The caliphate. I remember having this discussion with a colleague way back ten years ago. The idea of a caliphate was in the background of all the terrorist conversations, but nobody was talking about it. It seemed to me at least a little more important than the attention it was getting. Like maybe you might like to know what the actual goal of your enemy was, and they had kind of told us. Something more specific than ‘hate freedom.’

Well here we are. Are we surprised or not surprised? Everybody is acting surprised. I only have a few thoughts to offer while blame is being assigned. They have to do with arming rebels. My first thought is that arming ‘moderate’ rebels is a chancy proposition when there are fanatical extremists in the vicinity. I think in a chaotic situation, people who are willing to murder wantonly and chop the heads off of large groups of human beings might have some kind of edge in combat. It’s hard enough to get an organized government and army to fight people like that adequately. The Iraqi army seems to have fled and yielded hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of serious American military hardware into the terrorist’s hands.

The other thought is wondering if we are learning or relearning that the only workable control on this level of extremism is some lower-grade monster with matching ruthlessness. Someone like Saddam. Someone like Assad. I surely am not about to assert that, because at best that means humanitarian crimes on a slightly lesser scale. But the question is everywhere staring us in the face. What beats what? And what CAUSES what? Discuss.