Understanding Trump

U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Source: Huff Post

Author: George Lakoff

Emphasis Mine

(N.B.:The nomination of Trump has provided an incredible vindication for George Lakoff’s insights into American politics.  This is a very informative and valuable essay, which should be read and understood by all progressives – one might recall the Donald’s acceptance speech while reading.  At the “end of the day”, we must work hard to win, and the harder we work, the more we will win.)

There is a lot being written spoken about Trump by intelligent and articulate commentators whose insights I respect. But as a longtime researcher in cognitive science and linguistics, I bring a perspective from these sciences to an understanding of the Trump phenomenon. This perspective is hardly unknown. More that half a million people have read my books, and Google Scholar reports that scholars writing in scholarly journals have cited my works well over 100,000 times.

As a longtime researcher in cognitive science and linguistics, I bring a perspective from these sciences to an understanding of the Trump phenomenon.

Yet you will probably not read what I have to say in the New York Times, nor hear it from your favorite political commentators. You will also not hear it from Democratic candidates or party strategists. There are reasons, and we will discuss them later this piece. I am writing it because I think it is right and it is needed, even though it comes from the cognitive and brain sciences, not from the normal political sources. I think it is imperative to bring these considerations into public political discourse. But it cannot be done in a 650-word op-ed. My apologies. It is untweetable.

I will begin with an updated version of an earlier piece on who is supporting Trump and why — and why policy details are irrelevant to them. I then move to a section on how Trump uses your brain against you. I finish up discussing how Democratic campaigns could do better, and why they need to do better if we are to avert a Trump presidency.

Who Supports Trump and Why

Donald J. Trump has managed to become the Republican nominee for president, Why? How? There are various theories: People are angry and he speaks to their anger. People don’t think much of Congress and want a non-politician. Both may be true. But why? What are the details? And Why Trump?

He seems to have come out of nowhere. His positions on issues don’t fit a common mold.

He has said nice things about LGBTQ folks, which is not standard Republican talk. Republicans hate eminent domain (the taking of private property by the government) and support corporate outsourcing for the sake of profit, but he has the opposite views on both. He is not religious and scorns religious practices, yet the Evangelicals (that is, the white Evangelicals) love him. He thinks health insurance and pharmaceutical companies, as well as military contractors, are making too much profit and wants to change that. He insults major voting groups, e.g., Latinos, when most Republicans are trying to court them. He wants to deport 11 million immigrants without papers and thinks he can. He wants to stop Muslims from entering the country. What is going on?

The answer requires a bit of background.

In the 1900s, as part of my research in the cognitive and brain sciences, I undertook to answer a question in my field: How do the various policy positions of conservatives and progressives hang together? Take conservatism: What does being against abortion have to do with being for owning guns? What does owning guns have to do with denying the reality of global warming? How does being anti-government fit with wanting a stronger military? How can you be pro-life and for the death penalty? Progressives have the opposite views. How do their views hang together?

The answer came from a realization that we tend to understand the nation metaphorically in family terms: We have founding fathers. We send our sons and daughters to war. We have homeland security. The conservative and progressive worldviews dividing our country can most readily be understood in terms of moral worldviews that are encapsulated in two very different common forms of family life: The Nurturant Parent family (progressive) and the Strict Father family (conservative).

(N.B.: it has been noted that the most common characteristic of Trump supporters is that they support an authoritarian outlook.)

What do social issues and the politics have to do with the family? We are first governed in our families, and so we grow up understanding governing institutions in terms of the governing systems of families.

In the strict father family, father knows best. He knows right from wrong and has the ultimate authority to make sure his children and his spouse do what he says, which is taken to be what is right. Many conservative spouses accept this worldview, uphold the father’s authority, and are strict in those realms of family life that they are in charge of. When his children disobey, it is his moral duty to punish them painfully enough so that, to avoid punishment, they will obey him (do what is right) and not just do what feels good. Through physical discipline they are supposed to become disciplined, internally strong, and able to prosper in the external world. What if they don’t prosper? That means they are not disciplined, and therefore cannot be moral, and so deserve their poverty. This reasoning shows up in conservative politics in which the poor are seen as lazy and undeserving, and the rich as deserving their wealth. Responsibility is thus taken to be personal responsibility not social responsibility. What you become is only up to you; society has nothing to do with it. You are responsible for yourself, not for others — who are responsible for themselves.

Winning and Insulting

As the legendary Green Bay Packers coach, Vince Lombardi, said, “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.” In a world governed by personal responsibility and discipline, those who win deserve to win. Why does Donald Trump publicly insult other candidates and political leaders mercilessly? Quite simply, because he knows he can win an onstage TV insult game. In strict conservative eyes, that makes him a formidable winning candidate who deserves to be a winning candidate. Electoral competition is seen as a battle. Insults that stick are seen as victories — deserved victories.

Electoral competition is seen as a battle. Insults that stick are seen as victories — deserved victories.

Consider Trump’s statement that John McCain is not a war hero. The reasoning: McCain got shot down. Heroes are winners. They defeat big bad guys. They don’t get shot down. People who get shot down, beaten up, and stuck in a cage are losers, not winners.

The Moral Hierarchy

The strict father logic extends further. The basic idea is that authority is justified by morality (the strict father version), and that, in a well-ordered world, there should be (and traditionally has been) a moral hierarchy in which those who have traditionally dominated should dominate. The hierarchy is: God above Man, Man above Nature, The Disciplined (Strong) above the Undisciplined (Weak), The Rich above the Poor, Employers above Employees, Adults above Children, Western culture above other cultures, America above other countries. The hierarchy extends to: Men above women, Whites above Nonwhites, Christians above nonChristians, Straights above Gays.

We see these tendencies in most of the Republican presidential candidates, as well as in Trump, and on the whole, conservative policies flow from the strict father worldview and this hierarchy

Family-based moral worldviews run deep. Since people want to see themselves as doing right not wrong, moral worldviews tend to be part of self-definition — who you most deeply are. And thus your moral worldview defines for you what the world should be like. When it isn’t that way, one can become frustrated and angry.

There is a certain amount of wiggle room in the strict father worldview and there are important variations. A major split is among (1) white Evangelical Christians, (2) laissez-fair free market conservatives, and (3) pragmatic conservatives who are not bound by evangelical beliefs.

White Evangelicals

Those whites who have a strict father personal worldview and who are religious tend toward Evangelical Christianity, since God, in Evangelical Christianity, is the Ultimate Strict Father: You follow His commandments and you go to heaven; you defy His commandments and you burn in hell for all eternity. If you are a sinner and want to go to heaven, you can be ‘born again” by declaring your fealty by choosing His son, Jesus Christ, as your personal Savior.

Such a version of religion is natural for those with strict father morality. Evangelical Christians join the church because they are conservative; they are not conservative because they happen to be in an evangelical church, though they may grow up with both together.

Evangelical Christianity is centered around family life. Hence, there are organizations like Focus on the Family and constant reference to “family values,” which are to take to be evangelical strict father values. In strict father morality, it is the father who controls sexuality and reproduction. Where the church has political control, there are laws that require parental and spousal notification in the case of proposed abortions.

Evangelicals are highly organized politically and exert control over a great many local political races. Thus Republican candidates mostly have to go along with the evangelicals if they want to be nominated and win local elections.

Pragmatic Conservatives

Pragmatic conservatives, on the other hand, may not have a religious orientation at all. Instead, they may care primarily about their own personal authority, not the authority of the church or Christ, or God. They want to be strict fathers in their own domains, with authority primarily over their own lives. Thus, a young, unmarried conservative — male or female —may want to have sex without worrying about marriage. They may need access to contraception, advice about sexually transmitted diseases, information about cervical cancer, and so on. And if a girl or woman becomes pregnant and there is no possibility or desire for marriage, abortion may be necessary.

Trump is a pragmatic conservative, par excellence. And he knows that there are a lot of Republican voters who are like him in their pragmatism. There is a reason that he likes Planned Parenthood. There are plenty of young, unmarried (or even married) pragmatic conservatives, who may need what Planned Parenthood has to offer — cheaply and confidentially by way of contraception, cervical cancer prevention, and sex ed.

Young or middle-aged pragmatic conservatives want to maximize their own wealth… That is why Trump wants to keep Social Security and Medicare.

Similarly, young or middle-aged pragmatic conservatives want to maximize their own wealth. They don’t want to be saddled with the financial burden of caring for their parents. Social Security and Medicare relieve them of most of those responsibilities. That is why Trump wants to keep Social Security and Medicare.

