Bed-wetting vs. Leadership, Part Deux

We shouldn’t minimize the seriousness of the Paris attack. But we should realize that the biggest danger terrorism poses to our society comes from the wrong-headed responses it can inspire.

Consider Marco Rubio: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

This is not a geopolitical issue where they want to conquer territory and it’s two countries fighting against each other…They literally want to overthrow our society and replace it with their radical, Sunni Islamic view of the future. This is not a grievance-based conflict. This is a clash of civilizations.

America is not going to become a Caliphate, Mr. Rubio.

Or Trump on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe“, saying we might have to close Mosques:

I would hate to do it, but it’s something you’re going to have to strongly consider, because some of the ideas and some of the hatred is coming from these areas…

Or consider that 25 Republican governors vowed to block the entry of Syrian refugees into their states, arguing that the safety of Americans was at stake after the Paris attacks. Or, the recent poll by PPP in North Carolina, showing that 40% of Republicans thought Islam should be illegal in the US.

In Congress, the GOP is taking a stand against Syrian immigration, linking it to the current budget discussions with the White House on the omnibus spending bill that appropriates funding for the next 10 months. It, or some other measure, must pass by December 11th. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) has sent the WH a letter calling for restrictions on Obama’s plan to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees into the US over the next year. Sessions called for a separate vote by Congress on funding Syrian immigration, which is highly unlikely to pass in the current political climate.

Sessions is saying he is for a government shut-down if Obama vetoes the Syrian immigration funding bill.

Preventing Syrian immigration polls very well. Instead of “Immigrants, eek!!!” it’s “Syrian refugees, eek!!!” But there is a legitimate concern among both Democrats and Republicans that we not let terrorists into our kitchen.

The Democrat’s problem is that one terrorist among 10,000 Syrian immigrants will be considered a failure of policy and execution of the policy. We shouldn’t scapegoat Syrian refugees, and reasonable, logical people won’t do that. The issue is our electorate is seldom reasonable or logical. That means that Democrats are going to be on the wrong side of the electorate when it comes to this issue UNLESS they can somehow address those fears.

This all started in the Democratic debate. CBS Host John Dickerson asked each candidate to respond to a Republican talking-point about whether or not they were prepared to call ISIS “radical Islamists.” But he got push-back from both Sanders and Clinton. So, Dickerson attempted to make the argument about why what words you use matters:

The critique is that the softness of language betrays a softness of approach. So if this language – if you don’t call it by what it is, how can your approach be effective to the cause?

You should focus on Dickerson’s usage of “softness of approach”. Here is Nancy LeTourneau about Dickerson’s point:

Once again, the Republicans are attempting to fear-monger us into making stupid moves in order to avoid being labeled “soft on terrorism.” So it’s time for Democrats to get out ahead of this kind of fear-mongering…When it comes to terrorism, we’d don’t need the bellicose chest-thumping we’re hearing from Republicans, we need leadership that is smart on terrorism.

It would be useful to remember what President Obama said to Matt Yglesias about this in February:

…this is going to be a generational challenge in the Muslim world and the Middle East that not only the United States but everybody’s going to have to deal with. And we’re going to have to have some humility in recognizing that we don’t have the option of simply invading every country where disorder breaks out. And that to some degree, the people of these countries are going to have to, you know, find their own way. And we can help them but we can’t do it for them…

Obama went on: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

The real challenge for the country not just during my presidency but in future presidencies is recognizing that leading does not always mean occupying. That the temptation to think that there’s a quick fix to these problems is usually a temptation to be resisted.

The American right’s unwillingness to distinguish between victim and perpetrator, or between ally and enemy, does not bode well for our struggle against extremism. Our threat is not just terrorism, but also a reactionary political backlash that could create nationalistic, xenophobic governments both here and in Europe.

Let’s hope cooler heads prevail.

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