It is a misconception to suggest that a military campaign is enough to defeat the Islamic State, argues Ibrahim al-Assil, a fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington and a founding member of the Syrian Nonviolence Movement. While the United States can bomb Islamic State fighters, it cannot bomb their ideology. Without addressing the root causes that brought about the rise of the terrorist movement, any “defeat” is only short-term, he writes for Democracy Post:
The United States should stabilize and invest in the areas outside of government control as a way of ensuring the permanent defeat of the Islamic State. Such support will empower local communities to govern themselves while giving grass-roots civil society the space it needs to continue working on countering the radicalism of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, since they know their local population best.
The Islamic State has been spreading its ideas in Syria since 2013. Some places, such as the city of Raqqa, have been under full Islamic State control for nearly four years. The group controlled all aspects of society, including education, mosques and the media. It will take a lot of work to undo the Islamic State’s harsh effects on society, and only Syrian civil society can do this work. Why? Because it is indigenous, it understands the culture and it has local credibility.
“Syrian civil society is a strategic partner for the United States in countering terrorism and radicalism, and the United States would be wise to maintain and even increase its support for civil society groups on the ground,” he asserts. RTWT