Is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-styled “caliph” of the Islamic State, injured or dead, as some in the media are eagerly speculating?
Better question: does it really matter?
For almost a decade now, every time an Islamic jihadi leader is killed, the Western mainstream media exult, portraying the death as a major blow to the jihad. And, for almost a decade now, I have responded by posting an article that I first wrote in 2006 for Victor Davis Hanson’s website, Private Papers.
Although I changed the names of the jihadi leaders killed to suit the occasion—first Abu Mus‘ab al-Zarqawi, then Abu Laith al-Libi, then Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayub al-Misri, and finally Osama bin Laden—my conclusion has remained the same:
The West’s plight vis-à-vis radical Islam is therefore akin to Hercules’ epic encounter with the multi-headed Hydra-monster. Every time the mythical strongman lopped off one of the monster’s heads, two new ones grew in its place. To slay the beast once and for all, Hercules learned to cauterize the stumps with fire, thereby preventing any more heads from sprouting out.
Similarly while the West continues to lop off monster heads like figurehead Zarqawi [or bin Laden, al-Baghdadi, etc.] it is imperative to treat the malady — radical Islam—in order to ultimately prevail. Victory can only come when the violent ideologies of radical Islam are cauterized with fire.
But alas, the Hydra-monster is myth, while radical Islam is stark reality.
Eight years later, this “stark reality” has manifested itself into a head-chopping, infidel-crucifying, mass-murdering, female-enslaving Islamic State.
And yet, in the previous years, proclamations of “victory” were habitually made by media and politicians whenever a top jihadi was killed.