Laissez-faire Free Marketeers

Establishment conservative policies have not only been shaped by the political power of white evangelical churches, but also by the political power of those who seek maximally laissez-faire free markets, where wealthy people and corporations set market rules in their favor with minimal government regulation and enforcement. They see taxation not as investment in publicly provided resources for all citizens, but as government taking their earnings (their private property) and giving the money through government programs to those who don’t deserve it. This is the source of establishment Republicans’ anti-tax and shrinking government views. This version of conservatism is quite happy with outsourcing to increase profits by sending manufacturing and many services abroad where labor is cheap, with the consequence that well-paying jobs leave America and wages are driven down here. Since they depend on cheap imports, they would not be in favor of imposing high tariffs.

But Donald Trump is not in a business that makes products abroad to import here and mark up at a profit. As a developer, he builds hotels, casinos, office buildings, golf courses. He may build them abroad with cheap labor but he doesn’t import them. Moreover, he recognizes that most small business owners in America are more like him — American businesses like dry cleaners, pizzerias, diners, plumbers, hardware stores, gardeners, contractors, car washers, and professionals like architects, lawyers, doctors, and nurses. High tariffs don’t look like a problem.

Many business people are pragmatic conservatives. They like government power when it works for them. Take eminent domain. Establishment Republicans see it as an abuse by government — government taking of private property. But conservative real estate developers like Trump depend on eminent domain so that homes and small businesses in areas they want to develop can be taken by eminent domain for the sake of their development plans. All they have to do is get local government officials to go along, with campaign contributions and the promise of an increase in local tax dollars helping to acquire eminent domain rights. Trump points to Atlantic City, where he build his casino using eminent domain to get the property.

If businesses have to pay for their employees’ health care benefits, Trump would want them to have to pay as little as possible to maximize profits for businesses in general. He would therefore want health insurance and pharmaceutical companies to charge as little as possible. To increase competition, he would want insurance companies to offer plans nationally, avoiding the state-run exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. The exchanges are there to maximize citizen health coverage, and help low-income people get coverage, rather than to increase business profits. Trump does however want to keep the mandatory feature of ACA, which establishment conservatives hate since they see it as government overreach, forcing people to buy a product. For Trump, however, the mandatory feature for individuals increases the insurance pool and brings down costs for businesses.

Direct vs. Systemic Causation

Direct causation is dealing with a problem via direct action. Systemic causation recognizes that many problems arise from the system they are in and must be dealt with via systemic causation. Systemic causation has four versions: A chain of direct causes. Interacting direct causes (or chains of direct causes). Feedback loops. And probabilistic causes. Systemic causation in global warming explains why global warming over the Pacific can produce huge snowstorms in Washington DC: masses of highly energized water molecules evaporate over the Pacific, blow to the Northeast and over the North Pole and come down in winter over the East coast and parts of the Midwest as masses of snow. Systemic causation has chains of direct causes, interacting causes, feedback loops, and probabilistic causes — often combined.

Direct causation is easy to understand, and appears to be represented in the grammars of all languages around the world. Systemic causation is more complex and is not represented in the grammar of any language. It just has to be learned.

Empirical research has shown that conservatives tend to reason with direct causation and that progressives have a much easier time reasoning with systemic causation. The reason is thought to be that, in the strict father model, the father expects the child or spouse to respond directly to an order and that refusal should be punished as swiftly and directly as possible.

Many of Trump’s policy proposals are framed in terms of direct causation.

Immigrants are flooding in from Mexico — build a wall to stop them. For all the immigrants who have entered illegally, just deport them — even if there are 11 million of them working throughout the economy and living throughout the country. The cure for gun violence is to have a gun ready to directly shoot the shooter. To stop jobs from going to Asia where labor costs are lower and cheaper goods flood the market here, the solution is direct: put a huge tariff on those goods so they are more expensive than goods made here. To save money on pharmaceuticals, have the largest consumer — the government — take bids for the lowest prices. If Isis is making money on Iraqi oil, send US troops to Iraq to take control of the oil. Threaten Isis leaders by assassinating their family members (even if this is a war crime). To get information from terrorist suspects, use water-boarding, or even worse torture methods. If a few terrorists might be coming with Muslim refugees, just stop allowing all Muslims into the country. All this makes sense to direct causation thinkers, but not those who see the immense difficulties and dire consequences of such actions due to the complexities of systemic causation.

