The Arab Spring is over. Welcome to the Jihadi Spring.
Across a huge swath of what, up until recently, had been known as Iraq and Syria, a transnational movement of Sunni Islamic extremists has taken control. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has conquered -- without much effort -- Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, along with most of the province of Nineveh. It's also taken Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown. Along the way it has ransacked banks (to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars), pillaged weapon stockpiles (including the stuff we left behind for the Iraqi army), and recruited ever more fighters from Iraq, Syria and abroad.
ISIS started out as an al-Qaeda franchise, but in 2011 it broke off to become an independent dealer of Islamist mayhem. If anything, it is more extreme than al-Qaeda -- though that fine distinction probably means little to the Shiites and Christians it slaughters.
Sunday in Pakistan, Taliban militants attacked the airport in Karachi, the country's busiest and most important travel hub. They followed up with an attack on an airport security-training facility, showing that there was no area of Pakistan it could not threaten. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif came into office seeking an accord with the Taliban. But the Taliban won't abandon its key objective: a total Islamist state. After the attacks, most observers think Sharif will have little choice but to unleash the army on the insurgents.
Late last month, President Obama announced at West Point that we are definitely leaving Afghanistan, period. That period took the form of a prisoner swap in which we essentially gave back five top Taliban commanders. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda linked and inspired groups are on the rise in Nigeria, Yemen, the Philippines, Libya and elsewhere.
The good news is that the administration has a policy to deal with the Jihadi Spring. The bad news is that it looks to be the same policy it had for the Arab Spring: nothing.
Nothing, that is, beyond casting lots of words and Twitter hashtags into the air like so many magic beans that will sprout into peace and security wherever they find purchase.
That's the hitch. This administration's words don't have much traction around the world, or at least where it matters. (He's still popular in Belgium!)