Forgetting the Lessons of the Algerian War…Again

There’s a useful piece up on Salon about the reaction of the American right to the terror attacks in Belgium. The gist, and I’m paraphrasing, is that the goal of the attacks is not to harm the enemies of ISIS, it’s to drive a wedge between westerners and Muslims. By reacting to the attacks by blaming all Muslims, by promising murder and torture and police-enforced ghettos for all Muslims, the theory is that the Muslims who are not anti-Western will be driving into the fold.

This is the lesson of Algeria all over again. The radicals on either side have a common enemy in the moderates. Accommodation and integration are a threat to the hawks on both sides. The experience in Algeria remains the template for asymmetrical warfare. Terror succeeds not by winning on the battlefield, but by getting your enemies to destroy themselves in how they react.

It’s not true to suggest that doing something your enemies would like is always bad. If ISIS side “Oh, I sure hope you don’t give us a zillion dollars,” that doesn’t mean that giving them a zillion dollars would be good. But…c’mon. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are doing exactly what the terrorists hope they will do. They’re doing everything in their power to ensure that Muslims feel as though they aren’t welcome in the west and will never be anything other than “other.”

Yes, I know…they’re not the problem. They’re just symptoms. They wouldn’t be espousing this racist, bigoted, warmongering, un-American, and, most importantly, counter-productive nonsense if it didn’t win the hearts and minds of their constituencies. It’s their voters who are the problem.  But it’s not the voters who are going on television and reading directly from the ISIS script. That’s all on you, Donald and Ted.

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