Update: President Obama in a press conference Tuesday:
"We are not well served when in response to a terrorist attack we descend into fear and panic...We don't make good decisions if it's based on hysteria or an exaggeration of risks."
Of Republican candidates:
"They've been playing on fear to score political points or to advance their campaigns and it's irresponsible. It needs to stop because the world is watching," Obama said."I cannot think of a more potent recruitment tool for ISIL than some of the rhetoric coming out of here in the course of this debate."
Jonathan Chiat's column today casts the despicable and predictable Republican response to the Paris terror attack in a bright if frightening light: nearly everything their leaders are saying are exactly what ISIL/ISIS/ Islamic State and the jihadists want them to say--exactly what will provide them with more power and troops.
Republicans are promoting a holy war of us (white Christian rabid right Republicans) against them (the entire Islamic world.) It's the mirror image of ISIS, engaged in a holy war of them (a minority with a twisted interpretation of Islam) against us (everyone else, including most of the Muslim world.)
The stakes in defining this conflict could not be higher. Chiat writes:
The Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, believes in defining the conflict in the most narrow terms. There is a very good reason for this. The United States is not actually at war with Islam. Non-extremist Muslims account for the lion's share of the victims of jihadist terror, and are needed as allies in the conflict.
Air strikes and counterterrorism may be important tools against ISIS, but in the long run, we need non-radicals to maintain the loyalties of the majority of the Muslim world. If the Muslim world gravitates toward its most extreme elements, the West will find itself in an unwinnable struggle against an enemy that can generate fighters moving invisibly among 1.6 billion people worldwide.
The radicals want to persuade the rest of the Muslims that they represent Islam writ large in a clash against Christians and Jews. The West’s strategy is predicated on breaking down this link, making it as hard as possible for them to claim that the West is at war with Islam as a whole."
In this context, it's worth noting this, from an evaluation of terrorist threats to the U.S.:"And Daniel Byman, a Brookings Institution analyst, noted in an interview that many such plots since the attacks of September 11, 2001 have been disrupted because of tips from American Muslims."
The most extreme elements of the religious right have long had this twisted mirror agenda of holy war, as it fulfills what they believe is the prophesy--for the end of the world, which of course only they will survive in clouds of glory.
Republicans were falling over each other to see who could be more extreme in their response. Marco Rubio won--he endorsed this holy war. But Jeb Bush wasn't far behind--he proposed that America accept only Christian refugees.
At a news conference at the G20 conference, President Obama was blunt and passionate: Without naming him, Mr. Obama singled out a comment by former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, one of the Republicans seeking to succeed him, for suggesting the United States focus special attention on Christian refugees. “That’s shameful,” Mr. Obama said. “That’s not American. It’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.”
He denounced ISIL as "the face of evil" but refused to be terrorized into overestimating its strength in the Paris attacks:
“If you have a handful of people who don’t mind dying, they can kill a lot of people,” Mr. Obama said. “That’s one of the challenges of terrorism. It’s not their sophistication or the particular weaponry that they possess. But it is the ideology they carry with them and their willingness to die.”
He noted that he has used force (often to criticism) but insisted on maintaining a sane pragmatism in word as well as deed. Not only does ignorant bluster play into the hands of terrorists who recruit members on the basis of a holy war, it is the talk of irresponsible people who fortunately for the moment don't have responsibilities to actually respond. The Times report concludes:
But he said he would not be pressured into “posing” as a tough president by doing things that will not make the situation better to satisfy his critics.
“Some of them seem to think that if I was just more bellicose in expressing what we’re doing, that that would make a difference,” he said. “Because that seems to be the only thing that they’re doing, is talking as if they’re tough."
Beginner's Mind - Finding a very nice hardback copy of Bruce Chatwin's last book in a bargain bin, a kind of miscellany of previously uncollected pieces called What Am I Doi...
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