Charlie Winter and Jordan Bach-Lombardo write: As it stands, the international coalition is far from winning the information war against the Islamic State. Its air strikes may be squeezing the group in Iraq and Syria and killing many of its leaders, but that has not halted the self-proclaimed caliphate’s ideological momentum. Indeed, at the end of 2015, it was estimated that the number of foreigners travelling to join militant groups in Iraq and Syria — predominantly the Islamic State — had more than doubled in the course of just 18 months. What’s more, while these figures may be striking, sheer numbers are less important than intent when it comes to the organization’s actual threat to the world. As we have already seen, it takes a very small number of people to unleash great terror, whether in Iraq, Syria, or elsewhere.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s organization does not enjoy mass appeal, but it is certainly having mass impact. After but 18 months of caliphate-hood, the group’s preeminence is already coming to shape what it is to be a millennial Muslim and inspiring attacks far outside the caliphate. Hence, the strategic communications war—where hearts and minds are won and lost—is just as important in the long-term as any military campaign, if not more so. [Continue reading…]