Whatever we learn about this killer, his motives in the days ahead, we know already the barbarity we face from radical jihadists is profound.In the Middle East, ISIS is attempting a genocide of religious and ethnic minorities, they are slaughtering Muslims who refuse to accept their medieval ways, they are beheading civilians, including executing LGBT people, they are murdering Americans and Europeans, enslaving, torturing, and raping women and girls.In speeches like this one after Paris, Brussels, and San Bernardino, I have laid out a plan to defeat ISIS and the other radical jihadist groups in the region and beyond.
Donald Trump’s issue going into Monday was that voters perceive him as an opportunistic hate-monger and ignoramus on national security. He doubled down, insisting he’d enact a Muslim ban by executive edict until screening was “perfect.”
He seemed to hint at his own cluelessness, saying he’d find people who knew what to do. (“I will have an Attorney General, a Director of National Intelligence, and a Secretary of Defense who will know how to fight the war on Radical Islamic Terrorism — and who will have the support they require to get the job done.”)
In one breath, he paints all Muslims as a threat, and in the other, he chides Clinton for hindering “our ability to work in partnership with our Muslim allies in the region.” He would do well to look in the mirror and listen to Muslim leaders who have excoriated his demonization of all Muslims.
Trump is delusional in his insistence he alone got everyone talking about terrorism. Not knowing that NATO led the war in Afghanistan, he proclaims, “I’ve said NATO needs to change its focus to stopping terrorism. Since I’ve raised that criticism, NATO has since announced a new initiative focused on just that.” Does he have no one around him with a clue as to what has been going on for the last dozen years or so?
It would be bad enough if Trump’s anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric were merely a moral disaster — a reflection of his penchant for bigotry and determination to incite Americans. However, his ideas risk a frightful geopolitical and national-security disaster. By suggesting we consider all Muslims to be terrorist threats, he undermines the domestic and international cooperation we need to win the war. (“We need to know if he was affiliated with any radical Mosques or radical activists and what, if any, is their immigration status,” he insists. That of course requires not simply law enforcement but community involvement.) On some level, he knows we need peaceful Muslims’ assistance here and abroad, but he is totally at a loss as to how to garner that assistance. So he spews hate.
Compare Trump’s anti-immigrant rant with what Clinton had to say about enlisting the help of Muslim communities:
Since 9/11, law enforcement agencies have worked hard to build relationships with Muslim-American communities. Millions of peace-loving Muslims live, work, and raise their families across America. They are the most likely to recognize the insidious effects of radicalization before it’s too late, and the best positioned to help us block it. We should be intensifying contacts in those communities, not scapegoating or isolating them. . . . As the Director of the FBI has pointed out, we should avoid eroding trust in the community, which will only make law enforcement’s job more difficult.Inflammatory, anti-Muslim rhetoric — and threatening to ban the families and friends of Muslim Americans, as well as millions of Muslim business people and tourists from entering our country – hurts the vast majority of Muslims who love freedom and hate terror. So does saying that we have to start special surveillance on our fellow Americans because of their religion. That’s wrong and it’s also dangerous. It plays right into the terrorists’ hands.
She could have easily said, Trump’s wrong and also dangerous. He plays right into the terrorists’ hands. For Clinton, unity and coordination are critical to advancing our security; for Trump, whipping up divisions and suspicions is the key to advancing his ambitions. As Eli Lake put it, “The best way to stop these terrorists is to enlist as many Muslims as possible in a fight against them. The last two American presidents grasped this lesson. Unfortunately, the presumptive Republican nominee has not.”
Republicans such as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) have already repudiated the ban. Ryan, who struggles to insist his views are compatible with Trump’s, did not comment on either the Trump speech or his bizarre insinuations about the president. Ryan’s office did not respond to requests for comment. No wonder.
By the end of the day, voters could be somewhat assuaged that Clinton, much more so than President Obama, understands the threat and the urgency of confronting it. (Unlike Obama, she doesn’t think it is all in our heads. “The threat is metastasizing. We saw this in Paris and we saw it in Brussels.”) Meanwhile, voters should be more certain than ever that Trump’s hysterical, uninformed and divisive approach cannot be relied upon to keep the country safe.