President Barack Obama was in the Philippines this week getting worked up about the only thing that really grinds his gears, the GOP. "I cannot think of a more potent recruitment tool for (the Islamic State group) than some of the rhetoric that's been coming out of here," he said of Republicans, who were demanding a pause in the influx of Syrian refugees.
Oh, c'mon! Not one? I can. In fact, I can think of a bunch, because ever since Paris was attacked by a group of religiously unaffiliated men who happened to also yell "Allahu akbar!" before randomly shooting civilians, liberals have offered an array of conceivable causes for the proliferation of terrorism. There's Republican rhetoric, of course. Climate change. People drawing mean cartoons about Islam. Blowback for various wars Americans have started without any provocation whatsoever.
The problem is that no matter what the GOP says these days, it is "doing exactly what the Islamic State wants" — the most popular platitude this side of "those Syrian refugees are just like baby Jesus."
Now, the most obvious problem with that idea, of course, is that any elected official who gives two spits about what the Islamic State wants or doesn't want when making decisions concerning immigration or foreign policy — or any policy, for that matter — is being incomprehensibly irresponsible. The idea that a nation would wage war or not because its enemy is trying to elicit a certain kind of reaction is absurd.
The Islamic State wants war, you say? Well, it doesn't matter how many civilians it beheads or how many mass graves it fills or how many Western cities it terrorizes; we're not going to give in to those bastards! Because when we annihilate the terrorists, we're doing exactly what they want.
What the Islamic State wants is to kill infidels and build a caliphate. And perhaps it has wishes that it will one day sincerely regret. There are innumerable instances throughout history when groups or nations initiated wars that they would disastrously lose. Maybe if terrorists target civilians because they want to be martyrs, we should help them achieve that life goal. Call it a win-win if you like.
But the "that's-what-the-terrorists-want" canard tells us something else about how progressives view this issue. For example, they misrepresent or misunderstand what the Islamic State desires because they are often unwilling to concede the most obvious motivation of terrorism: faith. And they misrepresent what conservatives believe for political reasons. The Islamic State doesn't hate refugees as a matter of principle. Maybe the Islamic State hates people who were once allied with Syrian President Bashar Assad or other Shiite terror groups. Now, I would hate them, too, of course, but that's exactly what the Islamic State wants, I bet.
If Americans want to be more vigilant — or even stop the influx of refugees from Syria and Libya completely — it doesn't mean that people hate anyone. We'll see what polling says on this topic, but the majority of Americans are already rightfully concerned about how well Islam comports with American society. This is not a condemnation of liberal ideals; it is a concern driven by a desire to preserve those ideals, and that is exactly what the Islamic State doesn't want.
If we were not to take more refugees, we'd supposedly be playing right into the Islamic State's master plan. We would be perceived as being Islamophobic (though the preponderance of refugees admitted from this crisis so far have been Muslim) and thus be at fault for creating more refugees. But we take far fewer Christians fleeing the same war under nearly the same circumstances. Will those people also join death cults and start blowing up children? If not, what in the equation is different? I guess talking about that is exactly what the Islamic State wants.
And about this nonsense about conservatives wanting the same "clash of civilizations" that the Islamic State does — maybe we are in a global conflict with an illiberal theology that too often manifests in violence. Certainly, it's not a war with all Muslims. In fact, Republicans are the ones incessantly pressuring political leaders to affix qualifiers such as "radical" and "extremist" to the word "Islam." It is the left that refuses to make those distinctions, but then it is also the left that turns around and accuses conservatives of waging war against all Muslims.
Liberals aren't the only ones using the that's-what-the-terrorists-want formulation, by the way. Rick Santorum argued this week that admitting not only Muslims but also Christians is a bad idea because "in so doing we would be accomplishing exactly what (the Islamic State) wants to accomplish, which is to rid the area of Christians" and "moderate Muslims." So if Christians are refugees in Jordan and have no other country in the Middle East to emigrate to where they could be safe and prosper in the long term, we should force them to go back to Syria because that's exactly what the Islamic State doesn't want?
Seems counterintuitive, to say the least.
David Harsanyi is a senior editor at The Federalist and the author of "The People Have Spoken (and They Are Wrong): The Case Against Democracy." Follow him on Twitter @davidharsanyi. To find out more about David Harsanyi and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.