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ISIS is an interesting situation, in a terrible way, because on the surface there is no solution. Here's what the U.S. military is thinking:

We can't use a nuclear weapon for all the obvious reasons.

We can't invade and stay long enough for a permanent solution.

We can't use precision attacks because the bad guys hide.

We can't bomb stuff and walk away.

We can't attack with an army and get a meaningful surrender.

And...you can't ignore the situation because ISIS has announced that it plans to come after us. And in this regard they are credible.

Are there any options that I left out?

In my novel The Religion War, the sequel to God's Debris, I imagined an ISIS-like group forming a caliphate and using drone technology to strike targets around the world. That future is fast approaching; the news says ISIS is already using drones in the battlefield and they have vowed to attack foreign targets. In the book, the governments of the world were in exactly the no-win situation we have now. So what did they do?

In The Religion War, the first step involved shutting down all communication going into or out of the Caliphate. The border was surrounded and sealed. All cell phones were disabled. All news crews were expelled. In order for phase two of the plan to work, the rest of the world needed to be kept in the dark. That's because phase two involved methodically killing every man, woman, and child in the caliphate.

I don't recommend that plan. But if we are being serious adults, you have to put it on the table. The world is nowhere near the point where such a thing could be seriously considered, but we are heading toward that point quickly and I haven't heard a better plan.

So allow me to suggest a new idea. I call it the Filter Fence.

Instead of finding and killing the bad guys among the innocent population, the invading army first conquers and controls a sparsely populated part of the caliphate that also has good natural resources. Within those protected borders the allied governments of the world would build homes, schools, utilities and all the good stuff. It would be like a little civilized paradise on the border of the evil caliphate. And let's say it is governed by one of the friendlier Islamic countries at least temporarily.

The next step involves attracting civilians to move to the protected area. You could get some folks to come voluntarily to escape ISIS. But ISIS would try to keep as many human shields as possible. Instead of fighting ISIS militarily, you gradually drain away their civilian cover. Every time our military captures some new ISIS territory it would depopulate it and move the innocents to the protected territory. It wouldn't take long before most of ISIS' resources are dedicated to keeping their civilians from scrambling to the protected territories.

At some point, and it might take ten years, the military would announce plans to kill everything left living in the caliphate. And it could do that just by sealing the borders and destroying the food supply. You wouldn't need to fire a bullet.

This plan is horrific, obviously. Lots of civilians would die trying to escape ISIS and many more would die while staying to support them. All I am suggesting is that if we want a better outcome someone needs to come up with a better plan. If you only have one option, you have to take it. And as far as I can tell the only other option is to someday surrender and join the caliphate after they get their nuclear weapons.

If you don't like that plan, here is another.

Suppose we just step back and let ISIS form its caliphate and consolidate power. The irony of a guerrilla army is that once it succeeds in its conquest it has to become something more like a standing army to maintain control. And as Saddam Hussein learned the hard way, it sucks to have an army that is nothing but target practice for the better army. This plan assumes that the worst fate for ISIS involves achieving their near term goals. The moment they become a standing government with government buildings and organized armies with barracks you have excellent targets. ISIS as currently formed would never surrender. But a government formed by ISIS, and infected by bureaucrats until it softened, could be capable of surrender. In other words, you let ISIS win its current battles because doing so makes them an easier target. It is easier to find and kill an elephant in the forest than an ant.

Those are the two plans I can imagine. Do you have one to add?


Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of this book



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Sep 4, 2014
Filter is defeated by suicide bombers.

Bible did say these people would be a Wild Donkey of a race with the sword never leaving them.

