Roger Cohen and the “trauma” of ISIL and the chaos in the Middle East:
What is unbearable, in fact, is the feeling, 13 years after 9/11, that America has been chasing its tail; that, in some whack-a-mole horror show, the quashing of a jihadi enclave here only spurs the sprouting of another there; that the ideology of Al Qaeda is still reverberating through a blocked Arab world whose Sunni-Shia balance (insofar as that went) was upended by the American invasion of Iraq.
And more: that the loss of 4,500 American combat troops in Iraq and more than 100,000 Iraqi lives produced no victory or clarity, but only a broken society and country; that the Arab Spring, which promised a way out of the mutually reinforcing confrontation of quasi-military dictatorship and political Islam, ended (outside Tunisia) in frustration and a revenge of the extremists; that “Jihadi John,” for now, has the upper hand on “moderate Mohammed.”
The nightmare, in short, has less to do with the barbaric image itself than with the feeling of humiliation and powerlessness and déjà vu and exhaustion that it triggers.
President Obama has vowed to “destroy” Islamic State. But even if that were achieved, and for now the means deployed do not seem commensurate with the objective, in what metastasized configuration would Islamic State’s ideas resurface?
Read the whole thing.
The brutal truth is that we don’t need to destroy ISIL any more than we needed the Arab Spring to bring democratic republicanism and manicured lawns to the Nile Delta or to the suburbs of Damascus. What we tried and failed to do in Iraq was to create an island of stability, via a benign and overtly generous neo-neo-colonialism, to the very heart of the Middle East — in the one Arab country with a big and educated population, and something like a functional middle class. Having given up on that, our best hope is to keep the miserable place buzzing internally, in hopes that none of those bastards figures out a way to nuke or otherwise destroy an entire American city.
Because we all know 9/11 was just the warmup act. Pulling down some skyscrapers is one thing, but ripping the heart out of the Great Satan would be quite something else. But every one of these Islamists killing each other over there is one less to worry about planting a dirty bomb — or worse — in downtown Manhattan, on the Las Vegas strip, or at the Port of Los Angeles.
It doesn’t matter what name the group goes by, the goal of nihilistic mass destruction of the West is the goal. So perhaps Obama here can succeed by failing.