Monday, March 28, 2016

Trump and Cruz: Stop Helping Terrorists

Former CIA counter-terrorism analyst Susan Hasler calls out demagogue politicians for playing into terrorists' hands on

Leaving the agency in 2004 and getting my information through the media (traditional and social) has been the intellectual equivalent of running out of a sauna and rolling in the snow. People make the most incendiary, irresponsible claims as if stating indisputable facts. Hardly anyone will tell you where they got their information. Repetition and volume try to take the place of verification.

Such an atmosphere can quickly turn poisonous in the wake of a terrorist attack. Anti-Muslim groups adopt the mindset of the terrorists and become their mirror image. A presidential candidate provides material for terrorist recruitment videos.

It is never a good idea to do what the terrorists want you to do, yet so many people are doing exactly that. The goal of terrorist groups is not simply to kill people but to influence their target group.

Groups such as ISIS and al Qaeda have set out to convince the global Muslim community that it is under attack by infidels and that the only solution is global jihad. Their own attacks are not enough to drive their message home.

They need a hateful response to those attacks to make their point. Anti-Muslim violence and rhetoric and calls for banning and registering Muslims all play beautifully into their plans.

The instinct to strike back after attacks is understandable, but calls to "turn the sand to glass" are dangerous and naive. Did we learn nothing from the "shock and awe" visited upon Iraq after 9/11? We struck a target that had nothing to do with the attack. We created a whole new generation of terrorists and increased the danger from terrorists already in our midst. That's the thing about international terrorist groups: They are everywhere, and you cannot bomb them out of existence.

Politicians such as Donald Trump and Ted Cruz harness the attacks to advance their own ambitions. They play to the psychological need to hit back, the need to do something quick and spectacular. Go bomb the crap out of someone -- a tack which also has the advantage of using up a lot of materiel and enriching the defense contractors who contribute so heavily to political campaigns. (Trump tweeted Sunday afternoon about the Lahore attack, which he called "another radical Islamic attack" and said, "I alone can solve.")

Politicians scream talking points past each other without engaging in the type of real intellectual debate that leads to understanding and solutions. If we are ever to reduce the danger of terrorism, we must not cede the stage to the ignorant, the angry and the opportunistic.

No comments: