The public discussion about the causes of violent extremism has focused mainly on the socioeconomic and political conditions that exist in Arab countries. But we must also carefully consider how the events in the wake of World Wars I and II have impacted the psychological disposition of the Arab population throughout the Middle East.
The morning of June 28, 1914 dawned bright for most Europeans. By sunset a geopolitical cataclysm loomed. World War I demonstrated the importance of saying no. Any of the great powers could have stopped the march toward war. America could have refused to join the parade after it started. The world would have been a better place had one or all done so. Today, Washington is filled with routine proposals for new interventions: bombing campaigns, foreign invasions, and military occupations. Most seem unlikely to trigger a new world war. But a century ago no one expected an assassination in a distant Balkan province to do so either. That is reason enough for Americans to make war truly a last resort.
While the Iraqi military, with some help from Iran and the U.S., may be able to hold on to what is left within its purview, it's hard to see it reclaiming much territory without major foreign interventions. Which could easily backfire, both for Tehran and Washington, the only capitals which might be involved.
For the past two weeks Turkey has been experiencing what could best be described as a movement somewhere on the spectrum between "Occupy Wall Street" and the "Arab Spring." But it will not result in a popular revolution of the government, nor will it be remembered for achieving anything but attention.