Selection and commentary by PDC members and authoritative experts in the field
Friday, September 25th 2015
“A small but growing number of defectors from the Islamic State are risking reprisals and imprisonment to speak out about their disillusionment with the extremist group, according to a research organization that tracks former and current militants.” Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura provided details in an article, “ISIS Defectors Reveal Disillusionment,” in the September 20, 2015 issue of The New York Times. She noted that the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications “was one of the first to recognize the value of such narratives.”
“The defectors provide unique insight into life in the Islamic State,” the report says. “But their stories can also be used as a potentially powerful tool in the fight against it. The defectors’ very existence shatters the image of unity and determination that I.S. seeks to convey.”Read More
Friday, September 25th 2015
On March 17, 2015, the Project on Middle East Political Science, based at the Institute for Middle East Studies at the George Washington University and supported by the Carnegie Corporation and the Henry Luce Foundation, issued a report, “Islamism in the IS Age.” In the introduction to the report, Marc Lynch commented:
It is in the realm of confronting jihadist ideology that trends are the least promising. The currently favored strategy, which combines autocratic repression with the official promotion of “moderate” Islam and the conflation of very different movements under the banner of “terrorism,” is likely to make problems worse. Radicalization is driven less by Islamist ideas than by failures of both governance and popular uprisings and the elimination of nonviolent alternatives. The Islamic State gained traction, recall, in a distinctive regional political environment shaped especially by extensive public regional mobilization in support of a sectarian Syrian jihad and the July 3, 2013 military coup in Egypt that brought down the elected government of President Mohamed Morsi. The coup and subsequent regional wave of intense repression of the Muslim Brotherhood ended an extended period of the open political participation by mainstream Islamist movements, discrediting the idea of such democratic inclusion for the foreseeable future and marginalizing the advocates of mainstream political strategies. The regional environment after the failure and perversion of the Arab uprisings is deeply hostile to any public role for non-violent Islamists and highly conducive to radical movements of all flavors.Read More
Thursday, September 24th 2015
“The US administration seems unable to make up its mind whether the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is a war but the objective has been made clear by President Obama, “degrade and defeat” the Islamic State. But how?” This question was posed in an op-ed, “Defeating ISIS requires a comprehensive strategy beyond drones and air strikes,” in globalpost.com on September 19, 2014, by former U.S. Ambassador to Oman Gary Grappo.
[ISIS] touts an ideology that appeals to many frustrated and angry Muslims, especially forlorn and forgotten Sunni youth, and to psychopathic killers, such as the British fighter responsible for the beheading of two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff.
Degrading and defeating that kind of operation requires much more than air and drone strikes. What is needed is a comprehensive strategy that degrades and eliminates all of the legs on which ISIS stands. Leave even one in place, and it or a facsimile will rise in its place. * * * * *Read More
Thursday, September 24th 2015
William Marcellino of the RAND Corporation opened a recent article on “strategic communication” by noting that . . . “the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) definition of the term strategic communication is vague and idiosyncratic in relation to the definitions of other agencies. In turn . . . the lack of conceptual clarity and of shared, precise terminology hurts the implementation and further development of strategic communication” and “the lack of both domestic interagency and foreign partner coordination and cooperation . . .” He cited “high-visibility failures in strategic communication” such as the 2001 “Shared Values” campaign and the 2012 U.S. Presidential response to the “Innocence of Muslims” video.Read More
Wednesday, September 23rd 2015
In June, 1970, the Marine Corps Gazette published the text of a talk, “Effective Press Relations,” given to students at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College earlier that year by legendary USIA officer Barry Zorthian (1920-2010). He was Public Affairs Officer at the American Embassy in Saigon from 1964 to 1968. Among other topics, he addressed respect for the role of the press, the Foreign Service’s unrealistic expectation that it has to “win all the press issues.” and the difference between publicity and information.
. . . it's still possible today for an individual to become an ambassador or a general without ever having developed a sense for press relations, public affairs or communicating, and without ever really having had any training in it. * * * *
. . . In the mood of our society today, the "establishment," the institution, is under question and is being analyzed, and in the proper spirit this is a healthy process. . . . You simply cannot get away with a gap between reality and your articulation of it. So the sophistication of the day -- this irreverent, questioning, skeptical mood of the day -- has to be taken into account and accepted as a fact of life. The issue is not really whether it's good or not; the issue is that it's there. * * * *Read More