Why There Is So Little Attention for the Islamic State’s Defeat

In part because the caliphate was never as big a threat as Republicans made it out to be.

Two American UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters fly over southern Iraq, April 3, 2003
Two American UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters fly over southern Iraq, April 3, 2003 (Constantino Ruiz Rodriguez)

David French wonders why the defeat of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (or ISIS) isn’t a bigger story.

Remember how debates about ISIS dominated the presidential primaries? Remember how Donald Trump and Ted Cruz ratcheted up their rhetoric until they both seemed to promise that they’d commit warcrimes, like carpet bombing and torture, to defeat the deadly threat? ISIS was often the most important and most prominent story in the world.

Now that the wannabe caliphate lies in ruins, though, Americans no longer care.

French sees three reasons:

  1. Donald Trump’s disinterest. “It’s hard to blame the press for not reporting more extensively on the war when the president himself is directing its attention elsewhere.”
  2. Wariness of declaring “mission accomplished”. Jihadists, including some who fought for the Islamic State, are still out there and may yet commit terror attacks.
  3. Good news doesn’t sell. Panic and fear make for a better story than victory and peace.

I would add a fourth reason

Which goes back to French’s opening paragraph: the Islamic State threat was hyped from the start.

All the noise the likes of Cruz and Trump made stemmed from either ignorance or political calculation. They overestimated the danger or deliberately inflated it.

I urged Republicans at the time to stop scaring voters. Ryan Bohl explained why the West wasn’t putting more effort into the fight. Barack Obama continually tried to reassure Americans that the Islamic State wasn’t anything close to the existential threat Republicans made it out to be and was rather a problem to manage.

A problem he managed successfully by putting in place a strategy that brought the caliphate to its knees.

Remember that next time somebody pretends a ragtag band of fanatics in the Iraqi or Syrian desert threaten the world as we know it.