Political Correctness

There are at least tens of millions of conservatives in America who share strict father morality and its moral hierarchy. Many of them are poor or middle class and many are white men who see themselves as superior to immigrants, nonwhites, women, nonChristians, gays — and people who rely on public assistance. In other words, they are what liberals would call “bigots.” For many years, such bigotry has not been publicly acceptable, especially as more immigrants have arrived, as the country has become less white, as more women have become educated and moved into the workplace, and as gays have become more visible and gay marriage acceptable.

As liberal anti-bigotry organizations have loudly pointed out… bigotry, those conservatives have felt more and more oppressed by what they call ‘political correctness.’

As liberal anti-bigotry organizations have loudly pointed out and made a public issue of the unAmerican nature of such bigotry, those conservatives have felt more and more oppressed by what they call “political correctness” — public pressure against their views and against what they see as “free speech.” This has become exaggerated since 911, when anti-Muslim feelings became strong. The election of President Barack Hussein Obama created outrage among those conservatives, and they refused to see him as a legitimate American (as in the birther movement), much less as a legitimate authority, especially as his liberal views contradicted almost everything else they believe as conservatives.

Donald Trump expresses out loud everything they feel — with force, aggression, anger, and no shame. All they have to do is support and vote for Trump and they don’t even have to express their ‘politically incorrect’ views, since he does it for them and his victories make those views respectable. He is their champion. He gives them a sense of self-respect, authority, and the possibility of power.

Whenever you hear the words “political correctness” remember this.

Biconceptuals

There is no middle in American politics. There are moderates, but there is no ideology of the moderate, no single ideology that all moderates agree on. A moderate conservative has some progressive positions on issues, though they vary from person to person. Similarly, a moderate progressive has some conservative positions on issues, again varying from person to person. In short, moderates have both political moral worldviews, but mostly use one of them. Those two moral worldviews in general contradict each other. How can they reside in the same brain at the same time?

Both are characterized in the brain by neural circuitry. They are linked by a commonplace circuit: mutual inhibition. When one is turned on the other is turned off; when one is strengthened, the other is weakened. What turns them on or off? Language that fits that worldview activates that worldview, strengthening it, while turning off the other worldview and weakening it. The more Trump’s views are discussed in the media, the more they are activated and the stronger they get, both in the minds of hardcore conservatives and in the minds of moderate progressives.

This is true even if you are attacking Trump’s views. The reason is that negating a frame activates that frame, as I pointed out in the book Don’t Think of an Elephant!It doesn’t matter if you are promoting Trump or attacking Trump, you are helping Trump.

A good example of Trump winning with progressive biconceptuals includes certain unionized workers. Many union members are strict fathers at home or in their private life. They believe in “traditional family values” — a conservative code word — and they may identify with winners.

Why Has Trump won the Republican nomination? Look at all the conservative groups he appeals to!

Why His Lack of Policy Detail Doesn’t Matter

I recently heard a brilliant and articulate Clinton surrogate argue against a group of Trump supporters that Trump has presented no policy plans for increasing jobs, increasing economics growth, improving education, gaining international respect, etc. This is the basic Clinton campaign argument. Hillary has the experience, the policy know-how, she can get things done, it’s all on her website. Trump has none of this. What Hillary’s campaign says is true. And it is irrelevant.

Trump supporters and other radical Republican extremists could not care less, and for a good reason. Their job is to impose their view of strict father morality in all areas of life. If they have the Congress, and the Presidency and the Supreme Court, they could achieve this. They don’t need to name policies, because the Republicans already of hundreds of policies ready to go. They just need to be in complete power.

How Trump Uses Your Brain to His Advantage

Any unscrupulous, effective salesman knows how to use you brain against you, to get you to buy what he is selling. How can someone “use your brain against you?” What does it mean?

All thought uses neural circuitry. Every idea is constituted by neural circuitry. But we have no conscious access to that circuitry. As a result, most of thought — an estimated 98 percent of thought is unconscious. Conscious thought is the tip of the iceberg.

Unconscious thought works by certain basic mechanisms. Trump uses them instinctively to turn people’s brains toward what he wants: Absolute authority, money, power, celebrity.

