Dropping bombs isn't the only way to advance American interests abroad. (...) Certainly, the Islamic State poses an enormous threat to regional stability. But is the focus on military efforts the right one?
The United States and its partners are focusing their military might on stopping the spread of the group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and on disrupting IS operations in Syria. Behind the scenes, however, efforts also are underway to prevent the violence from spreading back to Europe and the United States.
In foreign affairs, Obama has publicly adopted “soft diplomacy” as his way of resolving crises. Key to this approach is “leading from behind,” that is, pressuring or convincing other countries or international organizations to take the lead in crisis response, with the US becoming just one of several partners.
Hundreds of young Muslim women from the west who travelled to Syria to marry fighters of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, known as Isis, are part of what experts call, the “soft-power” of the militants. Isis has used social media to attract new recruits and build an image of the group as a reincarnation of the just and righteous state to which many Muslims aspire.
The State Department is trying hard to counter online propaganda from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The information battleground includes Twitter and video messages, terrain that ISIL knows well. In addition to having too little money and too few people, the department is forced to conform to federal rules requiring that its work be identified as coming from the U.S. government.
Over the past few days, the positions and activities of the GCC and Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon are becoming clearer against ISIS. The group, which met in Jeddah on Sept. 11, can now be dubbed the GCC+4. First, the GCC+4 is to develop a multi-prong approach to soft power options to break ISIS’s logistical chains in manpower and finance as well as to develop counter-narratives to negate the group’s capabilities and messaging.