Crown Center for Middle East Studies

How the U.S. Defeated the Islamic State and the Lessons for Future Conflicts

A Book Talk with Michael R. Gordon (Video Available)

In 2014, President Barack Obama faced a sobering surprise: Islamic State insurgents had seized the Iraqi city of Mosul and proclaimed a new caliphate, which they would rule with an iron fist and use to launch terrorist attacks abroad. After wrestling with the setback, the president who withdrew U.S. forces from Iraq sent American troops back. The new mission was to "degrade and ultimately destroy" ISIS, primarily by advising Iraqi and Syrian partners who would do the bulk of the fighting on the ground with the support of prodigious U.S. airpower, HIMARS rockets and artillery. More than four years later, the caliphate had been dismantled, much of Mosul and Raqqa lay in ruins, and several thousand U.S. troops remained to prevent ISIS from making a comeback. But how was the war actually fought? And how is the military campaign being waged today as the U.S. and its partners hunt remnants of the terrorist organization? Drawing on his critically acclaimed book, Degrade and Destroy, Wall Street Journal national security correspondent Michael R. Gordon reveals the strategy debates, diplomatic gambits, and military operations that shaped the struggle against the Islamic State and led to some of the toughest urban battles since World War II. Gordon, who covered the fighting in Iraq and Syria, provide sinsights into how wars today are fought against militant foes and discusses the lessons for future conflicts in the Middle East and beyond.

Michael R. Gordon is the national security correspondent for The Wall Street Journal. He is the author of Degrade and Destroy: The Inside Story of the War Against the Islamic State, from Barack Obama to Donald Trump. He is also the coauthor, along with the late Lieutenant General Bernard E. Trainor, of three definitive histories of U.S. wars in Iraq: The Endgame, Cobra II, and The Generals' War
Gary Samore
, chair, is the Crown Family Director of the Crown Center.