The crusade of tough talk from world leaders continues, backed up by air strikes and military advisors. The best we can hope for from this fundamentally misguided and weak policy mix is illusory containment.
What's needed is serious commitment from the international community to restoring security and generating economic development in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Air strikes may be a good first step, but they offer no real hope for the future and can do more harm than good unless accompanied by real action on the ground.
Air strikes destroy infrastructure and disrupt the local economy. People living in areas affected by air strikes suffer from shortages in food, electricity and running water. Send in enough bombs and people eventually leave. They become refugees.
Groups like ISIS thrive in the vacuum created by air strikes. They prey on the fears and insecurities of the local population. They profit from scarcity of basic goods leads to rationing and price gouging. They are winners at the expense of the local population.
The longer peace and security in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq remain elusive, the greater will be the cost to the rest of the world. Groups such as ISIS are a cancer and a plague. A parasite dies when its host dies. On the other hand, ISIS feeds on the ruins of everything it destroys.
Internationalists argue that basic respect for sovereign borders and the rights of nations dictates that ground troops are not deployed. But we are not talking about thriving stable states when we speak of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries in the middle-east. We are talking about either failed states amid civil war or states existing with at best a tenuous peace.
The first step is to send in a large scalemultinational military presence wherever ISIS and groups like ISIS proliferate. The multinational force will recapture the lost ground and then guarantee security.
The second order of business is to win over the hearts and minds of the population by investing the building and rebuilding of physical and economic infrastructure, just as was done after World War II. This Marshall style plan is critical because it will rebuild the torn fabric of society and create a large base of the population with vested interest in developing and maintaining the new order.
We must not forget how much work indeed there is to be done. These are countries where many of the population are without electricity, running water, sewage treatment systems and reliable infrastructure.
Without real capital injection and development of broad based economic and political opportunity too many people are disenfranchised and without vested interest in the society.
Nobody can expect that capital and people will flow back into the region without the full support of the international community in assuring peace and stability and without economic programs that create jobs, training and education.
Nothing of any good in this world comes without hard work and meaningful commitment. Air strikes tough talk and a fragile peace are simply not a winning formula. Until the world's leaders recognise this, take practical decisions and tackle the problem head on, little will change.