There is “no question” that the loss of territory in their so-called caliphate by ISIS is leading to more attacks on civilians, Phyllis Bennis told RT America in the wake of the latest attacks in Baghdad and Istanbul.

When they lose control of populations, Bennis said, they turn to old-fashioned terrorism techniques of car bombings and suicide bombings, hitting civilian targets.

When Russia, the  U.S. and its allies respond with increased military action, the cost to the local populations is enormous, Bennis said. In the case of Ramadi, bombing of the Iraqi city left 80 percent of it decimated and caused far more civilian casualties.

“There’s a cost to the people living there who often have no homes to go back to and it’s a cost to civilians in the region and around the world who are now increasingly threatened with more terrorism,” Bennis said.

Of course on one hand it’s better to not have ISIS in control of populations, but the problem is we don’t hear about the costs and no one is consulting the people on the ground, Bennis said. In a recent survey 76 percent of the city of Mosul, which has been under ISIS control for two years, said they do not want to be liberated by the Shi’a militia, which they view as even more dangerous than ISIS, Bennis said.

Bennis said what we should be doing is looking at the root causes of instability in the region and combat those with non-military actions including diplomacy and humanitarian aid to refugees and internally displaced peoples.

“It’s not about accepting ISIS control,” Bennis said. “It’s about using methods that might actually work instead of those that make the situation worse.”

Bennis said the reason that ISIS is so strong is because many people see them as the lesser evil relative to their violent, sectarian governments.

“As long as we’re focusing solely on the military side and ignoring the conditions that lead people to turn to ISIS as a lesser evil,” Bennis said, “we’re not going to be able to end these kinds of attacks.”

Phyllis Bennis directs the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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