The mechanisms are:

1. Repetition. Words are neurally linked to the circuits the determine their meaning. The more a word is heard, the more the circuit is activated and the stronger it gets, and so the easier it is to fire again. Trump repeats. Win. Win, Win. We’re gonna win so much you’ll get tired of winning.

2. Framing: Crooked Hillary. Framing Hillary as purposely and knowingly committing crimes for her own benefit, which is what a crook does. Repeating makes many people unconsciously think of her that way, even though she has been found to have been honest and legal by thorough studies by the right-wing Bengazi committee (which found nothing) and the FBI (which found nothing to charge her with, except missing the mark ‘(C)’ in the body of 3 out of 110,000 emails). Yet the framing is working.

There is a common metaphor that Immorality Is Illegality, and that acting against Strict Father Morality (the only kind off morality recognized) is being immoral. Since virtually everything Hillary Clinton has ever done has violated Strict Father Morality, that makes her immoral. The metaphor thus makes her actions immoral, and hence she is a crook. The chant “Lock her up!” activates this whole line of reasoning.

3. Well-known examples: When a well-publicized disaster happens, the coverage activates the framing of it over and over, strengthening it, and increasing the probability that the framing will occur easily with high probability. Repeating examples of shootings by Muslims, African-Americans, and Latinos raises fears that it could happen to you and your community — despite the miniscule actual probability. Trump uses this to create fear. Fear tends to activate desire for a strong strict father — namely, Trump.

4. Grammar: Radical Islamic terrorists: “Radical” puts Muslims on a linear scale and “terrorists” imposes a frame on the scale, suggesting that terrorism is built into the religion itself. The grammar suggests that there is something about Islam that has terrorism inherent in it. Imagine calling the Charleston gunman a “radical Republican terrorist.”

Trump is aware this to at least some extent. As he said to Tony Schwartz, the ghost-writer who wrote The Art of the Deal for him, “I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration — and it’s a very effective form of promotion.”

5. Conventional metaphorical thought is inherent in our largely unconscious thought. Such normal modes of metaphorical thinking that are not noticed as such.

Consider Brexit, which used the metaphor of “entering” and “leaving” the EU. There is a universal metaphor that states are locations in space: you can enter a state, be deep in some state, and come out that state. If you enter a café and then leave the café , you will be in the same location as before you entered. But that need not be true of states of being. But that was the metaphor used with Brexist; Britons believe that after leaving the EU, things would be as before when the entered the EU. They were wrong. Things changed radically while they were in the EU. That same metaphor is being used by Trump: Make America Great Again. Make America Safe Again. And so on. As if there was some past ideal state that we can go back to just by electing Trump.

6. There is also a metaphor that A Country Is a Person and a metonymy of the President Standing For the Country. Thus, Obama, via both metaphor and metonymy, can stand conceptually for America. Therefore, by saying that Obama is weak and not respected, it is communicated that America, with Obama as president, is weak and disrespected. The inference is that it is because of Obama.

7. The country as person metaphor and the metaphor that war or conflict between countries is a fistfight between people, leads the inference that just having a strong president will guarantee that America will win conflicts and wars. Trump will just throw knockout punches. In his acceptance speech at the convention, Trump repeatedly said that he would accomplish things that can only be done by the people acting with their government. After one such statement, there was a chant from the floor, “He will do it.”

8. The metaphor that The nation Is a Family was used throughout the GOP convention. We heard that strong military sons are produced by strong military fathers and that “defense of country is a family affair.” From Trump’s love of family and commitment to their success, we are to conclude that, as president he will love America’s citizens and be committed to the success of all.

9. There is a common metaphor that Identifying with your family’s national heritage makes you a member of that nationality. Suppose your grandparents came from Italy and you identify with your Italian ancestors, you may proud state that you are Italian. The metaphor is natural. Literally, you have been American for two generations. Trump made use of this commonplace metaphor in attacking US District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is American, born and raised in the United States. Trump said he was a Mexican, and therefore would hate him and tend to rule against him in a case brought against Trump University for fraud.

10. Then there is the metaphor system used in the phrase “to call someone out.” First the word “out.” There is a general metaphor that Knowing Is Seeing as in “I see what you mean.” Things that are hidden inside something cannot be seen and hence not known, while things are not hidden but out in public can be seen and hence known. To “out” someone is to made their private knowledge public. To “call someone out” is to publicly name someone’s hidden misdeeds, thus allowing for public knowledge and appropriate consequences.

