You can kill a man,
but you can't detsroy an idea
Load up on guns, bring your friends
It's fun to lose and to pretend
--Smells Like Teen Spirit,
Beneath this mask there is an idea,
Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof
--V for Vendetta (2005)
The Big Stick talk on the United States' Executive, State and Department of Defense street is about destroying Islamic State (IS) / ISIL / ISIS/ Daesh, forever and ever, amen. President Obama has stated this objective clearly on the White House web page ("We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL.")
But this idea should be examined in a realistic manner, devoid of the feminine dithering of our leaders.
Fact: the destruction of IS is not going to happen anytime soon. Following 12+ years of hostilities , Al Qaeda (the original Bad Boys on the block) has not been destroyed, so what makes us think IS can be destroyed? The best that we have achieved with Al Qaeda is to have killed numbers one through three in their hierarchy; wash - rinse - repeat.
However, these attempts to disorder the group did not destroy the organization. It seems they have the military idea of "slotting" down better than we could imagine. We can kill people with explosives, but we cannot destroy their ideas as handily.
The Islamic State is not the problem in the ME. IS did not destabilize the region. IS simply exploited the now existing power vacuums. IS is not an aberration but rather the apotheosis of a prevailing Middle Easernt mindset. This is why their iteration has been so successful.
Through our efforts at destabilization, we handed the thugs a present. The force that animates and populates IS was already there, simmering and roiling beneath the surface. We simply unleashed it.
To focus on the destruction of IS would simply be to remove a symptom, not to address the disease.
News flash: The United States military forces have never destroyed an enemy army. We may have defeated them, but the vanquished forces may live to fight another day, or to morph into something new and try again.
Moreover, calling for the destruction of any entity is philosophically as barbaric as the destructive actions of IS. If destruction is the best the U.S. can conjure as a realistic course of action, then we have lost the finesse that makes democracy unique among governmental systems.
How does destroying an entire army (IS) express the values of a civilized Western military tradition? Are we deserting our laws of land warfare and reverting to Old Testament standards of conduct?