Is Al Qaeda Winning the War in the Middle East?

According to a CNN analyst, Al Qaeda controls more territory in the Middle East than ever before. They just retook the embattled city of Falluja and have consolidated power in sections of Syria. Al Qaeda has control over more territory than it did before the outbreak of the Iraq War in 2003. CNN reports:

In sum, al Qaeda affiliates now control much of northern and northwestern Syria as well as some parts of eastern Syria, as well as much of Anbar province, which is around a third of Iraqi territory.

I think we might need to reconsider our policies over there. It’s easy to call into question the justice and equity of drone warfare and pre-emptive strikes. Our mode of warfare in the Middle East has been far from irreproachable. But now, come to find out, our ethical compromises weren’t even working to stamp out Al Qaeda… That’s just too much. Idealists like myself endured no small amount of badgering about our adherence to the just war theory in the face of pressing national security concerns. We were scolded for being naïve. We needed to be more pragmatic, they said. Things needed to be done, and hands needed to get dirty to do them, they said.

Well, as it turns out, we got or hands dirty. But nothing good got done. Because not only are our policies ethically dubious, they are also pragmatically ineffective. So perhaps all those tin-hatted extremist isolationists weren’t that far off the mark when they were talking about blowback. Perhaps all our attempts to fight fire with fire just resulted in more fire. Imagine that. Perhaps the military industrial complex really was pushing for war for the sake of their own financial interest. Perhaps we’ve done nothing in the Middle East but stir up trouble, spend too much money, and accidentally kill a number of innocent civilians in the process of killing active combatants who would have been killed by someone else sooner or later—for free. This region is violent and slavishly hierarchical. It has been for millennia. We are not going to force it to be free.

May we go home now?