I was delivering the Outpost and listening to Sean Hannity, between commercials for mail-order razors and Hoodie-Footies, responding to terror by spreading terror.
The president was weak, feckless and driven by ideological rigidity, Hannity was saying. Homeland Security was bedeviled, the military hamstrung, the FBI over its head, the borders bulging with potential terrorists.
He sounded so pitiful that I began to feel embarrassed for him. “Buck up, Hannity,” I thought. “Show a little spine.”
I may even have said it aloud. I sometimes talk back to the radio, on long, lonely delivery days, but usually not in language that can be printed in a family newspaper.
Hannity was echoing the message that was coming from talk show hosts all along the radio dial. TV was no better. I am one of the few Americans who heard all of the last Republican debate, from opening statements at the kids’ table to closing arguments at the grown-ups’ shout-off. I made a valiant effort to listen to the last Democratic debate, too, but I am only human.
But I still heard hours of candidates spreading the news that ISIS was on the march and the Obama administration was hopelessly incompetent to stop it. The whole GOP debate could be summed up in a phrase: “Vote Republican or die.”
Our very own U.S. senator, Steve Daines, said in a fundraising email this week that “the world is more dangerous than ever.” Seriously? Of the last 2,000 years, approximately 1,995 were more dangerous than this one. Read a history book sometime, Steve.
I have written before about a growing body of research indicating that liberals and conservatives don’t just differ on ideological principles. Instead, their minds work in fundamentally different ways.
Kevin Drum, who despite writing for left-leaning Mother Jones is one of the more sensible voices on this topic, suggests that conservatives aren’t more fearful than liberals; they are just afraid of different things. While conservatives may have irrational fears that they will be gunned down by terrorists, liberals have irrational fears of, for example, genetically modified farm crops.
Personally, I have almost zero fear of being offed by terrorists. I turned 65 last month. I work too hard and sleep too little. I eat too much and don’t exercise enough. If terrorists want to do me in, they had better take a number.
I’m not afraid of GMOs either, but that’s beside the point. If irrational fear keeps me from eating GMOs, then that only hurts people who sell GMOs. It’s no worse than my irrational fear that eating spinach will cause my biceps to turn into anvils—bad news for spinach growers but no threat to the country.
But the whole point of terrorism is to scare people. Americans, it seems to me, have a patriotic obligation not to let terrorists scare us. What happened in San Bernardino, Calif., horrible as it was for those affected, was a typical day in America, where close to 100 people are killed daily by guns. We can handle this.
President Obama has been criticized for referring to ISIS as a JV team, but if anything he overstated ISIS’s capabilities. Compared to the economic and military might of the free world, ISIS can barely field a pee-wee team.
Of all the people killed by terrorists in 2014, only 0.1 percent lived in Western countries, according to the New York Times. Even with the attacks this year on Paris and San Bernardino, the percentage will stay below 1 percent.
Moreover, nearly 100 percent of domestic terrorists are killed or captured, ensuring that our attackers will often be hard to recruit, always inexperienced and usually not too bright. Even ISIS appeared to be taken by surprise by the San Bernardino attack.
Fighting ISIS is hard not because it is strong but because it is so weak. Building up the 6th Fleet won’t cripple the ISIS navy because ISIS has no navy. Imposing a no-fly zone will not ground a single plane in ISIS’s nonexistent air force.
U.S. and allied forces have launched more than 7,000 airstrikes against ISIS. ISIS has yet to launch an airstrike against us. We have killed 10 ISIS leaders in the last month; they have killed none of ours.
Some presidential candidates say we should drop more bombs, but the problem, as Obama has said, is not finding the bombs but finding enough targets to drop them on.
Still others say we need to build a stronger coalition to fight ISIS on its home turf. But some analysts argue that it has been so hard to build an effective coalition because most Mideast countries just don’t put ISIS that high on their list of priorities. Sure, ISIS may be a gang of brutal murderers, but that barely makes them stand out in that part of the world.
Donald Trump has famously called for barring Muslims from entering the United States until we can figure out how to vet them properly. But if you have listened to talk radio yakkers like Hannity, or even just yelled at them, you know that their consensus is that proper vetting will never happen.
It’s an argument driven by fear, one that fuels our foe’s fondest dreams. We need not worry about losing the war. We need to worry about losing our nerve.