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Containment Is Not Enough: ISIS Must Be Defeated

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  • Gen. Petraeus: ISIS Will Prevent Political Solution in Iraq

    Clip: In response to a question from General David Petraeus, Anne-Marie Slaughter and Michele Flournoy disagree over the effect ISIS in Syria has on political institutions in Iraq's capital.

  • Has the U.S. Underfunded Options to Combat ISIS?

    Clip: Philip Zelikow and Michele Flournoy argue that an "advise and support" strategy against ISIS has not been fully attempted in the Middle East while Dov Zakheim questions the potential of investing more in the region.

  • 2-Minute Debate: Contain or Defeat ISIS

    Is containment enough, or must we defeat ISIS? This debate short is part of a series co-produced by Intelligence Squared U.S. and Newsy.

Debate Details

In June 2014, the Sunni militant group ISIS declared that it had established a new caliphate spanning territory in Syria and Iraq. Since then, the region under its control has expanded, despite airstrikes and the deployment of U.S. military advisors, and Jihadist groups across the Muslim world have pledged their allegiance. What should the Obama administration’s next steps be? Should the U.S. goal be containment, or can ISIS be defeated?

The Debaters

For the motion

Michele Flournoy

Michèle Flournoy

Co-Founder & Managing Partner, WestExec & Fmr. U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy

Michèle Flournoy is the co-founder and managing partner of WestExec, a strategic advisory firm offering unique geopolitical expertise, and the co-founder... Read More

Philip Zelikow

Professor of History, UVA & Fmr. Counselor, Dept. of State

Philip Zelikow is the White Burkett Miller Professor of History at the University of Virginia and former dean of its graduate school. A career foreign... Read More

Against the motion

Anne-Marie Slaughter

Pres. & CEO, New America Fdn. & Fmr. Dir. of Policy Planning, Dept. of State

Anne-Marie Slaughter is the president and CEO of the New America Foundation and the Bert G. Kerstetter ’66 University Professor Emerita of Politics... Read More

Dov Zakheim

Senior Advisor, CSIS & Fmr. Under Secretary of Defense

Dov Zakheim is senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and senior fellow at CNA Corp. Previously, he served as senior... Read More

Where Do You Stand?

For The Motion
  • We cannot keep ISIS at a distance and allow it to establish a sanctuary, as we did with al Qaeda in the 1990s.
  • The U.S. must intervene on a larger scale, which includes the deployment of more ground forces.
  • We are at war with ISIS and the administration's incrementalism will only give it space to grow stronger.
Against The Motion
  • Defeating ISIS would require the commitment of hundreds of thousands of troops, which the U.S. is not prepared to do.
  • After over a decade fighting in the Middle East, the U.S. still has a poor grasp of the region—even if we were committed to defeat ISIS militarily, what then?
  • By containing ISIS, we will allow its ideology and brutality to consume it from within.

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The Research

The Research

Operation Inherent Resolve

December 31, 1969

Targeted operations against ISIL terrorists.

Remarks by the President on Progress in the Fight Against ISIL

President Obama
July 6, 2015

Our mission to destroy ISIL and to keep our country safe will be difficult. It will take time. There will be setbacks as well as progress.

The Islamic State

Zachary Laub and Jonathan Masters
May 18, 2015

Background information on the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

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