It sometimes seems that in another 10 or 20 years — pick a number — things in the Middle East will not have changed a bit.
Thirteen years ago today, 19 al-Qaeda terrorists armed with box cutters hijacked four jetliners; two were crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, which eventually collapsed. One hit the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. As passengers fought for control of the fourth jet it slammed into a field outside Shanksville, Pa.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed and the attacks caused an estimated $10 billion in property and infrastructure damage. The death toll included 343 firefighters and 72 police officers, most of whom were killed when the World Trade Towers collapsed.
Today, al-Qaeda appears to be on the decline. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks the United States invaded Afghanistan, home to al-Qaeda, and decimated the organization. Its leader, Osama bin Laden, went on the run, but in May of 2011 he was located by U.S. Navy Seals in a house in Pakistan and killed.
But while the names and characters in the Mideast change, not much else does. Today there is ISIS — an even more brutal version of radical Islam than al-Qaeda, which controls large swaths of Syria and Iraq and recently videotaped the beheading of two American journalists — the drawn-out civil war in Syria, claims that Iran is still trying to create nuclear weapons, the recent fighting between Hamas and Israel and the disaster that is Iraq.
And the United States is still hip-deep in all of it, though U.S. troops are no longer involved in active combat roles except for air attacks on ISIS.
We can only hope for a way forward that doesn’t involve the loss of more American lives — or any more lives, for that matter. But as long as religious extremism and ethnic hatred hold sway over minds and hearts, we appear doomed to repeat the past.
Those who remember 9/11 won’t ever forget the horrifying images of that day. Nor should we. It was the equivalent of Dec. 7, 1941, when the nation was thrust into World War II. This is a new kind of threat but could be just as deadly. Like it or not, we’re at war, and there is no doubt more to come.
— TRAVERSE CITY RECORD-EAGLE
ISIS just doesn’t know when to stop
Overreach is the great weakness of radical Islamists.
And no group of jihadists has overreached like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Its recent release of video purporting to show the beheading of a second American journalist is just one more outrage in a gathering trail of carnage it has left in the heart of the Middle East.
In so doing, ISIS brought something to the region it hasn’t known in a long time — consensus. So monstrous are ISIS’ crimes that virtually all people in the neighborhood loathe them.
The Egyptians, the Syrians, the Iranians, the Israelis, the Iraqis, the ethnic Kurds, the Turks and the Saudis welcome their destruction.
The United States is at war with ISIS, using Navy fighter jets, drones and special forces to attack them in northern Iraq. But the White House and Congress are reluctant to put boots on the ground in large numbers as we did in the Iraq war.
President Barack Obama has invested too much getting us out of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to risk yet another ground war on the other side of the globe.
Still, ISIS could force our hand.
There are red lines it could cross that would likely bring U.S. soldiers back in large numbers to the Middle East. ISIS has threatened terror strikes in the United States. One can imagine if ISIS pulls off a strike that kills 50 or 100 Americans, there would be little holding us back.
The Obama administration is correct to work toward a division of labor in which Middle East countries put the boots on the ground and the Americans provide the air cover.
This worked in northern Iraq to great effect, but can it work to disgorge ISIS from Syria and western Iraq? That would require time, and ISIS controls the clock.
— LIVINGSTON DAILY PRESS AND ARGUS