Ramping up for war

On June 4th, President Donald J. Trump gave a short speech concerning the United States' commitment to the United Kingdom after recent attacks from radicalized Wahhabi extremists.

According to the pool report, Trump's stated:

We renew our resolve, stronger than ever before, to protect the United States and its allies from a vile enemy that has waged war on innocent life. And it has gone on too long. This bloodshed must end. This bloodshed will end. As president I will do what is necessary is to prevent this threat from spreading to our shores.

There are multiple reasons why this rhetoric is concerning.

First off, it's helpful to remember that Trump has proposed cuts to the State Department, which he's currently kept understaffed. This indicates what he thinks is "necessary" will exclusively be military action, despite experts and officials in the intelligence community pointing out that soft power is desperately needed; the vast majority of dissolved terrorist cells were a result of political action or policing, rather than military involvement. 

Wahhabists aren't "coming to our shores" and committing violent acts of terror, either; it's people who already live here, who are citizens, getting radicalized through IS propaganda via the internet and social media. Even in Europe, where refugees do in fact arrive on shores, the number of attacks carried out by non-citizens pales in comparison to attacks committed by citizens born and raised in the country they're attacking. 

Each of these attacks is immediately responded to in ways where IS propaganda becomes reinforced; we demand carrying out military action (that historically ends with a high rate of civilian casualties) and engage in the security theatre of travel bans, compared to surgically precise missions and effective counter-messaging, anti-radicalization, and deradicalization efforts. IS' ideological goals are to drive western nations into confusion and rash decisions, specifically geared towards making the west become so hostile to muslim citizens that all muslims convert to Wahhabi beliefs out of anger over their mistreatment. Under IS beliefs, any muslim who has not sworn loyalty to IS must be declared a deviant hypocrite who doesn't respect Islam—thus deserving of having "the sword" drawn upon them. If Trump and other right-wing leaders successfully enact their rhetoric into law, they'll be helping IS achieve their final goal: 

A massive stronghold in the Middle East where all muslims are united in Wahhabism, no longer "brainwashed" by western society. Once achieved, IS intends to use this unity for destroying all non-Wahhabi nations and creating a global kingdom where their beliefs are the only religion. Anti-muslim rhetoric, refugee and immigration bans, and sustained bombing campaigns that result in civilian deaths all play into this goal through reinforcing IS propaganda that can radicalize citizens of western countries, causing further attacks like London and Manchester, leading to more rash decisions that reinforce the propaganda; a perpetual cycle from which right-wing politicians, media personalities, and the military-industrial complex draws a steady profit.

The biggest flaw in Trump's rhetoric is that far more attacks from homegrown, far-right, American-born, non-muslim extremists have occurred in America than attacks from radicalized Wahhabists or others in the name of islam. From 9/11 to 2015, there were a total of 7 attacks from self-proclaimed jihadists, compared to 19 attacks from right-wing or non-muslim extremists

One group trying to counter the right-wing extremism is exitusa.org, run by ex-neo nazis who use their experience to deradicalize others. Unfortunately, if Trump's plan to gut the Countering Violent Extremism program and redirect it solely towards Islam is carried out, EXIT and similar groups will lose a major source of funding. 

If Trump wants to be effective and have a positive legacy, he should be strengthening the CVE program and pushing the Pentagon and intelligence community to work hand in hand with these experts to deradicalize people before attacks are carried out, prevent radicalization through counter-messaging that understands why Islamic State and right-wing extremist propaganda works, and involving law enforcement and military action where appropriate.

The failure to do so will keep us bound in this chain of tragedy for the foreseeable future.

Title image provided by Darron Birgenheier/flickr under CC BY-SA 2.0