The ugly truth: Defeating ISIS will take decades

David Ignatius writes: Allies and adversaries see U.S. forces living in secure compounds, eating fancy chow and minimizing their exposure to potential terrorist assaults. The United States may say it’s fighting alongside its allies, but on the ground, it often looks different. Actually living and fighting alongside our partners in Iraq and Syria will be much more dangerous, but it may be the only way to build a solid alliance that can someday eradicate the extremists.

Contrast these stern admonitions from the commanders who have lived through the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts with the upbeat talk from political leaders. President Obama pledged that “priority number one is protecting the American people and going after terrorist networks” and then said a few moments later that these networks “do not threaten our national existence.” That sends a mixed message — one that Hillary Clinton has echoed in her campaign.

Republican rants about the Islamic State are even worse, in that they promise total victory without suggesting the level of commitment and sacrifice involved. The GOP responses sound tough, from Donald Trump’s “bomb the hell out of [the Islamic State]” to Sen. Marco Rubio’s (Fla.) assurance in last week’s debate that “the most powerful military in the world is going to destroy them.”

The next president is going to inherit an expanding war against a global terrorist adversary. The debate about how best to fight this enemy hasn’t even begun. [Continue reading…]

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