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Public Affairs : War Council ISIS 1

Strategic perspective on combating ISIS shared 

Story and photo by Kathy Eastwood
Staff Writer
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Feb. 26, 2015) — The Defense and Strategic Studies Program brought five instructors from the Department of Law, Department of History, Combating Terrorism Center and the Army Cyber Institute to strategize on the issue of understanding and combating ISIS at the Combating ISIS Strategic Perspective War Council at Washington Hall Feb. 18 to a mixed audience of cadets, staff and faculty.

The DSS War Council series was established to be something of a think tank where speakers can express their opinions within their specific disciplines on a current and relevant topic while opening up the forum for questions.

Maj. Mike Jackson, DSS instructor, was the moderator and opened with a disclaimer that all opinions provided by the speakers, while educated and thought-provoking. are not necessarily those expressed by the Department of Defense or the U.S. Military Academy.

Maj. Patrick Grant, assistant professor of law, focused on the laws concerning the right to declare war.

“The president has consistently maintained that he has domestic legal authority to engage ISIS,” Grant said. “ First of all the war powers resolution requires that the president cannot deploy troops for more than 60 days to a foreign nation unless authorized by a declaration of war, emergency situation, or protect the U.S. from an attack, or if it is a statutory authority.”

Grant said the president has maintained that he had this authorization due to the 2001 resolution for use of military force to those who committed the attack on 9/11 and the 2002 authorization that applied to the use of military force in Iraq.

“The problem is, these two resolutions for use of military force don’t really address ISIS correctly,” Grant said. “The new authorization does several things; it only applies to ISIS and its associates, it defines associates as those fighting alongside ISIS and those supporting ISIS or spin-off organization. It repeals the 2002 authorization for use of military force. It does not repeal the 2001 authorization that the president claims give him the authority to fight ISIS.”

Dr. Rasheed Hosein, assistant professor in the Department of Law, spoke on the historical aspect of ISIS.

He explained the ISIS threat began during World War I with a series of agreements that portioned out the Middle East, the Ottoman Empire and those in power.

“Why is the message that ISIS is handing out so attractive to people in other countries,” Hosein asked. “They have a very clear narrative of the history of the region, a very clear narrative of how these events are transpiring outside of the control of the people who live there and how events are transpiring outside; so there is a sense of enfranchising the people and that is a very powerful appeal to the people.”

Hosein said ISIS has a specific understanding of how things should play out to achieve their outcome. An example of this is the idea in the Quran about the apocalyptic age or the end of times where the Army of the righteous will fight and win.

“ISIS is fulfilling a religious requirement, to create those events that will trigger the end time prophesies,” Hosein said. “Because of that, they have a very uncompromising view of many other groups who stand in their way.”   

Lt. Col. Bryan Price, CTC director and assistant professor in the Department of Social Sciences, said this is not the first time the U.S. has had to confront a hostile ideology, but there are differences between jihadists and ISIS. Price said the Cold War strategy of containment rather than boots on the ground is probably the best way to defeat ISIS because although there may be short-term defeats, ISIS is not fighting on a timetable. 
Lt. Col. Bryan Price, director of the Combating Terrorism Center, talks about the best way to combat ISIS and their quality, size, scope and content of using social media Feb. 18 at Combating ISIS, Strategic Perspective War Council.

“I don’t see any military solution to defeat ISIS,” Price said. “Their advantage over us is in social media with the quality, size, scope and the content of using social media to their advantage.”

Price said ISIS produces 90,000 social media products per day including everything from tweets, feature length documentaries and shorts. Col. Thomas Cook, director of research at the Army Cyber Institute and academy professor, spoke about the cyber threats that may be part of ISIS.

“They are not hacking our websites, they have their own websites and they are doing well,” Cook said. “The threat is characterized in intent, sponsorship, education, skill, motivation and the tools they have available to them.”

Cook said there is no terrorist organization that comes close to its sophistication; the cyber threat with ISIS is on the lower extreme.

“Most of what we are seeing is low-tech level efforts such as spear fishing, web debasement and hijacking social media,” Cook explained. “It’s not that they can’t improve and I think they will, but most of this stuff is social media hacking.”

“Although the fear is when these organizations start attacking our industrial control infrastructure. That is when we should worry,” Cook added. “We have a full branch to deal with that and that will bring the multidisciplinary efforts to address the challenges we are facing. That’s where we are right now.”

Maj. Matt Cavanaugh, DSS instructor, noted that ISIS territory is the size of Pennsylvania, larger than either North or South Korea and 70 percent larger than Ireland.  

Cavanaugh said ISIS wields a force of about 30,000 and demonstrates sovereignty to the world with each new public execution that specifically targets Westerners.

“They are led by a purposeful command that is employing socially horrifying violence in a sophisticated style to achieve their ends,” Cavanaugh said.

By targeting journalists, they are deterring credible reporting and that denies a significant part of information strategy.

“Sun Tzu tells us to attack opponent alliances,” Cavanaugh said. “ISIS is doing that too.”

Cavanaugh said Jordan’s fight with ISIS after the death of their pilot is putting them in a difficult position and in turn, they may need to lower their profile with their alliance to the U.S.

The next event in the DSS program is scheduled 12:50-1:45 p.m. Friday at Washington Hall 5006 on the topic “Combating ISIS: Tactical Perspectives.”

The program will feature a speaker from 5th Special Forces Group and an Iraqi Special Forces officer to discuss the ongoing tactical fight against ISIS.