Put Fear in Perspective
Don’t let the Republican candidates fool you – the U.S. has dealt with much worse than the Islamic State group.
By Peter FennDec. 18, 2015, at 2:30 p.m.+ More–USNews & World Report blog
“We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”
Franklin Roosevelt’s historic statement was not exactly the mantra at this week’s Republican presidential debate.
As I listened to the apocalyptic predictions from the Republican candidates Tuesday night, I could not help but compare the concerns about the Islamic State group to what many of us faced during the Cold War – the very real threat of nuclear Armageddon and fear of the mushroom cloud.
The fallout shelters that people were building in their backyards (they make nice wine cellars now), the drills where we crouched under our desks at school, the sounds of air-raid sirens testing the early warning system, the fear we felt during the Cuban missile crisis, living with the mutual assured destruction policies of the U.S. and the Soviet Union – these all combined to create much more of a threat than a group like the Islamic State group – the nuclear arms race was viewed as truly potentially catastrophic.
[OPINION: Fear and Fighting in Republican Las Vegas Debate]
The devastation of the world-wide 1930s depression that FDR was addressing was truly catastrophic.
The 1918 flu pandemic that infected 500 million people across the globe, killing 50 to 100 million and 500,00 to 675,000 in the U.S. – that was catastrophic.
I understand the fear of the Islamic State group, but in comparison, please, this we can deal with rationally and pragmatically.
Sadly, this past Republican debate leads us to the conclusion that when it comes to using fear to incite voters, this field of candidates will go to nearly any lengths.
Not to go over the top here, but this is what noted Nazi official Heinrich Himmler said about the use of fear: “The best political weapon is the weapon of terror. Cruelty commands respect. Men may hate us. But, we don’t ask for their love; only for their fear.”
This is what the Islamic State group is counting on – bringing America to its knees simply by using terror to create fear. By reacting with a “war on Muslims” as many Republican candidates seem to be advocating, the real terrorists gain control and are handed a golden recruiting tool.
[MORE: Editorial Cartoons on the Islamic State Group]
This makes no sense. We can defeat this movement. We can organize the nations of the world to unite against their terrorism. We can surely be victorious without resorting to scare tactics and whipping the American voter up into a frenzy.
We have faced much worse, but just as the spread of Ebola became a daily concern and created close to a panic a year ago, the reality is our media and out politics whip the public into a frenzy when calmer heads should prevail.
During the Republican debate the words terror, terrorist and terrorism were used 81 times. The word attack was used 50 times, according to reporting from Rex Huppke of the Chicago Tribune.
As he pointed out, here are just a few quotes from this week’s debate:
“We need to understand that our nation is in grave danger.”
“We have people across this country who are scared to death.”
“ISIS and Iran have declared war on America, and we need a commander in chief who will do everything necessary to keep our children safe.”
“Our country doesn’t win anymore. … We can’t defeat ISIS.”
[SEE: Editorial Cartoons on the 2016 Presidential Elections]
OK, I get the politics of all this. I get the perceived need of these performers to out-do one another, but isn’t it time we had some reasoned leadership that acted responsibly to understand the true nature of the threat and deal with it properly? Isn’t there one person on that stage who could put this in perspective and not demagogue the Islamic State terrorists?
The threat is real but does not deserve the draconian response of nearly every Republican candidate for President. If we ever needed cooler heads like FDR, Eisenhower, and Kennedy, certainly that time is now.