SIS’s brutal terrorist attacks in Paris have occasioned a manhunt in Europe, the shutting down of Brussels, emergency measures in France—and blatant political opportunism from Republican presidential candidates here at home. Donald Trump Isaid that if he were president he’d institute registration, a database, and perhaps special ID cards for all Muslims in the United States. He also said he would “absolutely” bring back waterboarding, though he hasn’t specified whether he’d have all Muslims waterboarded, or just some subset of them. Ben Carson compared potential terrorists to “rabid dogs,” and urged screening of all Syrian refugees—even though refugees are already more carefully screened than any other foreign national seeking to enter the United States.
suggested that we accept only Christian refugees from Syria, a majority-Muslim country. Chris Christie wants to bar Syrian refugees from New Jersey, even 5-year-old orphans. And Marco Rubio supports a freeze on refugees until they get background checks—apparently unaware that they already get such checks.Ted Cruz has
This is the politics of least resistance. In a time of fear, a responsible leader would reassure his or her people, examine whether the nation’s defenses are sufficient, and propose sensible ways to shore up defenses against real threats. But too many politicians instead choose to play to the lowest common denominator, pushing measures that make them sound tough but respond to no identifiable problem. When it’s about political theater, not actual security, the harsher the solution, the better. And when one’s proposals would sacrifice the rights of non-voters in the guise of advancing their security, even better.
Listening to today’s Republican candidates, one might even begin to feel nostalgic for George W. Bush, who despite his many faults understood that it was critical not to confuse terrorism with Islam. Just six days after 9/11, Bushvisited a mosque and insisted that the conflict was not with Muslims but with terrorists. The Republican candidates would do well to pay heed to that message. Nothing serves ISIS’s interests better than portraying the conflict as pitting Islam against the West.