There’s no shortage of pundits willing to explain what’s happening in the world right now – the Middle East in flames, refugees inundating Europe, and a steady stream of terrorist atrocities across the world.
The latest of these attacks killed dozens across two separate sites in Belgium earlier this week. ISIS has claimed responsibility and that is no surprise.
“Islamic State fighters carried out a series of bombings with explosive belts and devices on Tuesday, targeting an airport and a central metro station in the center of the Belgian capital Brussels, a country participating in the coalition against the Islamic State,” said the ISIS statement. “Islamic State fighters opened fire inside the Zaventem airport, before several of them detonated their explosive belts, as a martyrdom bomber detonated his explosive belt in the Maalbeek metro station.”
So what will happen next?
While not exactly a pundit, the Chinese leader and military thinker Mao Zedong once wrote a book –On Guerrilla War–that laid out the three phases of an insurgency. Roughly speaking, those phases are political organization, guerrilla war, and then conventional war.
While not every conflict follows these phases, it has still proven to be a very robust and predictive model for how revolutionary wars tend to go.
ISIS is all the way in stage three, right now. They hold ground, they take ground, and they have a conventional army. But as the effort to degrade and destroy ISIS continues, the organization will inevitably be pushed back into stage two – guerrilla war.
At that point, the fight will not be over. In fact, it will probably become even more dangerous.
Whatever organization lives on in the wake of ISIS will no doubt re-dedicated itself to waging a global insurgency against Western interests, just as Al-Qaeda did from 1998 onward.
Defeating ISIS in Syria in Iraq isn’t the end, it may be the beginning.
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