Graham Allison and Niall Ferguson make a proposal in The Atlantic. An excerpt:
Start with the issue that the president and his national-security team have been struggling with most: isis. Recent statements indicate that the administration tends to see isis as essentially a new version of al-Qaeda, and that a top goal of U.S. national-security policy is to decapitate it as al-Qaeda was decapitated with Osama bin Laden’s assassination. But history suggests that isis is quite different in structure from al-Qaeda and may even be a classic acephalous network. When we searched for historical analogues to isis, we came up with some 50 groups that were similarly brutal, fanatical, and purpose-driven, including the Bolsheviks of the Russian Revolution. By considering which characteristics of isis are most salient, a Council of Historical Advisers might narrow this list to the most relevant analogues. Study of these cases might dissuade the president from equating isis with its recent forerunner.