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This Column Is Exactly What ISIS Wants


President Obama was in Manila yesterday getting worked up about the only thing that really grinds his gears, the GOP. “I cannot think of a more potent recruitment tool for ISIL than some of the rhetoric that’s been coming out of here,” he said of Republicans, who were demanding a pause in the influx of Syrian refugees.

Oh, c’mon! Not one? I can. In fact, I can think of a bunch, because ever since Paris was attacked by a group of religiously unaffiliated men who happened to also yell “Allahu Akbar!” before randomly shooting civilians, liberals have offered an array of conceivable causes for the proliferation of terrorism. There’s Republican rhetoric, of course. Climate change. People drawing mean cartoons about Islam. Blowback for various wars Americans have started without any provocation whatsoever.

The problem is that no matter what the GOP says these days it is “doing exactly what ISIS wants” — the most popular platitude this side of ‘those Syrian refugees are just like Baby Jesus.’

Now, obviously we shouldn’t take things comedians say too seriously, but let’s talk about Sally Kohn’s contention anyway. The most obvious problem with it, of course, is that any elected official who gives two spits about what ISIS wants or doesn’t want when making decisions concerning immigration or foreign policy — or any policy, for that matter — is being incomprehensibly irresponsible. The idea that a nation would wage war or not because its enemy is trying to elicit a certain kind of reaction is absurd.

ISIS wants war, you say? Well, it doesn’t matter how many civilians it beheads or how many mass graves it fills or how many Western cities they terrorize, we’re not going to give into those bastards! Because when we annihilate the terrorists, we’re doing exactly what they want.

What ISIS wants is to kill infidels and build a caliphate. And perhaps ISIS has wishes that it will one day sincerely regret? There are innumerable instances throughout history when groups or nations initiated wars that they would disastrously lose. Maybe if terrorists target civilians because they want to be martyrs, we should help them achieve that life goal. Call it a ‘win-win’ if you like.

But the “that’s-what-the-terrorists-want” canard tells us something else about how progressives view this issue. For example, when they misrepresent or misunderstand what ISIS desires because they are often unwilling to concede the most obvious motivation of terrorism: faith. And they misrepresent what conservatives believe for political reasons. ISIS doesn’t hate refugees as a matter of principle. Maybe ISIS hates people who were once allied with Assad or other Shia terror groups. Now, I would hate them, too, of course, but that’s exactly what ISIS wants, I bet.

If Americans want to more vigilant — or even stop the influx of refugees from Syria and Libya completely — it doesn’t mean that people “hate” anyone. We’ll see what polling says on this topic, but a majority of Americans are already rightfully concerned about how well Islam comports to American society. This is not a condemnation of liberal ideals; it is a concern driven by a desire to preserve those ideals, and that is exactly what ISIS doesn’t want.

If we don’t take more refugees, we’re supposedly playing right into ISIS’ master plan. We will be perceived as being Islamophobic (though the preponderance of refugees admitted from this crisis so far have been Muslim) and thus we will be at fault for creating more refugees. But we take far fewer Christians fleeing the same war under nearly the same circumstances. Will those people also join death cults and start blowing up children? If not, what in the equation is different? I guess talking about that is exactly what ISIS wants.

If we don’t take more refugees, we’re supposedly playing right into ISIS’ master plan.

And about this nonsense about conservatives wanting the same “clash of civilizations” that ISIS does — maybe we are in a global conflict with an illiberal theology that too often manifests in violence. Certainly it’s not a war with all Muslims. In fact, Republicans are the ones incessantly pressuring political leaders to affix qualifiers like “radical” or “extremist” to the word “Islam.” It is the Left that refuses to make those distinctions, but then it is also the Left that turns around and accuses conservatives of waging war against all Muslims.

Liberals aren’t alone ones using the “that’s-what-the-terrorists-want” formulation, by the way. Rick Santorum argued this week that admitting either Muslims or Christians was a bad idea because “in so doing we would be accomplishing exactly what ISIS wants to accomplish, which is to rid the area of Christians.” So if Christians are refugees in Jordan and have no other country in the Middle East to emigrate to where they can be safe and prosper in the long term, we should force them to go back to Syria because that’s exactly what ISIS doesn’t want?

Seems counterintuitive, to say the least.