What would a world war agains ISIS entail?

It’s clear that ISIS wants to hasten End of Times (Yawm al-Qīyāmah or Qiyâmah (literally "Day of the Resurrection). That would involve a world war. What would such a war look like? Would it be along the lines of the following definition of a world war? I look forward to your feedback.

A world war is a war affecting most of the world’s most powerful and populous countries. World wars span multiple countries on multiple continents, with battles fought in multiple theaters. The term is usually applied to the two conflicts of unprecedented scale that occurred during the 20th century: World War I and World War II. However, it is also sometimes applied to earlier wars and to a hypothetical future war.

Since this is speculative, let’s move it to Great Debates.

General Questions Moderator

Like we see now, and then it will look worse for ISIS/DAESH

Attacking defenseless people does not lead to world conquest.

There may be a world war in the future, but ISIS/DAESH is not going to be part of it. The war DAESH is taking part right now is a weird creature made of sectarian/civil war/economical components, with a slice of ecological causes.

And one should not ignore what is going on all over the world, we are actually not seeing much of total wars among nations as it was the usual in the past centuries.

(Is War Over? — A Paradox Explained)

About five minutes of strategic bombardment. If NATO or Russia decides that ISIL going extinct is worth bombing ISIL territory the way Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were worth bombing, and the other agrees not to interfere, ISIL and their caliphate would soon be wiped from the face of the Earth.

Yep, a little more of the ‘Shock and Awe’.

Erm: then what?

You want to create a political vacuum in a political vacuum? That might cost you another $2 trillion you just don’t have.

No, not “shock and awe”. A “world war” against ISIL would not be about trying to make them surrender, because we do not want to disband ISIL as an organisation. We want to kill the people who are a part of that organisation.

Why would it? Are you going to send an army to occupy a bunch of land we don’t even want?

If we don’t occupy it, somebody else will, and I guaranfuckingtee it won’t be peaceful freedom-loving converts to democracy. If you break it, you buy it.

I find myself kinda agreeing with the prediction of Grumman here. If the hypothetical is “A World War against Daesh” (which implies a lot of things, among them the willingness to go all-out in a “total war” sense), well…

After reaching that point, and after some kind of agreement between the powers that be ™ in order to ensure non-interference, one of them (the US, or Russia) would basically turn the Daesh-controlled territory into a sheet of molten glass.

Which would lead to considering the total obliteration of enemies (and the population that lives in their territory) as something less “unthinkable” than it is now. I think that that would be a rather regrettable outcome. A step back for humanity as a whole, and the opening of a whole new Pandora’s box of unintended consequences.

But if things end up reaching that point, well… I can see that particular scenario happening.

Which is why I think it preferable to go at it slowly but surely, letting the Kurds and their allies carry the fight on the ground, giving them air support by bombing Daesh where it is needed, and getting ready to endure several more terrorist attacks on the part of Daesh (which likely would increase their attempts at them the more they are driven back in the battlefield on the ground).

The latter is harder, more painful for us, and slower – but in the end I think that it would be a safer solution.

We have learned that the heart of the beast is not Al Qeada or ISIS … they just heads of the hydra. We cannot win by chopping off another head.

A war that wins means ending with a circumstance of stable future self-governance, not with the West staying involved chopping off new heads forever.

It does include bombing targets and lots of them, targeted by good intelligence on the ground.And having more native forces actually do the ground combat.

It means that Russia and the US (both now motivated to see ISIS destroyed as job one) and agree to somehow get Assad and rebel forces to a negotiated power sharing that either will be happy with but which allows a coordinated battle from both their ground fronts on ISIS as the common enemy and the greatest threat to them both.

OK, great plan. Kill all ISIS. Except that’s not a plan, that’s a goal. How do you accomplish that? By dropping bombs? Where? On ISIS headquarters, I suppose. And then what? Would it surprise you to learn that we’ve been dropping bombs on lots and lots of ISIS headquarters for a while now?

Or do you mean city-leveling saturation bombing? Except it turns out that most of the people in ISIS controlled towns and villages aren’t ISIS soldiers, even if some of them support ISIS. People in Syria and western Iraq don’t come with giant labels on their heads to let pilots know who to bomb and who to let go. Or do we just bomb and shoot everything that moves? On the theory that anyone who runs is an ISIS, and anyone who doesn’t run is a well disciplined ISIS?

If your response to the massacre of innocent civilians in Paris to massacre even more innocent civilians in Syria and Iraq, what exactly is the difference between you and ISIS? Or are there no innocent civilians in Syria? It’s total war, each and every human being in Syria and Iraq is part of the ISIS war machine, so each and every human being over there is a legitimate bombing target? Isn’t that what ISIS believes when they bomb civilians in Paris?

Oh great, now you want to arm the “moderate rebels”!

Can we please give up the fantasy that there are three groups in Syria–ISIS, the government, and the moderate rebels? One of these things is not like the others. If we want to prop up Assad so he can fight ISIS, then let’s admit that’s what we’re doing. Because the first thing he’s going to do with our help is finally wipe out the “moderate rebels”, because that’s a lot easier than fighting ISIS. Then and only then, once he’s got his boot firmly back on the neck of the Syrian people, will he try to fight ISIS.

That’s your recipe for future stability??

There’s only one way to win a war against a group like ISIS and that is to destroy their ideas. Unfortunately, that’s not something we can do as we have no credibility. There’s no military option. Say NATO bombarded ISIS territory and turned every single ISIS fighter into ashes, that wouldn’t destroy the ideas that motivated them. In a few months, another group would rise up with a new leader proclaiming himself the “true” caliph and the whole ugly process would begin all over again.

