On Sunday, Obama reiterated that the allied coalition will target oilfields, a key source of revenue for the group. He also said that a “sustainable victory” would come only by “working with local forces who are fighting to regain control of their own country.”
It was an overt announcement that followed a quieter step in that direction.
In October, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced that he had placed Army Lieutenant General Sean MacFarland in charge of the coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria. MacFarland is credited with orchestrating the so-called “Sunni Awakening,” and establishing partnerships with Sunni tribal sheiks, a program that eventually produced 200 such partnerships.
In terms of fighting ISIS messaging, the president announced, “We are cooperating with Muslim-majority countries, and with our Muslim communities here at home, to counter the vicious ideology that ISIL promotes online.”
The administration has been under pressure to do more in this area, and the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, provides some additional authority to the Defense Department. It states, “The Secretary of Defense should develop creative and agile concepts, technologies, and strategies across all available media to most effectively reach target audiences, to counter and degrade the ability of adversaries and potential adversaries to persuade, inspire, and recruit inside areas of hostilities or in other areas in direct support of the objectives of commanders.”
The military is expected to rely heavily on outside contractors in the effort, due to what Special Operations Command commander General Joseph L. Votel described as a “lack of organic capability” to counter ISIS’s online messaging.
Is the attempt to categorize different militants on the basis of motivation using social-psychological techniques—even legitimate? The results are more qualitative than quantitative. The question of whether or not psychology, or the social sciences in general, is as reliable or credible as natural sciences such as chemistry that produce repeatable results is not new. But it is science. The Quantum report is in keeping with the conventions and practices contemporary of social-science research according to two leaders in the field.
Marketers have used social psychology for decades to make billion-dollar decisions about how to sell products and to understand how different external and internal factors motivate people to take action. That’s exactly what the Pentagon is charged with doing, now. Stopping the spread of radicalism via social media is, fundamentally, a challenge of marketing. So it stands to reason that marketing should have some place in that fight.
The draw of the Islamic State is not as irresistible as today’s headlines suggest, but that doesn’t mean that the United States is yet able to reach the group’s target audiences with something more appealing.
This post appears courtesy of Defense One.