Thank you, media. You did your job.
You lovingly cobbled together boogeymen straight out of central casting: masked brown men lopping off American heads, and a disease out of the Africa that makes you bleed from your eyes. You achieved levels of paranoia that had people willing to lock up medical workers who had zero chance of spreading the disease, and you got people who had marched against going into Iraq in the first place convinced that this time we just had to get some sand on our boots.
Lacking any real threat on either front, you didn't let reality stand in your way. You deployed the GIANT FEAR GRAPHICS, you pulled out the ominous music, you gave us "news" people with wide eyes and tremulous voices. It was a masterful showing that you can still make a difference. Helluva job. Really.
Never mind that the disease was about as likely to spread across the US as Doritos-flavored Mountain Dew. Never mind that the existential threat swallowing up the Middle East and creeping across our borders to murder us in our sleep was actually just another in an apparently endless series of Sunni militias that rise, fall apart, and rot.
Just for fun, let's look at a New York Times article from the week before the election.
Islamic State militants have been exacting harsh revenge against an Iraqi Sunni tribe that fought for months to keep the jihadists at bay, capturing and summarily executing scores of its members, tribal leaders and local officials said Thursday.
The death toll among the tribe, the Albu Nimr, remains unclear; one account put it at more than 200 based on mass grave sites, though that could not be independently verified. But the reports mesh with the Islamic State’s pattern of methodical slaughter as it has consolidated its territorial grabs in Syria and Iraq.
... tribal fighters and police officers were badly outgunned by the Islamic State, which captured many heavy weapons from armories in Syria and Iraq. The jihadists finally conquered Hit this month, and have since expanded their control of nearby areas.
Scary stuff. Here's ISIS romping across Syria and Iraq, taking down a tribe that happens to be itself the hardest of the hard-core Sunni on its way to building the new caliphate.
And now, the New York Times the week after the election.
ISIS Wave of Might Is Turning Into Ripple
The extremists of the Islamic State appeared unstoppable after their sudden blitz through Iraq this summer, with its battle-hardened fighters continually raising their black flag over newly conquered areas ... the days of easy and rapid gains for the jihadists may be coming to a close in Iraq, as the group’s momentum appears to be stalling. ...
“ISIS can only expand in areas where it can enter into partnerships with the local population, and that largely limits the scope of the expansion of ISIS to Sunni, disenfranchised areas,” said Lina Khatib, the director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut.
Those Albu Nimr tribesmen at war with ISIS? They show how badly cracked the organization is even when it comes to achieving universal support among Sunnis. Albu Nimr areas should be the core of any Sunni-based group, but ISIS, like the many groups that rose and fell before it, is really about stroking the egos of one or two would-be caliphs, not uniting Muslims into a world-spanning power. And while ISIS has been fighting internally with other Sunni groups, it's been losing battles against Shiite forces, against the official Iraqi military, against the Kurdish pesh merga. It's been losing towns to angry locals. And it's been battered by (no boots required) air strikes.
In short, ISIS has turned out to be just another blip in our Summer of Fear. But hey, there was someone who tried to tell you that...
The unstoppable, hugely frightening ISIS has seen its supply routes blocked.
Kurdish forces blocked a road Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants use to resupply their forces in a Syrian town on the Turkish border ...
and strategic positions lost.
After fierce fighting that started on Monday, the fighters - which include soldiers from the People's Protection Units (YPG), Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga and the Free Syrian Army - have taken back a strategic part of Mashta al-Nur, a hill which overlooks Kobane.
From this hill, the fighters will be able to bomb IS fighters around the city and also on the other side of the hill ...
Kobane would be the same Syria / Turkey border city where a small number of Kurdish fighters have held off ISIS forces in weeks of hard fighting in which the "Islamic State" forces have taken the brunt of the beating.
More than 1 000 people, mostly jihadists, have been killed in Kobane since the Islamic State group launched an offensive on the Syrian town nearly two months ago, a monitor said on Sunday.
ISIS jihadists, who proclaimed a "caliphate" in June straddling territory captured in Iraq and Syria, launched their offensive for the town - also known as Ain al-Arab - in mid-September.
"At least 1 013 people have been killed in fighting in Ain al-Arab from the beginning of the offensive till last night," said Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman.
Of those dead, 2/3 are ISIS fighters — and that excludes any dead from air strikes.
What has ISIS actually accomplished? Unity. But not of the sort they wanted.
Syrian Kurdish forces have been battling to repel ISIS militants from Kobane since 16 September.
The fighters from the town have been joined by Syrian rebels who have fought both President Bashar Assad's regime and ISIS, as well as by Iraqi Kurd peshmerga forces.
ISIS efforts to remold Syria and Iraq into "the new caliphate" have driven together groups that would otherwise have been rivals, because the bulk of people in both nations don't want what ISIS is selling. They have Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, Christians, Yazidis, and just about everyone else united under one banner as the Not-ISIS brigade.
ISIS doesn't have a magic formula. They don't know how to hold territory inhabited by people who hate them any more than we do, any more than the French did, any more than the Romans did. The threat that they would actually form some kind of Islamic super state that could exert military force outside the immediate region is zero. It was always zero.
Look, I don't want to say I told you so, only... yes, yes I do. Here's what I said on August 24.
You know how much threat ISIS represents to the United States? None. That's how much. Exactly none. If there was a value less than none, then it would be that, but there's not, so none is the answer.
You know what does represent a threat to the the United States, a bona fide danger to our continued existence as the land of the semi-free and occasionally bravish? Acting as if every person who says they want to turn the United States into dictatorial hell hole, is capable of making the United States their bitch. ... As the Deputy Undersecretary of Pogo might say, we have determined the source of the threat, and we're it.
And on September 10.
Look, I've said it before and I still believe every word. ISIS represents no threat to the United States. None.
Are there terrorists in this world who would like to give us a bloody nose? Absolutely. You know what? You've already surrendered an astounding amount of your personal privacy in the name of enabling agencies to reduce that threat. Stop being so eager to bend over and give the little that remains.
ISIS the Sunni extremist group capable of carrying out local atrocities and defeating dispirited Shiite forces in areas where they are not welcome certainly exists. ISIS the terrifying force capable of reshaping the world does not. It never did.
They're not going away tomorrow. They're going to win more battles, but they're going to lose a lot more.
In the real world, the rubber tree plant does not go down to an ant, no matter how hard the ant waves a scary flag. ISIS is not going to conquer Iraq. It's not going to conquer Syria. It's not going to maintain its hold on the tangle of towns connected by highways that constituted the Islamic State at its peak. At best (where "best" is defined from the ISIS POV) it's going to take its place as one of many squabbling factions.
Who knows. Two years from now, when the next Sunni militia group threatens to tear across the region, maybe ISIS will be part of the coalition trying to stop them. By then, we'll probably forget they're supposed to be the bad guys. After all, the new guys will also be brown, and that'll be plenty scary enough to make them part of the 2016 news cycle.
As soon as the media and the GOP work out how to blame them on Hillary.