The hawks (including me) were wrong about a lot, but some got one thing right. It's going to be a long war.
In the early days after
And for a time, many liberals bought into the idea that America was heading into a generational struggle with jihadism. There were a slew of books on the subject. Peter Beinart, for instance, wrote "The Good Fight: Why Liberals — and Only Liberals — Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again." As the subtitle suggests, there was a lot of partisan mischief in his argument, but it rested on the premise that liberals must accept that "Islamic totalitarianism" — his phrase — has replaced communism as our enemy. On this, at least, Beinart and company briefly agreed with
That consensus evaporated in the hot rage ignited by the
This was a triumph for the new enlightened consensus that the war on terror wasn't really a war at all. In 2007, retired Gen.
Although Obama has tried to move captured terrorists into the domestic criminal justice system, to his credit, he never fully bought into this argument. Still, he cast terrorism as a manageable problem for the experts, not a civilizational struggle. Zeus-like, he personally went over his kill lists, selecting which enemies should be dispatched with a drone strike or, in the case of Osama bin Laden, the furies of SEAL Team Six.
When new threats emerged, the
One jayvee squad — the self-styled Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS — now controls the territorial equivalent of Britain and is one of the best-equipped and motivated military forces in the Middle East. Everyday jihadists — many with Western passports — enlist in the struggle to create a global caliphate while the "Muslim street" from Turkey to Saudi Arabia follows the Islamic State like a sports team.
The Islamic State's atrocities are too numerous and too horrible to list here. It includes rape and slavery, religious cleansing, mass murder, public crucifixions and beheadings. Over the weekend, an Iraqi official said that the Islamic State had killed at least 500 Iraqi Yazidis, burying some alive, including women and children. The group is only too happy to tweet about all of it.
Watch Vice TV's reports from Islamic State-controlled parts of Syria and you will quickly see how the word "criminal" is morally, logically and strategically inadequate. They indoctrinate children to become jihadists and suicide bombers. They vow to fly their black flag over the White House.
No one in the West wants a generational struggle with jihadism anymore than Israel wants perpetual war with Hamas in Gaza. The problem is the enemy always gets a vote. And it just may be that the Middle East will become the West's Gaza. And so far, nobody has a good answer for what to do about it.