It is not accidental that the Islamic State has taken root in some of the most poorly governed countries in the Muslim world. State-building is an unpopular mission, from which successive American administrations have shied. Yet the alternative is war without end, note RAND analysts Seth G. Jones and James Dobbins:
If the Islamic State is to be defeated and stay defeated, military measures will need to be combined with economic, technical, and political assistance designed to improve state and local capacity. Popular grievances that have given rise to extremist movements need to be better addressed. These are not steps the United States should take alone, but Washington should lead in assembling and guiding donor coalitions working with each of the affected countries.
While the Pentagon’s immediate focus is on the battlefield, its plan to defeat ISIS is reportedly much broader, recognizing the need to utilize “all elements of national power” to attack the key sources of ISIS’s strength, including its ideology, say analysts Paula J. Dobriansky and Aaron Lobel:
This recognition is not new. More than a decade ago, while the United States was focused on destroying al Qaeda militarily, the bipartisan 9/11 Commission wrote that the terrorist group was just one manifestation of “a radical ideological movement in the Islamic world… that will menace Americans and American interests long after Osama Bin Laden and his cohorts are killed or captured.” The commission concluded, “Our strategy must match our means to two ends: dismantling the Al Qaeda network, and prevailing in the longer term over the ideology that gives rise to Islamist terrorism.”
In fact, ISIS’s very existence is proof that we didn’t heed those warnings. The U.S. has still not dedicated anything close to the resources necessary to prevail against extremist ideology, they write for POLITICO:
To do so requires nothing less than a full-scale generational commitment to engage, support and empower moderate forces in the Muslim world, amplifying the voices of all those who seek to advance values such as pluralism, the rule of law, women’s rights, critical thinking, reason and innovation. …The United States can rise to the challenge, helping the creative artists of the Middle East unlock the potential of their drama and entertainment industry by mentoring and supporting the next generation of storytellers in the Middle East. The goal should be to flood the region with production of original, (largely) Arabic drama and entertainment programming that inspires and empowers, transmitting values that will help make the Middle East a more tolerant, open-minded and secure region. RTWT
Ideological confusion and competition has hindered efforts to support Syria’s democratic forces, says a leading analyst.
“The western governments and Gulf governments that supported the opposition quickly started pursuing their own separate agendas, funding different types of groups independently of each other,” said Carnegie Fellow Yezid Sayigh. “They also pursued different ideological or political models in terms of supporting Islamist groups or non-Islamist ones and so on,” he told Deutsche Welle.
“These outside governments never improved their coordination. Even when they started to coordinate through military operation centers in Amman and in Turkey, they failed to genuinely pool their resources and agree to a single agenda, when dealing especially with the armed opposition inside Syria.”