat to the U.S. and requires a multi-layer approach that is not linear and should encompass locally derived goals. The U.S. government should envision kinetic operations as only one part of a broader strategy to stabilize Iraq and Syria after the collapse of ISIS, or it will continue to find itself in a perpetual war.
This article is part of a special project conducted by the Foreign Policy Research Institute, titled: “After the Caliphate: Reassessing the Jihadi Threat and Stabilizing the Fertile Crescent,” which includes a book, a thematic issue of Orbis: FPRI’s Journal of World Affairs(Summer 2018), and a series of podcasts. Each element of the project can be found here: https://www.fpri.org/research/after-the-caliphate-project/.