By Steve Brawner
© 2017 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.
Amidst the unsettling news coming from North Korea and the hysteria over whatever is President Trump’s latest tweet, you may not have noticed this tidbit: In the fight against ISIS, the good guys are winning.
The Islamic State, as we all know, is the group attempting to establish a caliphate in Iraq and Syria using shockingly barbaric tactics. For a while, ISIS was dominating the news. Lately, it has reappeared in the public consciousness through periodic acts of terror, including three London attacks in the past few months.
Those kinds of events make the front-page headlines, as well as they should. But the bigger picture is this: Iraqi forces supported by Americans and allied forces have all but defeated the Islamic State in Mosul, its last remaining stronghold in that country. As of this writing, a few hundred ISIS fighters control only a small part of the city, and the jihadists were reduced in recent days to dispatching women as suicide bombers. Meanwhile, in Syria, Kurdish-led forces – also supported by Americans and other allies – have surrounded ISIS in its self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa.
ISIS – along with the belief system it tries to spread – remains a threat, and it may be impossible ever to declare victory over it because it will reappear in other forms. Still, the momentum is clearly moving in a positive direction. It controls very little land now, numerous leaders have been killed, and the tone of its propaganda has shifted from arrogance to desperation. Remember Mohammed Emzawi, the black-clad British citizen who coldly beheaded his captives while taunting the West in online videos? He met his Maker in November 2015 thanks to American and British drone strikes.
Given this latest news, Americans should at least acknowledge the success that’s occurring through efforts undertaken under both Republican and Democratic presidents. While the end of World War II was marked by jubilation, there also were moments of nationwide encouragement during the war, such as the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima. These days, good news doesn’t enter the public conversation, and when ISIS is finally squashed, it seems likely we’ll have already moved on to the next crisis, real or imagined. The poet Carl Sandburg once wrote, “Sometime they’ll give a war and nobody will come.” These days, it might be said, “Sometime they’ll win a war and nobody will notice.”
It’s not just the war against ISIS. It seems rarer and rarer for Americans these days to acknowledge anything positive happening anywhere. This obliviousness to good news ignores the facts and insults those who have sacrificed themselves for noble causes. Worse, by creating an unhealthy contempt for our democratic institutions, it threatens our way of life more than ISIS ever has.
A free society depends on truth, and the truth is that some of the news these days is encouraging. Just a few examples: In late 2015, the World Bank forecasted that less than 10 percent of people worldwide were living in extreme poverty, defined as subsisting on less than $1.90 a day. In the past few decades, hundreds of millions of people have escaped destitution. Meanwhile, technological advances and cleaner fuels have allowed the United States to approach energy independence after decades of relying on undemocratic, untrustworthy countries. Nationwide, the overall violent crime rate has dropped significantly, from 747 cases per 100,000 individuals in 1993 to 373 in 2015, according to FBI statistics reported by the Pew Research Center. Violent crimes, particularly murders, increased from 2014 to 2015, but the rate is still lower than it was. Property crimes are down long-term, too. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate in Arkansas is at a historically low 3.4 percent. Granted, those numbers do not take into account people who have left the workforce. Still, the economy is certainly better than it was during the Great Recession.
The comedian Louis C.K. put it this way in a 2008 interview with Conan O’Brien while talking about the technological wonders of modern life: “Everything is amazing right now, and nobody’s happy.”
In the bigger picture, maybe everything’s not amazing, but it’s better than terrible.
Anyway, it could be much worse. We could be a civilian in Mosul or Raqqa. Or we could be a member of ISIS, surrounded or perhaps having already met our Maker.