By Nicholas Riebel || Staff Writer
In the wake of the tragic terrorist attack in Brussels, Belgium on March 22, which ISIS (or ISIL, or Daesh, or the Islamic State, or so on) claimed responsibility for, it is easy to want to seek violent revenge and turn toward xenophobia. We see this in the rise of Donald Trump, who has been able to use the racism and xenophobia latent in the Republican base to propel himself to the undisputed GOP frontrunner status to the point that he is the presumptive nominee of his party. Ted Cruz, although perhaps not quite as “bad,” did call for the police to patrol and put surveillance on Muslim neighborhoods and communities in the United States. Cruz’s call contained an irony that was not lost on President Obama, who rightfully condemned the Texan senator for calling for the United States to adopt more of the dystopian policies of Cuba, which his father escaped from to go to America, which is not supposed to do that sort of thing.
I think we can say, without causing great offense or umbrage, that the Republican party and its base seem prone to anger, hatred and fear. Those emotions and passions reinforce a sort of positive feedback loop. Trump and Cruz know this cycle and are manipulating these emotions for their own political advantage, seeking the White House at the expense of immigrants and Muslims. It is shameful, in my opinion, that the Grand Old Party has so vociferously rejected the original, founding principles of Lincoln’s Republican party. The Southern Strategy has reached its climax. The recent terrorist attack in Belgium has only fueled the self-destructive tendency of the GOP to agitate and enrage their voters, and cynically turn their supporters’ hatred, fear and anger into political support.
But perhaps we should not be too hard on the Republicans. Perhaps they truly are concerned about illegal immigration and Muslim “infiltration” in a completely non-racist way. Although I think it is hardly likely that there is no bigotry in the positions of Trump and Cruz on these issues, I will admit that it is possible. Yet, in Europe, it is even more difficult to deny the tendencies of voters, angered and scared, to vote for xenophobic, right-wing parties. I fear that Trump and his candidacy are partially fueled by the reawakening of racism and xenophobia in the United States and partially inspired by extreme-right and xenophobic politicians such as Marine Le Pen, or those in Hungary’s Jobbik party. This has been going on in Europe for some time, but has been accelerated (and these people and parties have seen political success) as a result of immigration from Syria, due to that nation’s civil war. And, of course, the horrific brutality of ISIS has fueled this xenophobia even further.
But the thing is, ISIS is actually losing. If you look at what’s happening to their “army” in Iraq and Syria, the objective truth is that they are losing. In Iraq, it seems as if their hold on Mosul is becoming increasingly tenuous, and in Syria they are losing ground in the Palmyra area (http://wapo.st/1q4fCDX). Indeed, at least in those nations, they are losing ground everywhere. While they may find more favorable areas to operate in other parts of the Islamic world, we will defeat them everywhere with international cooperation (especially from our Muslim friends and allies), and they will eventually cease to even be able to launch terrorist attacks. This will require both diplomacy and military action, defeating them in both the battlefields of the Middle East, and the battlefield of ideas. But it requires us not to overreact or do anything rash, such as, say, elect Donald Trump or Ted Cruz president.
In other words, do not let the terrorists terrorize you. If you are an American, or even a European, you should be more worried (at least for now) about the threat of growing xenophobia than an increasingly desperate and weak gang of criminals.
Junior Nicholas Riebel is a staff writer. His email is nriebel@fandm.