Saturday, March 12, 2016

Middle East mysteries

The Atlantic magazine article by Jeffrey Goldberg on President Obama's foreign policy framework is excellent. Among other things, Obama does better in terms of explaining ISIS than some of his past analogies --

Advisers recall that Obama would cite a pivotal moment in The Dark Knight, the 2008 Batman movie, to help explain not only how he understood the role of isis, but how he understood the larger ecosystem in which it grew. “There’s a scene in the beginning in which the gang leaders of Gotham are meeting,” the president would say. “These are men who had the city divided up. They were thugs, but there was a kind of order. Everyone had his turf. And then the Joker comes in and lights the whole city on fire. isil is the Joker. It has the capacity to set the whole region on fire. That’s why we have to fight it.”

Of course no analogy should be pushed too far beyond its immediate purpose. But it does raise the question of whether ISIS can be seen as a disruptive but also nihilistic force that can be isolated or whether instead it's the latest manifestation of state and social failure. The disruptions have been recurring in the Middle East for a long time and how they've been dealt with is part of the problem, as Obama recognizes. Are those mistakes being repeated on ISIS?

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