Most effective way to rid the body of a virus is to vaccinate, so you don't get it. Education is a vaccine. Sometimes you have to amputate so it doesn't spread & kill the whole body. Collateral damage is necessary to stop the greater evil (which is always making sure it doesn't kill me!)
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 29, 2014
My plan is along the same lines as Scott's let them develop a government the kill them. However, I'd say not just let them develop a government, let the government get super rich and corrupt. In a generation they'll talk about how they fought "the great satan" and what winners they are but the reality is that they'll have all the food, wine and women a government bureaucrat could want. They'd be too worried about losing their seat at the table to really fight anyone, but would need to pretend that they're doing something to stay popular with the disaffected in their country ala Saudi Arabia. So my plan is this, quietly support their rise to power then send massive amounts of "aid", have contractors go in and develop a resource. Then for fear of the "evil" government pull out contractors, leaving behind resources ready to be developed and exported. Once they start exporting their resources raise the prices through market manipulation and purchase it through cut out organizations. The final piece is use people to smuggle in top shelf military items from countries that refuse to trade with them and force them to purchase it at a higher rate than they can afford. For the finale set up a central bank that the government receives loans from and then create a fractional reserve currency. It would take a generation but they'd be completely sterilized as a country.
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 28, 2014
In the long run, it would be best to educate and empower the Muslim women. However, given that even moderate Muslim countries (so called "allies") have quite different thoughts on education and rights of women, that seems like a tall order.

Any ideas how to achieve that? Because realistically, that's the only (and probably the best) way to achieve "westernisation" of the region. That also means slower population growth, which translates into less poor boys and young men who think Caliphate and martyrdom are good things.
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 28, 2014
Drop UN-labelled parachute-boxes with food, water and medicine close to the borders of Islamic State (IS) territory, as well as dropping the same cargo inside the IS territory (as if by mistake). All the stuff inside contains powerful drugs for chemical castration which works only on women, making them hornier and sterile at the same time for at least a period of 10 years.
Or we can parachute boxes with the same stuff inside IS territory masquerading it as help from other countries with Muslim population (like Iran, for instance). As a bonus, we could put weapons inside that would be easy to locate by satellite. After awhile, eradication becomes rather easy by drone strikes and !$%*! sterile women.
A combination of fledder's idea and your comment on it, plus adding some drugs to it. It was shown that the folks with a certain high level of some amino-acids (AA) are far more likely to believe in nonsense (such as God, after-life and other paranormal stuff). When injected with the drug that reduced those levels of certain AA, they quickly become sceptical of all things. And vice-versa, sceptical people with low levels of the same AA who were given the drug to boost the levels of those AA's quickly become susceptible to the paranormal ideas (I can't remember now which AA's are in question exactly). Hence, send parachuted help with the drugs designed to do just that and we could (albeit temporarily) make them to question their resolve and illusion of martyrdom.

Maybe the same drug should be used on some Republicans in the U.S., eh? ;-)
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 27, 2014
Safe hamlets have been tried before, the filter was probably tried at one level. To let them gain power and then crush them has been tried before (it's partly how we got here).

My idea is to seize the oil fields, and then build a city a lot like Vegas full of debauchery and drinking and things very offensive to Islam. Also, send the best fighters we have there, arm them at a level moderately better than their enemies and sit back and watch them get rich while being a local target for the religious nuts.

I think a similar plan was explained in the book "World War Z" as they kept outposts supplied because every zombie that was attacking an outpost wasn't attacking the capitol. Same thing, just jihadists instead of brain dead zombies.
Aug 27, 2014
[This plan is to create an idea virus to battle the existing idea viruses. -- Scott]

This reminds me of the line early in Ben Hur: the best way to fight an idea is with another idea. That might work if you could get the ideas seeded. However the other side just might cut off the heads of all the people you put there. Literally.

You know how you like saying that technology is getting to the point where making criminality impossible to get away with? Well lets assume that sooner or later ISIS is going to get technology. Then all they have to do is act like north korea and say that not being pro ISIS to X extent is a crime.

