Almost every pundit, whether he has ever set a foot in Arabia or not has weighed in on how to defeat ISIL. Most skirt one central fact. So my bottom line up front; the ISIL has to be defeated decisively on the battlefield and evidence of this must be widely distributed on every available media outlet.
We also need to come up with convincing programs directed at the potential IS recruiting base. Up to now while the anguish at the mass atrocities committed by the ISIL may evoke shock among the liberal humanitarian Western audiences it has the opposite reaction among the potential recruiting base of the ISIL.
To the adventurers, thugs, seekers, and other dysfunctional elements of society, Western and Islamic, it has a different and potent appeal. Like all totalitarian movements it carries the image of power, strength, unity, purpose, and solidarity as opposed to the effete, welfare society of Europe and the total chaos of the Arab world, and indeed a good part of the Islamic world.
Unfortunately at this point we do not have effective psychological programs, nor even an effective information program to counter the ISIL.
The Congress, in its wisdom, even tried to kill one of the few programs , Trans Regional Web Initiative. One can argue how effective it is but it does have a considerable following.
The counter-IS proposals advanced by various think tanks all seem to consist of some sort of lofty intellectual religious arguments to refute the IS version of Islam. I think these are useless. For a number of reasons:
1.Western sources for Islamic theology can hardly be accepted by the potential radicals as convincing.
2. How many of the potential recruits actually can read the Qu’ran? How many that can read it understand it? Especially the thugs from Londonstan or various Muslim ghettos in Europe?
3. The wrong assumption that the primary propelling force for IS victories is their religious zealotry. Like the conquering Arabs of the Ommayad and later dynasties destroying the Byzantines, it was not primarily their Islamic zeal. It was superior generalship, better strategy, quick tribal mobilization, and superior fighting skills. The IS of today has, by all accounts, skilfully integrated secular professional capabilities of the Saddamists, and Assads defected military. They will not be beaten by sophisticated Islamic arguments.
My concept would be based on a thesis I Have been found personally be true. Ardor for combat, whether it be based on religion, patriotism, or the desire for loot, diminishes somewhat in the face of the prospect that tomorrow one may resemble chopped liver. Ever notice that the Abu Bakr al Baghdadi types who are always extolling the virtues of martyrdom are surrounded by phalanxes of body guards to ensure it does not happen to them?
So the focus of the counter-propaganda should feature lots of videos of dead ISIL, the more gory, the better. Videos of captured IS fighters in miserable conditions repenting their past sins. The Egyptians did this very well with their fight against the radicals in the early 90’s. And should it prove difficult to come up with live IS fighters …well the Arabs are great natural thespians, they can come up with something very convincing ( like the video of supposed IS warriors discussing their use of Yezidi girls…it caused great adverse comment on the Iraqi social media). The use of ridicule is also very useful. For example…. photos of a rather rotund, pretentious, Al Baghdadi in his contrived Hashemite 7th century costume resembling, as one Iraqi told me, a Coptic priest.
Finally, as an example, think how fear trumps “Hearts and Minds.” One needs to analyze the lessons learned from the Algerian war against their terrorists.
As a number of analysts have made clear, the Algerian people were not wooed away from the terrorists by government benefits or kindler, gentler treatment, but rather the use of equal or greater terror than the Islamists. In other words the Algerian urban population began to fear the government forces more than the Islamic radicals. Not acceptable to the West? if indeed we want to destroy these totalitarian movements that feed on the inherent weaknesses of a liberal democracy then we may need to remember the quote by Winston Churchill… “In war-time, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.” Or even more cogent the quote by Barry Goldwater: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”