The Return of the Arab Spring

The “Arab Spring” changed seasons with Benghazi.  In the eyes of many Americans, the media-hyped chimera of democratic forces seeking freedom from dictatorships vanished with the reported sodomy and murder of our ambassador to Libya.

The reality is, the impetus behind the Arab Spring was never really a desire for self-rule as we understand it, but rather a desire for Islamic rule.  Each country that fell to that faux-organic sweep of protest shared a trait in common: aside from being brutal dictatorships, they were also secular governments. 

This essential point is missed by our major media, who, due to an irrepressible confirmation bias, assume that the only reason to upending a government is to throw off oppression.  Their failure to factor the all-encompassing influence of Islam leads inexorably to an inability to comprehend the willingness among many in the Middle East to replace repressive secular regimes with far more repressive Islamist regimes.  Surprising as it appears to the Western mind, this frying pan-to-fire behavior is de rigueur in societies that credit the legitimacy of their governments to the seal of approval of their god.

Apprehension of these truths require the West to confront the elephant in the room – the one that political correctness forbids us to address – that being Islam, and its ideology of supremacy.

Terrorism is a tool, not an ideology.  "Terrorist" is a functional description of someone who employs this tool in furtherance of their agenda. 

The failure in the West to name that agenda is at the root of our failure to defeat it.  In the Middle East, that agenda is the re-birth of an Islamic caliphate.  In the West, it is a relentless Islamist agenda to mainstream Islamic doctrine in the mind of the average citizen, incrementally positioning Islam as an irreproachable inevitability, declaring any opposition as Islamophobic and anti-religion.

Last year, the Obama administration wanted to nudge the stalled Arab Spring back into motion with the removal of Assad, but their trademark clumsiness attracted the attention of the Russian bear, who quickly turned the feckless Obama into a laughingstock over the whole “red line” fiasco.  Now, the rise of ISIS gives Obama the cover to resume his mission to remove Assad.  Benghazi halted the Arab Spring, but the beheading of James Foley may revive it.

Already the Pentagon has openly discussed the need to enter Syria in order to pursue and eliminate ISIS fighters.  While such a need does exist, it also creates an exploitable circumstance where the scales may be tipped militarily in favor of anti-Assad forces.  If Christmas comes early to the White House, then the death or removal of Assad might come about as collateral damage.

Three things previously stood in the way of a successful overthrow of Assad: Vladimir Putin, Iran, and the lack of a direct threat to Americans.

Putin is presently engaged in Ukraine and becoming increasingly isolated for his behavior there.  Meanwhile, the clear lack of interest on our part in halting Iran’s nuclear program appears to have given the imprimatur of Obama for the mullahs to develop low-yield nuclear weapons, calming Iranian fears of a Sunni-dominated caliphate on their western border.

Finally, the beheading of Foley and the ominous threats of a very mouthy ISIS leave Americans feeling the heat.

So the question begs for an answer: is ISIS really the overlooked ragtag junior varsity of Obama’s description, or is it a legitimate threat to global stability – a threat of which this administration has been well aware?

First, it is important to understand the intelligence-gathering capabilities of the United States.  According to multiple sources within the intelligence community, the growth and development of ISIS was not “overlooked.” 

ISIS may have been ignored, but it was certainly well-surveilled.  In a world where technology permits us to trace the source of an E. coli outbreak down to the person who failed to wash his hands, it is an impossibility that a major army was gathered, trained, and deployed outside America’s strategic and tactical awareness.

So, given the fact of our foreknowledge, is it fair to ask this administration whether they might be playing a very dangerous game, allowing a brutal force to gather and deploy in order to use the resulting chaos as a pretext to Syrian adventurism?

This particular game will be played on fields well outside the Middle East.  Putin has already thrown his lot in with Assad, and his Ukraine adventure notwithstanding, there is nothing to indicate that he would turn a blind eye to American intervention in Syria regardless of the pretext.  Putin wants a warm-water port for year-round transport of his energy products, and Assad wants protection from Islamist rebels.  This dynamic has not been altered by the rise of ISIS.  If anything, Islamist expansionism in Syria and northern Iraq presents as much of an opportunity for adventurism by Putin as by Obama – perhaps more, considering Russia’s geographic proximity.

It is entirely possible that Putin could be invited by Assad to assist in the elimination of ISIS, placing American and Russian forces in close proximity to each other.  This almost guarantees conflict. 

It is indeed a very dangerous game Obama is playing to further the expansion of his Brotherhood friends.

If the above scenario is correct, then the application of significant “kinetic action” by American forces within the borders of Syria will occur almost immediately, setting a precedent for further incursions in weeks to come.  Assad will not allow this, and the Arab Spring hawks in the administration are likely giddily hoping he will engage American troops in combat, cementing his fate.

The dynamic of alliance and ambition in that part of the world creates a nearly impenetrable and always unpredictable climate for diplomacy in the Middle East; the willingness of nations to shed their alliances like wet clothing on a cold night ensures that any successes will be short-lived.  The only constants in the region are Islam and oil.  Until we recognize that every action in the Middle East ultimately relates to one or both, we will continue to react to circumstances rather than anticipate them.

The secular governments swept away by the Obama-supported Arab Spring posed far less of a threat than do the Islamists who have taken their place.  Negotiating about oil with secular governments interested in money and prestige was certainly to be preferred over fighting about religion with Islamist governments interested only in their supremacy and our death.

Watch out, world.  The match is lit.

Joe Herring writes from Omaha, NE and welcomes visitors to his website at  Dr. Mark Christian, a former Muslim, is the executive director of the Global Faith Institute and the vice president of Arabs for Israel.