Here is Fred Kaplan’s 8-point plan for fighting ISIS:
First, NATO should invoke Article 5…. Second…ISIS could come under much fiercer bombardment…. Third, this air power should be directed to support all ground forces engaged in fighting ISIS, no matter how unpalatable they might otherwise be—including Iranian-backed militias…. Fourth…everything should be done to raise up, supply, and if necessary train Sunni militias and command groups, too…. Fifth, all of the above requires intense shuttle diplomacy…. Sixth…Obama is right to quell talk of throwing thousands of American (or other Western) combat troops into this fight…. Seventh, this reticence in sending combat troops shouldn’t preclude a doubling or tripling of special operations forces to advise, coordinate airstrikes, and occasionally support counter-terrorist raids…. Finally, none of these efforts will amount to much in the long run without a political settlement in Syria.
In short: a bigger air campaign; cooperation with both Shiite Iranian forces and Sunni militias; and more special ops. On the non-military side, we need plenty of shuttle diplomacy to secure a political settlement in Syria. I’d add to that the development of a tolerably multi-sectarian government in Iraq, and I’m a little unsure why Kaplan left that off his list.
I think everyone should understand that even a plan like this, which is grounded in reality, is uncertain to work and will require a lot of time even if it does. In the end, groups like ISIS will continue to pop up until the Middle East’s civil wars start to resolve themselves. It’s unclear whether American influence can do much to speed that up.