I'm not saying the idea doesn't have merit, as the US government did try to infiltrate and sway radical groups back in the 60s or 70s. I'm just saying you'd have be aware that most people don't like the idea of "brainwashing" people and that you'd probably be sending a bunch of people to their deaths.
Aug 27, 2014

[Any plan that does not somehow provide for education and equality for women is doomed, long-term. ]


Seriously, how did you make this logical leap? And why womens rights? If were making a wish list of unrelated issues wed like resolved why not include income inequality, environmentalism and internet trolls in the mix?
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 27, 2014
I survived to adulthood by following a "Sudo-Hawk" strategy ie when attacked I completely destroy. However at the moment ISIS are just making a lot of noise and trying to irritate the USA. Of course if they launch an attack you take them down but otherwise stay away.
Aug 26, 2014
Scott, you've re-invented a strategy last attempted in the Vietnam war. Go check out the Strategic Hamlet program (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategic_Hamlet_Program if you're lazy.)

I think you're under-estimating the amount that cultural indoctrination (intended and not) affects your thinking and rationality. Whether it's giving you an idea of what is considered beauty, or the importance of religion, or whether a woman is the equal of a man, your cultural upbringing isn't easily changed or shaken. Don't expect the strategic hamlets to be instantly populated by converts any time soon.
Aug 26, 2014
Sometimes it takes Scott Adams, when he chooses to ignore political correctness, to get to the heart of the matter. Extermination really is the best way to deal with radical Islamic factions. The point about siphoning off the moderate Islamic civilians is a good one, if it could be made to work. A lot of the power held by the radical Islamic factions in their own countries is based on how much the moderate Islamic people are afraid of them. They terrorize people of their own religion that just want to live and let live as much as they terrorize Jews, Christians, and westerners.
Aug 26, 2014
@ Scott

[The big stick method doesn't work against non-rational players. -- Scott]

I think that depends on whether you use it as a threat, or as an actual solution. It worked pretty well on the snake I found in my yard. I'm just saying that we need to admit to ourselves that any solution to this issue will probably be outside of the parameters that we currently deem appropriate.
Aug 26, 2014
Any plan that does not somehow provide for education and equality for women is doomed, long-term.
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 26, 2014
@PhantomII, if you were in the military, you definitely were not an officer. The idea that the military is currently chomping at the bit to go back into the sandbox and kill as many folks as possible is laughable. Have you looked at the US Army suicide and divorce rates? Have you considered what 30% PTSD rates mean for deployed troops? Why don't you go to your nearest Army base and ask "How many of you want to deploy to Iraq and fight ISIS?"
The military will obey orders, even dumb orders, because they are professional. They will follow the commands of the civilian leadership because that is what it takes to protect democracy. I guarantee that a lot of troops didn't like Bush sending us into Iraq, and frankly I think you would be surprised how many enlisted voted for Obama. (Granted, that was just my ancedotal exprience as a VAO during the 2008 election).
Also, Iraq is majority Shia, not Sunni. Yes, Sunni occupy the majority of the land, but that is because the Shia are more densly packed, mostly near the Persian gulf. By your argument, there are more Texans than Californians since Texas has more acres. Then again, the right would love that argument since it would mean all those pesky city folks and suberban folks that vote democratic would count less than the cows in Kansas.
Also, to Knowitall, Iran is not a caliphate, it is an "Islamic Republic." Not sure if those words mean what they think they mean, but here is my best explanation of the Iranian government.
Imagine the supreme court of the US was just one person, and that person got the veto power from our president, and had a small military force (say the marines), that would be Iran's Ayatollah, who is elected for life by the "council of elders," who are in turn elected by the people of Iran. It is worth noting that the last election of the council of elders, the current Ayatollah's party lost, so if he dies soon, his replacement may well be pro-US (this may also explain the current Ayatollah's softer stance towards the US).
Iran's parlament and president are analogs to our congress and president, though their president has less power. Their president controls all the armed forces other than the revolutionary guards (remember I said the Ayatollah had a small military force?). Their parlament passes laws, subject to the approval of the courts (effectively the Ayatollah).
It isn't a perfect system, but compared to a terrorist funding, wahhibist sheltering, wahhibist as the official religion, monarchy like Saudi Arabia, source of Bin Ladin and most of the terrorists in 9-11, as well as most of the funding for Al-Quida and ISIS, well...
Oh, and Phantom, if you had been in the military any time recently, you would care a lot more about Wahhibism than Iran (for those who don't know, most folks in Islam call Christians and Jews "people of the book," and Mohammad said "When I go to heaven, I will see Moses at God's left hand." Wahhibism is the radical offshoot of Islam that says Christians and Jews are not following the same god as Islam).
Aug 26, 2014
Not a bad idea... it's a steady plan that would require a long-term commitment and lots of things can happen in that time, but, plausible yes.

