Rafik Hariri Center Nonresident Senior Fellow H.A. Hellyer writes for Defense One on how ISIS contrasts with historical terrorist organizations:

 In his recent Atlantic piece on “What to Do About ISIS,” Jonathan Powell, a former senior British diplomat, posits that eventually, the West would have to negotiate with the so-called Islamic State. It’s a comforting thought, in a way—the suggestion presupposes that ISIS, just like many other armed organizations throughout history, is the kind of group that can eventually be reasoned with, however distasteful its enemies may find the prospect. Noting numerous examples in which governments have talked their way to peace with terrorist organizations, Powell acknowledges, “of course people argue that ISIS is completely different from anything we have seen before. But people have said that about each new armed group since the rise of the IRA in 1919.”

If Powell’s historical analogies worked, the struggle against ISIS would be a lot simpler. Unfortunately, the analysis underappreciates how direly different ISIS actually is. The armed groups that Powell describes as having accepted negotiated settlements were fundamentally nationalist organizations—even where the group or “nation” on whose behalf they fought was sometimes defined partly in terms of religious identity—with fundamentally political and pragmatic aims. ISIS is instead a radical supra-nationalist group based on a deeply perverted interpretation of Sunni Islam, and it has hugely maximalist goals.

Read the full article here.

Related Experts: H.A. Hellyer