Bombing Isis is not enough – we’ll need to talk to them too

Summary and response

The terror group ISIS or ISIL or IS has dominated news headlines forbarbaric murders and attacks on innocent people. The group has alsoclaimed to have downed a Russian airliner killing all onboard. Morerecently, the group launched an attack in Paris that killed 129people. Consequently, the UK has joined Russia and France in bombingthe group’s strongholds in Syria. Riding on the strong public viewson this issue, an online article in the British tabloid, TheGuardian, titled “Bombing Isis is not enough – we’ll need totalk to them too” and authored by Jonathan Powell offers a new wayto fight ISIS. To drive his point home and win over the public, theauthor takes a logical approach by providing evidence from pastmilitary engagements by the US and UK thereby inviting the public tohave an informed opinion on the way forward in fighting ISIS.

The author formerly served as the chief of staff to the formerBritish premier, Tony Blair. One should recall that Tony Blair was inpower and sanctioned the attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan. It can thusbe expected that the author, having served the Blair regime, has aninteresting and informed view of the Middle Eastern conflict. Again,his experience and expertise in the area of politics gives thearticle credibility. This is in addition to the fact that the articlein published in The Guardian newspaper, which is one of the mostrespected and widely circulated newspapers in the UK.

In writing the article in the popular newspaper, the author targetsthe general public. He aims to educate the public about the availableoptions in combating terrorism and the ISIS threat specifically. Thisis based on the fact that past wars campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistanhave not yielded desired results and might have actually made thecountries even more radicalized and unsafe (Powell 1). Therefore,having been close to the head of a regime that waged the attacks inthe two Arab nations, it would be expected that the author can winpublic opinion on the way forward regarding ISIS. He understands thatthe British population relates well with the issue of terror havingsuffered several terror attacks in the past and a growing number ofBritish nationals joining radicalized groups including ISIS and AlShabaab. Based on such a background, the author hopes to convince hisaudience about the possibility of a new way of defeating ISIS andIslamic extremism.

Ideally, the author suggests dialogue and negotiations with ISIS toaccompany the current bombing campaigns. Powell takes his audiencedown memory lane and recollects previous military engagements by theUK and the US. They include attacks against groups such as FARC inColombia and IRA in Ireland where solutions were only reached throughnegotiations (Powell 1). He cites the words of a former commander ofthe US air force, who also agrees that the best way forward is tonegotiate with ISIS. However, the UK, the US, and other westernnations have always held a policy of non-negotiation with terrorists.On the contrary, these nations have always had to negotiate withinsurgent groups on numerous occasions. Nonetheless, negotiationsshould not replace military actions and they should not be doneopenly. He thus opines that military action should be used to subdueISIS into negotiations through a quiet channel (Powell 1). By a quietchannel, he means agreements out of the public domain that ifotherwise publicized would portray the government as compromisingwith terrorist.

I agree with the author that the UK and her main ally the US shouldlearn from their past engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan where peacehas been hard to come by. Today, Al-Qaeda still controls largesections of Afghanistan and Iraq while at the same time the group hasbeen actively fighting the NATO forces and the pro-western Iraqgovernment. The people of these regions have largely becomedisillusioned and public opinions have often blamed the presence offoreign forces in the country for the escalating violence. To avoidsuch a situation, military engagement should thus be only a means tothe most critical strategy in solving the conflict, negotiations(Powell 1). I believe that by the author highlighting the previouswar campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, the author is keenly awakeningpublic passion and emotions. This is because the invasions elicitedvaried reactions among the British citizens who grew increasinglyopposed to the invasion as the war dragged on and the number ofBritish casualties slowly increased. With that in mind, it is easierfor the public to quickly agree with the author that if negotiationsshould be considered to address ISIS and extremism in the region.

What I find lacking in the article and in the authors research is thesource of financing for the group. There have been some reports andrumors that some countries, who are considered allies in the fightagainst terror, having been secretly or indirectly financing terror(Powell 1). These countries have in some cases bought oil from ISISas well as provide weapons and direct finances to the group. It isthus clear that in the midst of conflict, there are those who benefitand there is a high likelihood that some people may stoke war fortheir own gain.

On the overall, the author approaches the topic with the caution itdeserves. He acknowledges that the topic and his suggestions arecontroversial and very sensitive. In fact, for this reason he doesnot introduce the term “negotiations” as his own suggestion butthat of a well experienced military commander (Powell 1). What isvery impressive about the article is the reconciliatory tone that heuses. He thus provides ample support for his argument and evenreveals that the UK has negotiated with insurgents group far awayfrom the public eye. While this might be news to some people, itshould offer hope to people who have been opposed to war as a way ofsolving conflict.

In summation, the article presents a fresh approach to one of thegreatest global threat at the moment. ISIS should be fought by allmeans to avert more destruction and deaths of innocent people but atthe same time address the ideological issues that have been the coredriving factor for Islamic extremism in the region. Ideally violencecannot be used to resolve violence and thus it is the role of the UKand her allies to assume more responsibility by forcing ISIS into thenegotiation table to address the threat of ISIS (Powell 1). Thus thearticle offers the public more information and hope that negotiatingwith ISIS is the best chance to address the threat of ISIS to avoidthe situation in Syria degenerating into what Iraq and Afghanistanhave become after withdrawing most of the ground forces. The changethus must lie with the people of Syria and the region in general ashas been achieved elsewhere through negotiations.

Work cited

Powell, Jonathan, Bombing Isis is not enough – we’ll need to talkto them too.The Guardian, 1st

Dec 2015. Web. 3rd Dec 2015. Accessed from:http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/dec/01/talk-to-isis-jihadis-ira-negotiate-military-political-solution


There is need for a new approach to the threat of terror in the nameof ISIS. The solution lies in looking at past engagements withinsurgent groups. Having worked closely with Tony Blair, the authorunderstands well the power of negotiations and the behind scenespolitics.

Main points

  1. The UK should bomb ISIS as there is no logic in attacking ISIS in Iraq and fail to do the same in Syria.

  2. Bombing should be accompanied by troops on the ground to push back ISIS.

  3. ISIS should be fought into submission for negotiations.

  4. The US and UK and their allies made mistakes in the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan in sighting Al Qaeda and Taliban and they should not be repeated with ISIS.

  5. There is need to understand the cultural, religious and ethnic histories of the region before invading new groups or territories to avoid reprisals.

Points I agree with

I agree with the fact that negotiations should now be considered asa way of ending conflict. Given that radical extremism and terrorismarise out of ideological differences, it is important that ideologyshould be countered by ideology as opposed to military responses.

I also agree that the coalition forces made a huge blunder of theircampaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Points I disagree with

I am opposed to the impression that the author create by ignoringthe role of terror financing. Oil exports by ISIS and some Arabstates active sponsorship of terror gives the group the financialpower to wage wars and recruit thousands. By ignoring the issue, theauthor makes it appear as irrelevant to fighting ISIS.


The section offers the captures the mains points of the article inbrief. The section as well captures the complications of the articlewhich is to inform the public about the best way forward in fightingISIS.