As the US gingerly pulls together their coalition of the weary in response to the plainly obvious threat posed by the radical Islamic group ISIS, a solution to the problem that led to the emergence of the group appears to be no closer to being reached.
When the first shoots of the Arab Spring emerged from the hot deserts of Tunisia during the closing moments of 2010, many in Washington saw it as the ultimate vindication of a policy of regime change that began in Afghanistan after 9/11 and ultimately appeared to have floundered in the chaotic, wreckage strewn streets of Iraq, a land where American troops were supposed to have been “greeted as liberators” according to Vice-President of the United States at the time, Dick Cheney, in a 2003 interview. The belief among those who held power was that a regime change in Iraq and its transition to a flourishing democracy would see it become a beacon of hope to the rest of the Middle East setting off a domino effect as neighboring peoples, suffering under the claustrophobic effect of authoritarianism would rise up. This wasn’t the first time the domino effect has been used as an excuse to go to war. The justification for entering the Vietnam War was also tied to the theory of falling Dominos, in that case preventing the spread of Communism throughout south-east Asia by reinforcing a friendly government against Communist Insurgents.
By the time the American effort had floundered in Iraq, the country now a hive of sectarian brutality instead of a beacon of democracy, the hope that there would be some systematic collapse of surrounding Authoritarian regimes appeared distant. Iraq’s majority Shiite population, long the victims of Saddam Hussain’s brutal security apparatus, had understandably taken power with both hands and were determined to hold onto it. The Sunni’s suddenly became isolated from the decision making process. Sunni politicians included in the political process were often only there as a token gesture to the American “liberators” who still firmly held the keys to the billions of dollars that was pouring into the country. By 2006 Iraq was in a virtual civil war along sectarian lines.
Sunday, September 14th will be the first home league game of the 2014/15 season under Walter Mazzarri. Despite it only being the start of the season the match is of vital importance to the Nerazzurri manager who must reclaim the San Siro as a cauldron of Inter dominance if the team is to have any chance of qualifying for the Champions League next season.
15-4-0. That was the enviable home record for Inter Milan in the 2009/10 league season under Jose Mourinho. That Inter won the league that season, alongside the Champions League and Coppa Italia, is etched into the minds of fans worldwide; that they won by only 2 points over a resilient Roma, is perhaps not so well remembered. The season was a dog fight the entire way through as Inter struggled to hold on whilst competing on three fronts, but they eventually made it, largely on the back of their incredible home form.
That form dipped slightly in the following season to 15-3-1 as Inter fell short of a sixth straight title by six points to resurgent neighbours Milan, a credible result considering the amount of football played the previous season and during the World Cup which followed. 2010/11 would prove to be the definitive end to Inter’s period of dominance in Italian football, the beginning of the never-ending ‘year zero’ which saw Inter plummet down the table to sixth position. The team found themselves a full 18 points short of their previous season’s total and the San Siro, long the bastion of Inter’s dominance, was stormed repeatedly with no less than five teams walking away with maximum points in their pocket.
The trend would only get worse over the 2012/13 and 2013/14 seasons as Inter recorded scarcely believable home records of 8-4-7 and 8-9-2 respectively, the San Siro turning from a place of dreams to nightmares for the home players and fans. Last season you would need to go right down to 12th place to find a team with a worse home record in terms of wins, clearly indicating a key area where the team must improve on if they are to progress. If Inter are to challenge for the Champions League places, let alone the Scudetto, they will need to turn the San Siro back into the fortress it was five seasons ago, back into a place where visiting teams come expecting to lose; where they are overawed by the occasion, and where Inter go out as if they know they will be finishing the match with three points, not one.
The curtain has come down on the ultimate Nerazurri rollercoaster which saw tremendous highs, such as the 0-7 demolition of Sassuolo which promised so much, and the electrifying 3-1 send off for Javier Zanetti, and dismal lows, like the appalling 0-1 loss to Milan in what must go down as one of the poorest derbys in recent memory. The season, like the previous one under Stramaccioni, offered so much in the beginning as the Nerazzurri flew out of the blocks and gave the fans hopes of fighting it out for the title only for it all to collapse, like the season earlier, into a series of poor performances and lifeless displays. Coach Walter Mazzarri has watched his value plummet over the course of the last year as he has struggled, in a manner uncannily similar to David Moyes’ struggles at Manchester United, to deal with a club the size and scope of Internazionale. By the time the final whistle was blown after a dismal but strangely apt loss to Chievo Verona, he was surely already thinking about getting away for a break to clear the head and refresh himself for what will be a do or die season. We also saw the final changing of the guard, as those legends of the treble said their last goodbyes, their era is over at the club and fans now look toward the strange prospect of seeing at least some of these men taking the field in uniforms other than the blue and black of Inter. But with all the drama now over on the pitch, it is time for reflection of a season gone by. Here are five thoughts related to the season that was 2013/2014 with perspective of building toward next season.