CHARLOTTE, N.C., August 15, 2014 — Shepard Smith of Fox News was so excited he almost wet his pants.
The news couldn’t break fast enough. He was ready to sign off the air when he got a message in his earphone that Nouri al-Maliki had resigned as Prime Minister of Iraq.
Combined with President Barack Obama’s announcement approximately an hour earlier that air strikes on Mt. Sinjar in Iraq had broken the Islamic State’s siege, the news was just too good to be true as Smith nearly jumped out of his shoes with joy.
Time will tell, but … By the way, that is a huge “but.”
Change is common in the Middle East. But one thing you quickly learn is that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Yes, Maliki has stepped down. Most analysts say that is a good thing. Most analysts said it was a good thing when Saddam Hussein was captured. Most said it was a good thing when Hosni Mubarak was deposed. Others said that getting rid of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi was good too.
There is no question they were bad guys all. Ahhh, but look what happened in the aftermath.
The Middle East has not changed. Indeed, there may have been changes in the Middle East, momentarily at least, but the Middle East itself has not changed.
If Shepard Smith, and other reporters like him, have not learned this yet, then we have made absolutely no progress in our efforts to understand Islamic extremism.
It is guaranteed that the Islamic State is every bit as dangerous now as it was before Obama sent in his planes. If we managed to get the people off Mt. Sinjar without further casualties that is all well and good. But it will not deter the Islamic State.
There is too much hatred and too much history for ISIS, or whatever they call themselves now, to pack up and go back to making sand castles in the desert. They have 14 centuries of failed attempts at trying to conquer the world for Allah for which to atone. There are far too many heads still to be detached from innocent bodies.
Fox’s Bob Beckel agrees with Obama that the Islamic State is “JV.” Apparently they are the only two people in the country who think so.
Beckel’s reasoning is that ISIS has basically been unchallenged in its surge to control much of Iraq.
Now that Maliki is gone, the Iraqis have to reorganize and create a new country. If that occurs, then Obama will be required to support the new Iraq in a far more forceful manner than he has to date. Given the president’s foreign policy track record, do we honestly think that will happen?
There is a good possibility that Iraq II will not even have its act together before Obama leaves office. In other words, just because things seem positive now, there are way too many negative outside elements that can throw a giant monkey wrench into the mix.
One of those is the Islamic State. “JV” as they may seem to Obama, ISIS is, like every other terrorist group, pragmatic to the extreme. They do not take unnecessary chances when they do not have to, which is precisely why they have been successful.
That is, of course, counter to what Beckel believes, but then he also thinks the Islamic State is “stupid.” Obviously Beckel does not understand that being culturally backward isn’t the same thing as stupidity.
Make no mistake, this is not an attempt to rain on anyone’s parade. It is simply a matter of looking at what appears to be something positive coming out of the Middle East with a touch of reality. Save the rose colored glasses for the day when that positive reality comes to fruition.
In the Middle East death trumps life. Hate is far more respected than love. War is much preferred over peace. It has been that way for 1,400 years.
Why should it change now? Because of a few air strikes and a smattering of humanitarian aid?
As far as Obama is concerned, being president is a day-to-day proposition. Handle a crisis one day, hold a press conference to announce his strategy, hit the golf course or attend a fund-raiser and let the next day take care of itself.
Perhaps a metaphor for the way Obama sees the world in terms he would understand is that to him a sub-par president thinks he is making an eagle when he is really scoring a double bogey.
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe. Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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