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“A Triumph Of American Culture Welcoming Immigrants”: Why Republican Fear-Mongering About France Is Detached From Reality

One frequent criticism conservatives make of Barack Obama when it comes to terrorism is that he doesn’t “understand” the threats we face. This supposed lack of understanding, they say, is what leads the President to be so weak when what is needed is more strength, more military action, more belligerence. Those who “understand” terrorism know that this is the only path to combating it effectively.

With the attacks in Paris last week, conservatives and Republicans are again asserting that Obama’s lethal combination of ignorance and weakness is leaving us vulnerable, because terrorist incidents like the ones in France are soon to occur here in America. For instance, here’s an excerpt from a glowing story about John McCain in today’s New York Times:

He said in an interview last Thursday that Mr. Obama’s decision not to send more American troops to Iraq to thwart the Islamic State had put America at risk.

“That attack you saw in Paris? You’ll see an attack in the United States,” Mr. McCain said. He repeated his frequent assessment that the president’s foreign policy is “a disaster” and “delusional.” He said “of course” he would have made a better commander in chief.

Let’s follow the logic here. McCain is arguing that because we don’t have enough troops in Iraq, someone could get some guns and shoot a bunch of Americans — presumably at ISIS’s behest — whereas if we had more troops there, ISIS would still want to launch (or order, or encourage, or inspire) that kind of an attack, but they wouldn’t be able to.

So what exactly does McCain think was required for those two men to attack the Charlie Hebdo offices? Was it an international conspiracy involving a huge mobilization of resources and the coordination of large numbers of people spread across the world? No. Despite the fact that al Qaeda in Yemen is trying to claim responsibility for it, all that the attack required was two guys and a couple of guns.

Yet McCain thinks that whether such an attack occurs in America will be determined by how strong and aggressive we’re being against ISIS.

McCain’s good friend Lindsey Graham had a similar interpretation of the events in Paris: it’s going to happen here, and it’s because President Obama is weak. “I fear we can expect and must prepare for more attacks like this in the future,” he said, adding that, because of Barack Obama’s poor policy choices, “I fear our intelligence capabilities, those designed to prevent such an attack from taking place on our shores, are quickly eroding.”

But even if you believed that Obama is eroding our intelligence capabilities (and I have no idea what he’s talking about on that score), does that make us more vulnerable to a couple of guys with guns shooting up a public place? If such an attack were in the works, it wouldn’t require getting resources from overseas, and it wouldn’t require coordination and communication of the kind American intelligence might intercept. All that would be necessary is for someone who is angry enough to go to a gun show, pick up some heavy weaponry, and he’d be on his way. And he probably wouldn’t have to go far — according to this calendar, there are 61 gun shows happening this week in America — not this year or this month, but just this week.

Given how easy it would be to carry out an attack like the one on Charlie Hebdo, the real question is why it doesn’t happen all the time. While there have been a number of cases in recent years in which right-wing terrorists have tried to shoot a bunch of people, there have been only a couple of occurrences of politically motivated jihadist attacks like the ones in Paris — not an attempt to plant a bomb or do something similarly elaborate, but just somebody taking a gun and shooting a bunch of people — most notably that of Nidal Hassan, who killed 13 people at Ft. Hood in 2009 (there was also a Seattle man who killed four people last year and claimed it was revenge for American military actions).

So why doesn’t it happen more here? The answer is that unlike their European counterparts, American Muslims are as a group extremely assimilated and patriotic. So there’s virtually no one here who wants to carry out such an attack. Our relative safety on this score isn’t a triumph of intelligence, it’s a triumph of the American culture of welcoming immigrants.

Of course intelligence is important in preventing terrorism. But Republican critics, who are so proud of their supposedly deep understanding of national security issues, seem to believe that every kind of terrorist attack is exactly alike, and is made more or less likely for exactly the same reasons. That’s the kind of sophisticated thinking on terrorism we’ve supposedly been missing for the last six years.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributing Writer, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, January 14, 2015

January 15, 2015 - Posted by | John McCain, Paris Shootings, Terrorism | , , , , , , , ,

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