Sunday, April 17, 2016

Young Arabs Are Rejecting ISIS

Joby Warrick brings some interesting news today in the Washington Post.
Two years after proclaiming a new “caliphate” for Muslims in the Middle East, the Islamic State is seeing a steep slide in support among the young Arab men and women it most wants to attract, a new poll shows.
Overwhelming majorities of Arab teens and young adults now strongly oppose the terrorist group, the survey suggests, with nearly 80 percent ruling out any possibility of supporting the Islamic State, even if it were to renounce its brutal tactics.
A year ago, about 60 percent expressed that view, according to the 16-country survey released Tuesday.
“Tacit support for the militant group is declining,” concludes a summary report by the poll’s sponsor, ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller, a public relations firm that has tracked young Arabs’ views in annual surveys for the past eight years. Other recent surveys have found similarly high disapproval rates for the Islamic State among general populations in Muslim-majority countries.
The article doesn't attempt to describe why this is happening. But I immediately thought of what Eli Berman and Jacob Shapiro wrote about President Obama's containment strategy with ISIS.
We’re fighting a failed state in the making, one that will implode if merely contained, and will collapse even faster under coordinated economic and military pressure from its neighbors...
As the Soviet Union was to communism, so ISIL is to jihadism: the purest articulation of a noxious ideology of governance, which incidentally has little connection to Islam. If we allow it to fail, then it will be clearly a failure of ISIL as an idea. The same is not true of a military defeat at the hands of Western forces. Given its deep structural weaknesses and its symbolic value in the global war of ideas, our best strategy is almost surely one based on containment, allowing the group’s motivating ideology to destroy the group from the inside—and thus more rapidly find its proper place in the dustbin of history.
The containment strategy involved more than simply using U.S. air power to support the coalition of Arab states fighting on the ground to deny territory to ISIS. It also included efforts to starve the group of financial resources and new recruits to carry on it's agenda.

What we might be witnessing is the kind of success on that last front that would not have been possible if we had implemented the kind of strategy Republicans tend to support and "carpet bombed" major territories in the Middle East.

As Warrick goes on to report, there are still places where Arab youth have no love lost for the United States.
Arab youth were generally mixed in their views of the United States. More than 60 percent saw Washington as an ally, with the strongest positive rankings coming from Persian Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE. By contrast, more than 90 percent of Iraqis regarded the United States as an enemy. Dislike for Washington was nearly as high in Yemen and in the Palestinian territories, and more than half of Lebanese youth said they saw the United States as an enemy.
To the extent that the United States had done what ISIS wants and engaged in a holy war with Islam, we would have made the terrorist group a much more attractive draw to many of these young people. One need only contemplate what led 90% of Iraqi youth to see us as an enemy. The legacy of the Bush/Cheney war lives on.

President Obama has rejected the Washington Playbook when it comes to defeating ISIS. As a result, the "noxious ideology" of ISIS is becoming apparent and destroying the group from within.

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