For John, BLUF: A wrong choice means unnecessary loss of lives and money. Nothing to see here; just move along.
When going to war it is important to know who you are fighting, what kind of an entity with which you are engaged. Reporter Yaroslav Trofimov,♠ writing for The Wall street Journal, gives us "Response Against Islamic State Hinges on Whether to Treat It as a State". As an analogy, are you at war with Italy or with the Mafia? The sub-headline is "Western leaders divided on the question". That isn't helpful.
Here is the key part of the article:
The difference is critical. If Islamic State is treated mostly as a terrorist network, then the effort against it is essentially a counterterrorism operation in which the goal, as often stated by Mr. Obama, is primarily to undermine the group's narrative and its appeal to Muslims world-wide. Militarily, this means focusing on narrow targets, such as its operatives, and taking utmost care to avoid civilian casualties.Regards — Cliff
But if Islamic State is treated as an enemy state, then the primary goal is the same as in conventional wars—first, destroy its ability to operate, including its infrastructure and economic base, and then eventually conquer its real estate.
The ability to run a de facto state—the group has called on all Muslims to move there—is a crucial part of Islamic State's narrative.
♠ Yaroslav Trofimov writes a weekly column, Middle East Crossroads, about the region stretching from West Africa to Pakistan. He joined the Journal in 1999 and previously served as Rome, Middle East and Singapore-based Asia correspondent, and as bureau chief in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the author of two books, Faith at War (2005) and Siege of Mecca (2007).