Here's another plausible idea... put a few nukes where in the ISIS territory, and guide a continent killing asteroid to the middle-east.

We be the good guys by quietly removing a lot of kids and women.
+13 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 26, 2014
Can't remember the exact quote but it goes something like... "the best move to make is the one your enemy wants you least to take." On that basis what does ISIS want us to NOT do ?

I would suggest given extent they are trying to upset the USA eg executing an American journalist (or pretending to at least) then the best thing for us to do is nothing.

At the moment it is essentially a civil war. It's cynical but non of the groups involved are on our side so why not let them fight each other to the death. Maybe we should spend the money we would have spent on bombs etc on a strategic push on alternative energy sources so we have no need for oil from the Middle East.

Last thing we should do is put boots on the ground as ISIS wants that badly. It's hard to recruit new fighters to a cause when all they will get to kill is other Muslims.

[So if someone states a clear desire to kill you, and is willing to die trying, and has a good track record in that regard, the best thing to do is ignore him? I'm surprised you survived to adulthood. -- Scott]
Aug 26, 2014
Both plans are very magical.

[You might not know what magical means. -- Scott]

The first plan will not work because there is no way to filter out the fanatics from the rest of the people. Even assuming there were, there is no way of ensuring that newer fanatics do not emerge from the same fertile soil.

[I would use the "Facebook" verification system. You can't get inside the walls unless you have several folks vouching for you as a "friend." I don't literally mean Facebook, but if you set up a network of who-knows-whom you would probably find the lone wolves and sleepers easily. And keep in mind that no one gets inside with any weapons on them. So having even a few dozen ISIS sleepers inside is probably far less of a problem than 20,000 ISIS assholes beheading everyone in their path who disagrees. -- Scott]

The second plan is predicated on the fact that an elephant is easier to find than an ant. But an elephant is also more difficult to kill than an ant.

[You might not know how analogies work. -- Scott]

Get real, Scott !

+17 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 26, 2014
Your "Filter Fence" plan seems ok, until you consider the rather obvious problem of implementing the filter. How do you tell genuine refugees from fanatical terrorists pretending to be refugees?

[See my answer to the same question in a later comment. -- Scott]
Aug 26, 2014
Also my plan for any sort of caliphate situation -- make it easy for them to get wireless access to the internet.

The rest will take care of itself.

[That might work in the long run. At the very least it would make the bad guys easier to track because the folks on the fringe of the hard-core groups will be careless in discussing what their evil friends are up to. -- Scott]
Aug 26, 2014
Isn't Iran already sort of a caliphate? I mean, they are under the rule of an religious Ayatollah. No one seems particularly afraid of them.
Or maybe there's more to being an official caliphate?

[Technically, the caliphate is supposed to rule over all of the Muslim faithful. Iran shows little interest in the large-scale conquest that would make that happen. ISIS is all in. They won't stop until they win or die trying. -- Scott]
+11 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 25, 2014
Root causes? Too many young people, not enough opportunity to go around. Poor education. Corruption-riddled economic and political system that makes it impossible to improve your situation on your own. What would you do? You are young. You want a life. You are thwarted on every side. The internet reveals a better world you can't access. Then your religious leader tells you what your true purpose in life really is. And by the way, you will get paid to play - with the potential to rise in both status and economic terms.

Who funds all this? Millionaire and billionaire arm-chair religious zealots in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Their own governments tolerate their behavior - because it keeps them busy working to overthrow some else's government. Reign them in and their attention might turn inward...

You have to stop the zealots. They are gleefully directing events as if it were all a great game. They patiently fund religious madrases to fill the void left by governments that can't or won't provide schools. They weaponize young men and pit them against each other. No blood is too precious to spare in pursuit of the great prize.
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