BEIRUT — In 2014, it would have been difficult to overstate the anxiety and confusion in the Middle East, as Islamic militants hordes swept through Iraq and Syria.
Across the region, people were asking: Where did the Islamic State come from, and where would it stop? For a while, agitated talk of fading borders and new maps became standard. It was the only time my Lebanese father ever wavered in his stubborn attachment to our fragile and failing country. Perhaps, he mused, buying a refuge in Europe made more sense than renovating our old family house in northern Lebanon, close to places where Islamic State sympathizers might be waiting in hiding.
Today, as the Islamic State weakens, the sense of relief is unmistakable. The terrorist organization has not turned out to be the Godzilla many feared. Fears about Arab youth being seduced en masse have not materialized. The Iraqi state is in no worse shape than it was before (though that’s no reason for contentment). Jordan has remained largely immune, thanks to sustained international patronage and a mighty security apparatus. Lebanon’s Sunni mainstream and hardened Islamists both firmly rejected the Islamic State’s entreaties.
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