While the United States struggles to defeat ISIS on the battlefield, America’s rivals in the region — from Iran and Sunni Islamists to Russia and China — have registered some of their greatest gains without firing a shot. They use a range of soft power tactics to advance their agendas, featuring “air campaigns” of persuasion through Arabic media and a “ground campaign” of political operatives who broker alliances with local allies. They compete in a robust Arab marketplace of ideas at a time of unprecedented tumult and transition. The United States, comparatively weak in all these realms, is conspicuously absent from the marketplace — and over-relies on military power as a result.
But there is hope for the U.S. to regain the advantage: In every Arab country today, a critical mass of people believe in the ideas and values the United States has always stood for, and want to engage Americans as partners. Who are they, where are they, and what can Americans do to strengthen their hand?
Our guide into this fascinating and unknown world is Joseph Braude, one of FPRI’s most unusual senior fellows. At work on a book on Arabic media, Braude himself broadcasts a weekly political commentary in Arabic on Moroccan national radio, appears frequently on the region’s largest television networks, and contributes regularly to Asharq Alawsat, the largest Arabic language daily newspaper. He is an advisor to the UAE-based think tank Al Mesbar Center for Research and Studies and leads educational workshops for indigenous Arab media. His work has been cited by New York Times columnist Tom Friedman.