We’ll be playing Whack-A-Mole with groups like ISIS for as long as the power and appeal of their ideas remains undiminished. The longer this goes on, and the more atrocities Islamists carry out, the more convinced I become that the only way to deal with this is to do everything in our power to divorce ourselves from that entire region of the world as much as possible. Cut economic ties, cut military ties, cut everything, and just let the people in that region figure it all out for themselves. It seems like absolutely everything we do, without exception, just makes matters worse. Therefore, the best thing to do is do nothing. Plough all the resources we can spare into electric cars, nuclear power, fracking, domestic oil reserves and alternative energy sources to wean ourselves off middle eastern oil, then just do everything we can to forget about that part of the world altogether. Either the ideas which motivate groups like ISIS will lose credibility, or the various disparate factions will eat each other. Either way, it’s not our problem.

In the past and now, yes.

You know what? I get so sick of hearing this Chuck Norris fantasy bullshit from people who have no idea what they are talking about and think that we can just wipe out some group with impunity and without any negative unintended consequences.

What do you think? Every ISIL member is going to walk around with their ISIL T-Shirts and corporate ID badges so Delta Force can single them out?

When has any nation every defeated an enemy using nothing but air power?

How would you use military force against some radicalized non-zero percentage of 1.5 billion Muslims without incenting the remaining balance?

Do you think ISIS is going to sit there in the desert waiting for the US, Russians and French to bomb the shit out of them?

How many ground causalities do you think the American people will tolerate after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan?

In the art of the possible, yes. A flawed political settlement, two very imperfect parties in an uncomfortable arranged marriage, united primarily by an awareness of the what the alternative is, avoiding the native power vacuum which is as much as anything else that which feeds the heart of the beast … yup, that’s my recipe.

Funny enough since I posted my fantasy outcome there has been talk that makes me have some hope that it is a bit more of an achievable fantasy than those that I had when I was a teen-ager involving this girl who was a dancer … although those fantasies were a bit more entertaining.

Correction: Destroying ISIS requires multiple levels of responses: military, economic, ideological etc. Fighting their ideas is part of it but we do have to destroy them physically as well.

Citation needed

Osama Bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki, Mummar Gadaffi, and others currently being sodomized by pitchforks in Hades disagree.


Not necessarily-the rise of ISIS was due to a set of unique circumstances including the Iraqi Army being caught off-guard, ISIS winning the support of the former Baathist officer corps, and so forth. It is not guaranteed nor even likely that another group with be able to have all those things going right for them.

We probably do have to play Whack-A-Mole with the forces of Islamist reaction for the next few decades but obviously at the same time we can gradually erode their ideological basis as well in the meantime. Keep the Islamist reactionaries on the margins for the next few decades with local ground forces largely doing the work with the usual drone strikes or bombings and the occasional commando operation by us isn’t the most terrible thing that can happen in this world considering such low level warfare for decades was not uncommon in European colonies and as long as our casualties are minimized, public complaints will similarly be kept to an acceptable level.

Yes let’s screw all those tens of millions of people in the Middle East regardless of whether they fall into the hands of savages or not. Not to mention the absurdity of cutting all economic ties with a single country much less an entire region. Otoh, yours is a good way for Israel to just say “fuck it” and drop some nukes on Tehran.

The Kurds, Yezidis, and others disagree with you.

I’m fine with everything you suggest but that’s not going to happen.

Except you aren’t going to get that. As I indicated above, in such a scenario there’d be no stopping Israel from nuking Tehran which is inevitably going to end up causing Muslim nations to blame us and thus a whole new can of worms.

@Lemur, MSmith:
What do you want, exactly? “A world war against ISIL would entail sending fruit baskets and a stern letter asking them not to murder any more Shia”? The OP asked what a world war against ISIL would be like, and the answer to that question is that unless it’s just a different name for poking at targets of opportunity like we’re doing right now, it would involve not waiting for targets of opportunity and accepting greater collateral damage as a cost of getting rid of them.

"Even so, the death of the Islamic State is unlikely to be quick, and things could still go badly wrong: if the Islamic State obtained the allegiance of al‑Qaeda—increasing, in one swoop, the unity of its base—it could wax into a worse foe than we’ve yet seen. The rift between the Islamic State and al-Qaeda has, if anything, grown in the past few months; the December issue of Dabiq featured a long account of an al‑Qaeda defector who described his old group as corrupt and ineffectual, and Zawahiri as a distant and unfit leader. But we should watch carefully for a rapprochement.

Without a catastrophe such as this, however, or perhaps the threat of the Islamic State’s storming Erbil, a vast ground invasion would certainly make the situation worse."

"In Northern Ireland, the Irish Republican Army used terrorism in the 1970s to bait British forces into overreacting, which they did during Bloody Sunday, the Falls Road Curfew, and internment operations like Demetrius. British practices sparked an upsurge in violence and a wave of support for the IRA.

Third, groups that hold territory need to use some of their personnel, finances, equipment, and security forces to establish law and order. But when they lose ground, it frees up some of these resources to conduct terrorist attacks. After losing most of its territory in Somalia, al-Shabab shifted some of its focus to attacking those countries engaged in military operations in Somalia.

The lesson with ISIS is straightforward. Western populations should be prepared for an upsurge in violence if ISIS continues to lose territory. There has already been a growth in attacks and plots across the West with operational or inspirational ties to ISIS. These include the attacks in Paris last week; Garland, Texas, in May; Copenhagen in February; Paris in January; Sydney in December; Ottawa, Canada, in October 2014; and Brussels in May 2014.
ISIS leaders have now threatened the United States that it could be next. “I swear to God, as we struck France in its stronghold Paris, we will strike America in its stronghold, Washington,” an ISIS fighter declared in a video released this week. Chances are they mean it."