President Trump — The Jihadi Dream
A Jihadi’s Dream
In November Americans will go to the polls to elect the third president tasked with being Commander-in-Chief in a global War on Terror begun after 9/11 and now waged informally but constantly and vigilantly worldwide. The threat of ISIL weighs on the minds of Americans, and sits at the forefront of political conversation.
The two finalists for the job differ so markedly in their ability to protect the United States from terrorism that it is hard to imagine jihadis aren’t salivating over the prospect of a Trump presidency. For any group who aspires to see America’s collapse, president Trump would be a blessing.
Social tension and turmoil are roiling the United States. In the last few weeks violence in America has created an edgy atmosphere in a nation that has been struggling to deal with ongoing racial tensions for years after endless high-profile cases of minorities killed by the police. Now rage has erupted and the police have become victims as well. Violence begat violence.
During all this, Donald Trump has been using hateful rhetoric and outrageous stereotypes to unleash forces far beyond his control, giving new life to organizations and ideas that belong in the past, empowering the worst stains of the nation’s racial legacy to push an anxious society closer to the edge of chaos.
And all of this in a country so addicted to and awash in guns that even a man who had been investigated multiple times for terrorist connections was able to acquire one and use it to murder 59 innocent people in a club. As always, America’s legislators refused to act, effectively guaranteeing another slaughter.
Trump has strong words for ISIS and other terrorists. He threatens to kill their families. He claims he will bring the full might of the American military machine and use it with a barbaric degree of efficiency. This is only one of three outcomes that might result if Trump were to become president, but all are scary, and any would make the United States more susceptible to terrorism.
Perhaps Trump would take America to war by trying to win a vote from Congress or deploying as many troops as he could without their approval. Despite the applause his tough talk receives, most Americans do not want another war in the Middle East, particularly one without an end game, and a war against ISIS invites the question of who comes next? A major military undertaking seems unlikely.
But what if we did go to war? Could Trump define an end vision for victory, which, based on his comments would need to be so total that it involves the constant maintenance of force abroad to harm the families of any potential terrorist? Is there even a consideration that the professional men and women of the United States military adhere to an ethical code that treats non-combatants, particularly women and children as human beings or that such immoral brutality would breed more hatred and future enemies? To wage war in the manner Trump espouses is more likely to lead to a military coup than all out victory over ISIS. Perhaps this is the best outcome.
Hate at Home
Whatever measures taken to combat ISIS abroad, the greatest threat to Americans remain the types of attacks seen in San Bernardino and Orlando, attacks the American military can neither protect us from nor prevent. Commitment to preventing these attacks is already in question because of a persistent refusal to limit the availability of guns, but president Trump’s stated policies on Muslims and Mexicans among others, will add to the festering atmosphere of violence at home.
Were he actually to pursue and achieve certain policy goals such as banning Muslim immigration or worse, Trump would be an even more effective propaganda machine for ISIS than he is already. His words and actions as president add fuel and legitimacy to the snake oil mythology jihadi recruiters sell. It is quite easy to make a disaffected young man believe his society is at war against his faith if the president himself says as much. Trump encourages the “lone-wolf,” “home grown,” terrorism that is hardest to predict and most likely to succeed.
Trump’s Terrible Tsunami
In the unlikely event that Trump is elected and walks back everything he has said so far — I say unlikely, but this is Donald Trump, so he may dismiss his racist convictions as meaningless — he has still given voice to ideas and people whose extreme views are harbingers for a society that has never addressed its painful and shameful racial history. Trump is fueling the KKK’s comeback, and if he wins and becomes flippant about walls or immigration bans they are going to be angry.
What form that anger takes may vary, but if any of Trump’s supporters find themselves betrayed they may take matters into their own hands. We already know some have taken the liberty of doing so, saying “Trump’s right” while beating a homeless Hispanic man. Violence by Trump’s supporters wouldn’t only be bad for its own sake, it would beget more violence. At best, more targeted killings, at worst armed conflict either civil or racial. I do not predict the latter, but Trump is in too deep and has enabled too many bad actors to be able to back out of all his rhetoric. Doing so will lead to backlash from all those who want to “make America great again.”
There is no way to look at a Trump presidency and see an America that is safer from the threat of terrorism. Whether by waging an unpopular, unwinnable war, by fueling home grown terror, or by enabling white racial extremists, a president Trump fosters the conditions for instability, hatred, and violence, the conditions for us to tear ourselves apart from within, a jihadi’s dream.