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Deliver us from Chicken Little

Guest Column

 


Deliver us from Chicken Little. The tale of Chicken Little is about unwarranted fear. This campaign season our country has been disgraced by politicians and pundits fear-mongering for political gain. Leaders do not promote fear. Leaders allay fear. The reason that politicians can exploit fear is because an “ism,” as in communism or terrorism, is unmeasurable. If the Spanish Armada arrives off your coast, you can count the ships. You can measure the danger. Because an “ism” is unmeasurable, imagination can run wild, making the threat seem much greater than it really is. The people in the Middle East whom we call terrorists have very little military capability. They have power in Western countries only if they can generate fear and cause governments to over react. When American politicians preach fear, they are doing exactly what a terrorist would want them to do.

The world now has approximately 60 million refugees, most of them driven from their homes by war and political violence. The violence in the Middle East is producing a substantial number of those refugees. We have reason to exercise due diligence when admitting refugees to the United States, but there is no valid reason for us to be governed by fear.

Most of the world’s Muslims adhere to the Sunni branch of the Islamic faith. However, a large majority of the population of Iran and Iraq belong to the Shi’a branch. Iraq’s former dictator, Saddam Hussein, provided a safe haven for Sunnis in Iraq. When the U.S. invaded Iraq, the American plenipotentiary, Jerry Bremer, disbanded the Iraqi government and military. The Sunnis soon became refugees in their own country. The Sunnis are now waging a military campaign to establish a Sunni enclave in part of Syria and part of Iraq. The U.S. news media calls it an Islamic State. In a November 24, 2015, article in the NY Times, former U.S. ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, called for the establishment of a Sunni state as a means to diminish the military conflict in the region. While Mr. Bolton would make a distinction between his version of a Sunni state and the fanatic religious goals of the Islamic State, both have the same purpose—a regional safe haven for Sunnis.

A prominent and respected national politician recently declared that, if we fail to defeat the Islamic State in Syria, they will attack us in the United States. Another statement needs to accompany that opinion. Defeating them in Syria and eliminating their capability to hold geographical territory will not diminish their capability to attack Western countries by devious means.

There are some fundamentals that occur in violent social upheavals that transcend time and place. First, these events occur only if there is a surge of young people in the population. Several Middle Eastern countries have a high percentage of young people and high rates of unemployment. Secondly, the population of a country experiencing violent social upheaval separates into three categories: people who support the government, people who support the fighters, and a third group who are neutral and just want to get on with their lives. If either the government or the terrorists do something outrageous, some of the people in the neutral group shift their sympathies. Terrorists routinely attempt to get the government or opposing forces to react inappropriately. They exploit their opponent’s inappropriate behavior. The French publication “Charlie Hebdo” acted inappropriately when it published a cartoon portraying a Muslim with a pig face. That was a crude insult to the billion and a half people who adhere to the Islamic faith. It undoubtedly shifted some of the neutral group to active support of the terrorist contingent. Publication of that cartoon was an unintelligent provocation.

No terrorist operation can pose a significant threat to the United States—unless we become fearful and react inappropriately. Whatever our political persuasion, we need to remember that leaders, the kind of people we need in public office, counsel courage, not fear.

Jack Stevenson, retired from military and civil service, now reads history, follows issues important to Americans and writes commentary.

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