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A Battle Won in the War on Terror
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A Battle Won in the War on Terror

Walter Russell Mead

The Washington Post may have hastily changed its embarrassing headline for its obituary of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi—“austere religious scholar at helm of Islamic State”—but that won’t be the end of the West’s difficulties in understanding and responding to the multifaceted crisis in the Middle East.

Movements like ISIS don’t spring from nowhere. It took centuries of decline, serial humiliations at the hands of arrogant European imperial powers, and decades of failed postcolonial governance to produce the toxic mixture of bigotry and hate out of which Baghdadi and his adherents emerged. That toxic brew won’t quickly disappear. Angry, alienated and profoundly confused people—many young and at best half-educated—will continue to find the message of ISIS and similar groups seductive. Baghdadi’s death isn’t the end of ISIS, and the collapse of the U.S.-backed order in northern Syria could provide conditions for its re-emergence as a serious military force.

Yet Baghdadi’s death was more than a meaningless episode in an endless game of Middle Eastern Whac-A-Mole. The fall of his so-called caliphate brings the U.S. a little closer to the end of its longest war.

Read the full article in Wall Street Journal

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