As the Islamic State advance was brought to a stop, coalition aircraft were free to attack the enemy from their front line positions to deep behind into the territory they held. The uncontested hold of the air provides us the ability to target and destroy the support network that keeps the self-declared caliphate fully functioning. From Mosul to Raqqa, the destruction of logistic depots, training camps, communication facilities and financial complexes, in addition to the destruction of their fighting units in direct contact with friendly forces, applies pressure on every aspect of the organization.
Is it possible to intervene in another nation-state and pushback against the weight of that nation-state’s history? Can the weight of history be sufficiently balanced by intervention, allowing for the creation of enduring conditions that protect the outsider’s strategic interests? Today, the experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the constraints on resources and time, probably make this an unattractive policy option. Instead, managing not resolving, the threats that pose risk to strategic interests is probably a more reasonable policy approach. This means accepting that an intervention in the affairs of another nation-state is limited to advise, assist and enable; and that the intervention will be a long-term commitment that works with the grain of history to achieve incremental progress.