The Islamic State has united many in the Middle East. However, what’s going to happen when they’re military defeated and Raqqa is just another town?

The Arab Spring was a monumental event. The world watched in awe and fear as the Middle East looked like it was being turned upside down. We’re living and working in a post-Arab Spring era of Middle Eastern politics. An alarming example is found today as the Jordanian parliament has spoken against the Arab-Israeli peace treaty.

They might reject us. The unintended consequence of ISIL is a delay of a deeper civil war brewing in the Middle East. We have a common enemy for now. But, once ISIL and Al-Qaeda’s pronounced presence is less so, governing the different tribes, personalities and allegiances will prove far harder than removing ISIL. The Islamic State will collapse in Iraq and fall back to Syria. That’s the future of the force – true warrior-diplomats not on paper but in practice. The insecurity of Iraq will arise from the legitimate groups and parties

In Iraq, Nour Al-Maliki is reemerging as the most powerful man. He is partially responsible and was the force behind the emergence of ISIL. Some believe inciting a sectarian war is something he wanted all along. The Iraqis on the ground and at the strategic level were aware of a coming and possible civil war. This war is rooted in politics, like everything.

For us, our policy doesn’t have an endstate in regards to Syria – and probably Iraq, too. It’s dependent on the ground situation. Except for two probable idealistic, flippant, and impossible end states such as a “Jeffersonian Democracy.”  What was the Arab Spring? Was it a repudiation of modern policies that governed the Middle East? Borders that must be redrawn and overall sense of unfairness? Today, we have ISIL, worse than anyone, and now the Muslim Brotherhood surrogate parties winning seats in what has been the moderate Kingdom of Jordan.

The recent and modern history of the Middle East is more complicated than our entire U.S. history to date. We had a single revolution that we’re exporting. They’re in a constant state of regime change. This is playing out quickly in the Middle East and so far not a single permutation looks like we’d be in the clear of involvement. Is this the price of being the world’s most powerful nation? Is it that we must be involved no matter what as a matter of practicality and responsibility?

Our democracy was unique when it was founded, and now it’s a commonplace. The question is whether or not the model actually makes us safer. It’s a small planet we have to share. Economically we’re all probably inseparable and interdependent. But the state of the Middle East and American relations could experience a tectonic shift in the next presidency.

Featured image courtesy of The Guardian.