To begin, terrorism cannot be defeated. Even if the United States and its allies are able to destroy ISIS in its current form the organization will not be truly defeated. This is the nature of terrorism, organizations and war. Terrorist groups form and endure in order to establish affective ties with fellow terrorists and to accomplish strategic and political goals. The primary goal of organizations is to survive. Wars don’t completely destroy the enemy. As a result, rather than their destruction history notes the evolution of terrorist organizations.
That is not to say terrorism cannot be hindered. One of the primary counterterrorism tools utilized by the United States in the war against terrorism has been targeted killing. Broadly, targeted killing is the premeditated killing of of an individual or group through the use of lethal force, such as unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) in order to protect assets abroad as well as at home. This strategy may include the targeting of terrorist leadership, terrorist soldiers and/or terrorist infrastructure. The problem is that there is little to no evidence targeted killing works. The logic doesn’t hold.
However, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have pledged to continue this practice in some form in order to combat the radical jihadists, disrupt ISIS’ networks, destroy ISIS strongholds and to make America more secure. But instead of those things, targeted killing may actually result in further radicalization, are used as terrorist recruitment tools, are not a deterrent to future attacks, may actually cause an increase in terrorist violence and spur hatred of America abroad. In other words, the opposite of those goals.
It’s difficult to determine the exact effectiveness and efficacy of targeted killing due to the conflicting processes it triggers. While targeted killing may disrupt terrorist networks and degrade the ability to attack in the short-term, in the long-term terrorist organizations may become more resilient to this strategy. Although targeted killing is effective at killing terrorists, if it also results in further radicalization and increased recruitment then the effect is null.
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are not so different on terrorism and defeating ISIS. They’re both wrong.