Over its history, the United States has only rarely faced a foreign threat that persisted for a generation or longer. Conflict with Great Britain flared for roughly four decades after the Revolutionary War. The Cold War with the Soviet Union lasted nearly 45 years.
An Islamic gunman walks past a pickup truck belonging to the "Raqa Regional Public Service," which is headed by the Islamic State, loaded with the wreckage of a Syrian government forces aircraft. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)All evidence indicates that the struggle against radical Islamic extremism is destined to join this short list of prolonged challenges. The fact that the Islamic State coalesced so quickly after al-Qaida weakened suggests the rise of radical groups is driven as much by demand as supply: So long as there is a critical mass of recruits sympathetic to jihadist ideology, an organization will emerge to mobilize them. If we destroy ISIS, something resembling it will probably resurface sooner rather than later—absent an improbable transformation of attitudes among the radicalized minority in the Muslim world.
Yet nearly 14 years after the 9/11 attacks, America's political leadership remains far from agreement on a sustainable strategy for engaging with this conflict. The contrast with the Cold War is telling. Despite differences in emphasis, this far into the Cold War, both U.S. political parties had largely accepted the overriding strategy of containment. Today, the parties are split over how to respond to Islamic radicalism, and even over what to call it. Nothing better illustrated this divide than the gaping partisan fissure over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress on Tuesday, denouncing President Obama's ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran.