National Security & Defense

‘Playing into the Hands of ISIS’?

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty)
American elites take a perverse view of what ISIS is really after.

‘Playing into the hands of ISIS” is the new Beltway mantra. The finger-shaking by the administration and its supporters warns Americans not to give in to their supposedly natural biases against Muslims.

Never mind that FBI statistics show that Jews in this country are the objects of hate crimes at nearly four times the rate of Muslims. It is mysteriously never reported who are the main perpetrators of hate crimes against Jews. In any case, when the administration alleges Islamophobia, it assumes that if it did not, ISIS might announce to Muslims worldwide, “We told you so,” to confirm its suspicions of American prejudices toward Islam.

But according to Obama’s own logic, his constant suggestions that Americans are prejudiced against Islam would themselves strengthen ISIS by providing them a rationale or justification for their anti-American terrorism. Would they not think, “If President Obama himself is constantly worried that his own people are anti-Muslim, then surely they must be — even though statistics do not support that charge”?

Or are we to think that ISIS reasons along the following lines: “Even after 9/11, Americans let in hundreds of thousands of Muslims, and yet hate crimes against them are far rarer than against Jews. Therefore Americans are our friends, and we will refrain from attacking them”?

RELATED: Obama Bungles War on Terror

When the president pontificates on the evils of Guantánamo Bay, rather than worries over the subsequent careers of terrorists who were released from the detention facility, does that encourage or discourage ISIS? Do its members think that a resolute America is perfectly willing to lock up a terrorist murderer for years and therefore understand that the United States is a formidable foe, or do they conjecture that an embarrassed nation is doing all it can to appear accommodating to grievances?

Sometimes we are also told that any suggestion of suspending immigration from the Middle East, Syria in particular, until we can properly vet arrivals is likewise a gift to ISIS. Yet ISIS has promised to infiltrate so-called refugees with terrorist operatives. I suppose the administration’s logic is something like the following: “ISIS promises to infiltrate migrant arrivals from the Middle East; so if we suspend accepting migrants, it may make ISIS terrorists even angrier, and they will try to infiltrate even more.”

Caution, circumspection, and professions of reluctance to strike at ISIS supposedly will win the hearts and minds of the potential ISIS recruiting pool.

This same strange logic applies to bombing ISIS. Caution, circumspection, and professions of reluctance to strike at ISIS supposedly will win the hearts and minds of the potential ISIS recruiting pool. That way we can lure them back from the dark side. ISIS must know that we already don’t target the drivers of their fuel tankers, who are so integral to their cash income. Did ISIS also hold back a bit on learning that Obama once suspended air strikes in fear of the environmental damage? Did the ISIS green wing appreciate that?

Unfortunately, there is scant evidence from military history in general to suggest that human nature operates in the manner that the administration assumes, and in particular none at all that the administration’s approach to ISIS has lost the terrorists support.

RELATED: Obama Trades Real Security for Spin to Secure His Legacy

What exactly has been won in the Middle East over the last seven years by the Obama apology tours, the Trotskyization of the vocabulary of terrorism (“workplace violence,” “overseas contingency operations,” “man-caused disasters,” etc.), the mythographic Cairo speech, the embarrassing Al Arabiya interview, the surreal NASA mission statement about Muslim outreach, the gratuitous slights to “high-horse” Christianity, the “special relationship” with Recep Erdogan’s Islamist Turkey, the outreach to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the calibrated distancing from Israel, or the dismissals of ISIS as “jayvee” and “contained” and of al-Qaeda as “on the run”?

#share#After all that, U.S. popularity is still near rock bottom in the Middle East. In the latest Pew Global Attitudes & Trends poll, Turkey seems not to have appreciated its special friendship with Barack Obama (58 percent unfavorable view of the U.S.). Nor did the recipients of massive American aid such as the Palestinians (70 percent unfavorable) or Jordanians (83 percent unfavorable) gravitate toward America after the Obama administration’s distancing from Israel. Muslim Pakistan (62 percent unfavorable) does not seem to appreciate annual U.S. aid or the president’s deferential and politically correct pronunciation of Pakîstan, or his reminders that his family has had a special affinity with Islam. Iran has never been more ascendant or more contemptuous of the United States. We have alienated the Gulf emirates. Old friends distrust us, and older enemies no longer worry much about the U.S. How could all that be? Did not the Middle East street appreciate that the Obama administration had been willing to blame a supposedly right-wing video-maker for the killing of Americans in Benghazi rather than fault al-Qaeda?

The Obama administration has crafted a policy toward ISIS that is contrary to unchanging human nature.

In short, the Obama administration has crafted a policy toward ISIS that is contrary to unchanging human nature. Should we have expected Mr. Farook and Ms. Malik to be so grateful that they had been allowed to enter and leave the U.S. so easily, and so appreciative that Mr. Farook had landed a nice job with the San Bernardino County health department, and that his father and mother were welcomed into America, that they decided to demonstrate their gratitude by not killing 14 Americans and wounding another 22? Did their bizarre and scarcely veiled behavior truly warrant not a peep from either politically correct neighbors or somnolent authorities in the anything-goes United States?

In contrast, what if the U.S. put a temporary suspension on immigration not by religion but by region? If Ms. Malik had had to be vetted and wait longer to enter the U.S., would she in her anger have killed 16 instead of 14? If the Tsarnaev brood had been denied asylum, would they, in their petulance, have injured 300 rather than 250 at the Boston Marathon? If the resident-alien father (and former Fulbright Scholarship winner) of terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki had faced charges of aiding and abetting his son to incite terrorism rather than being feted on American media to protest unfair and Islamophobic treatment of his terrorist offspring, would Anwar have guided even more terrorist killers?

RELATED: ’Degrading’ ISIS Is Not a Serious Strategy

In this regard, when Mrs. Tsarnaev, in disgust at America for jailing her surviving murderous son, returned to her native Chechnya, was she quickly dispatched by intolerant authorities in the manner she had assured us would happen, had we not granted the visiting Tsarnaevs asylum in 2002? How strange that nearly 70 percent of the migrants who have flooded Europe are young males in fear of their lives — the logic being that the opponents of ISIS do not need young, able-bodied males to mobilize at home, and that their abandoned women and children in Syria and Iraq are better able to take care of themselves than would have been their men who flocked to northern Europe.

If we suggested to the Middle East and its associated areas that we wished a time-out from accepting more immigrants from that region — given worries over terrorist infiltrations and the fact that the region has a bad habit of accepting U.S. aid and then deriding us for our magnanimity — what would be the result? Would frustrated wannabe immigrants to America feel alienated and thus join ISIS, or would they direct their ire at ISIS for ruining a relationship with America that had been singularly rewarding?

RELATED: Obama’s Increasingly Surreal War on ISIS

What if an invitation to America became a rare and valued commodity, worth offering complete transparency and unquestioned loyalty in order to earn it? And what might happen if potential beneficiaries of America’s hospitality treasured such chances to emigrate enough to oppose any in their midst who jeopardized any possibility of reaching the United States? What if any resident-alien friends of Farook and Malik who had knowledge of their terrorist planning were summarily deported — would that earn contempt? Or fear of and respect for a sometimes unpredictable United States that could be quick to anger?

In a war, is it advantageous to be seen as sober and predictable, or instead as occasionally unpredictable, likely to repay provocation with a disproportionate response? Do aggressive enemies mitigate their belligerence when concessions and deference are accorded — or instead when they are deterred by fears of suffering inordinate retaliation not worth the risk of aggression?

RELATED: A Commitment from the Obama Administration Is Needed to Defeat ISIS

Hitler was given everything he wanted at Munich. Why then did he libel his appeasers as worms? Why did he declare that he hated Chamberlain?

American policy toward ISIS is too predictably loquacious. We talk, talk, and talk, assert our liberalism, and after each terrorist act are quicker to damn supposedly Islamophobic Americans and gun owners than radical Islamic killers.

What would happen if we kept quiet, bombed the ISIS beheaders and incinerators more systematically, and summarily deported any resident alien who had knowledge of terrorist planning and failed to report it?

#related#If apologetics and appeasement have not contained ISIS or relegated it to jayvee status, what might be the effect on it of a changeable, mercurial, and unfathomable United States?

In this present war against radical Islam, entry into the United States should become a rare prize that is earned, not a benefit routinely bestowed. The rarity should be calibrated according to the degree to which the Middle East rejects anti-Western terrorism, rather than tolerating it or ignoring it. And ISIS might be confused rather than assured by American pronouncements about what we might do next, convinced that on any given day, at any given hour, Americans were capable of doing almost anything to keep their country safe from terrorist attack. It would not be so much that President Obama would take any option off the table, but rather that no one would have any idea what options were there in the first place — or whether there was even a table that could hold them all.

Victor Davis Hanson — NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won.

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