A recent article by Efraim Inbar suggests that Islamic State shouldn’t be destroyed – weakened, yes, but not destroyed it has sparked a couple of good replies, but I think the best is this one, by Eran Lerman.
Lerman argues that IS should be destroyed, but the West shouldn’t lose sight of the bigger picture, which is that Iran is a greater threat to Western interests. I entirely agree.
The problem as I see it is that the West appears to have lost its strategic vision. During the Cold War, the strategy was defeating the Soviet Union. Most foreign policy decisions were assessed through the lens of whether or not it would help achieve that end.
When that end was achieved, the West didn’t have any enemies of speak of – certainly no enemies requiring a strategic vision. And it’s hard to define a strategic vision in the absence of an enemy.
Now, the West thinks only of unrelated problems that must be managed. It worked against Iran on the nuclear deal, but with Iran on Iraq. It’s ignoring Iran on Syria. It worked with Russia on Iran, against Russia on Ukraine and with Russia on Syria.
The problem is, the sand has shifted, and we now have at least two powers that see themselves as our enemies, and who are working to undermine our interests. These enemies will not go away and, in the wake of our weakness (or, rather, disinterest) they have grown and are continuing to grow in strength and influence. But the West is still deluding itself that we don’t have enemies, only partners or adversaries for specific problems. We think nothing of working with a country on this issue but against it on that issue. But countries like Russia and Iran – our principle enemies – will assess their interactions with the West in strict accordance with their strategic objectives. They will hold out against the West when they feel they should (and their stubbornness is usually rewarded, as the West usually folds.