This is the basis for the Trumpian metaphor that Naming is Identifying. Thus naming your enemies will allow you to identify correctly who they are, get to them, and so allow you to defeat them. Hence, just saying “radical Islamic terrorists” allows you to pick them out, get at them, and annihilate them. And conversely, if you don’t say it, you won’t be able to pick them out and annihilate them. Thus a failure to use those words means that you are protecting those enemies — in this case Muslims, that is, potential terrorists because of their religion.

I’ll stop here, though I could go on. Here are ten uses of people’s unconscious normal brain mechanisms that are manipulated by Trump and his followers for his overriding purpose: to be elected president, to be given absolute authority with a Congress and Supreme Court, and so to have his version of Strict Famer Morality govern America into the indefinite future.

These ten forms of using with people’s everyday brain mechanisms for his own purposes have gotten Trump the Republican nomination. But millions more people have seen and heard Trump and company on tv and heard them on the radio. The media pundits have not described those ten mechanisms, or other brain mechanisms, that surreptitiously work on the unconscious minds of the public, even though the result is that Big Lies repeated over and over are being believed by a growing number of people.

Even if he loses the election, Trump will have changed the brains of millions of Americans, with future consequences. It is vitally important people know the mechanisms used to transmit Big Lies and to stick them into people’s brains without their awareness. It is a form of mind control.

People in the media have a duty to report it when the see it. But the media comes with constraints.

Certain things have not been allowed in public political discourse in the media. Reporters and commentators are supposed to stick to what is conscious and with literal meaning. But most real political discourse makes use of unconscious thought, which shapes conscious thought via unconscious framing and commonplace conceptual metaphors. It is crucial, for the history of the country and the world, as well as the planet, that all of this be made public.

And it is not just the media, Such responsibility rests with ordinary citizens who become aware of unconscious brain mechanisms like the ten we have just discussed. This responsibility also rests with the Democratic Party and their campaigns at all levels.

Is the use of the public’s brain mechanisms for communication necessarily immoral? Understanding how people really think can be used to communicate truths, not Big Lies or ads for products.

This knowledge is not just known to cognitive linguists. It is taught in Marketing courses in business schools, and the mechanisms are used in advertising, to get you to buy what advertisers are selling. We have learned to recognize ads; they are set off by themselves. Even manipulative corporate advertising with political intent (like ads for fracking) is not as dangerous as Big Lies leading to authoritarian government determining the future of our country.

How Can Democrats Do Better?

First, don’t think of an elephant. Remember not to repeat false conservative claims and then rebut them with the facts. Instead, go positive. Give a positive truthful framing to undermine claims to the contrary. Use the facts to support positively-framed truth. Use repetition.

Second, start with values, not policies and facts and numbers. Say what you believe, but haven’t been saying. For example, progressive thought is built on empathy, on citizens caring about other citizens and working through our government to provide public resources for all, both businesses and individuals. Use history. That’s how America started. The public resources used by businesses were not only roads and bridges, but public education, a national bank, a patent office, courts for business cases, interstate commerce support, and of course the criminal justice system. From the beginning, the Private Depended on Public Resources, both private lives and private enterprise.

Over time those resources have included sewers, water and electricity, research universities and research support: computer science (via the NSF), the internet (ARPA), pharmaceuticals and modern medicine (the NIH), satellite communication (NASA and NOA), and GPS systems and cell phones (the Defense Department). Private enterprise and private life utterly depend on public resources. Have you ever said this? Elizabeth Warren has. Almost no other public figures. And stop defending “the government.” Talk about the public, the people, Americans, the American people, public servants, and good government. And take back freedom. Public resources provide for freedom in private enterprise and private life.

The conservatives are committed to privatizing just about everything and to eliminating funding for most public resources. The contribution of public resources to our freedoms cannot be overstated. Start saying it.

And don’t forget the police. Effective respectful policing is a public resource. Chief David O. Brown of the Dallas Police got it right. Training, community policing, knowing the people you protect. And don’t ask too much of the police: citizens have a responsibility to provide funding so that police don’t have to do jobs that should be done by others.

Unions need to go on the offensive. Unions are instruments of freedom — freedom from corporate servitude. Employers call themselves job creators. Working people are profit creators for the employers, and as such they deserve a fair share of the profits and respect and acknowledgement. Say it. Can the public create jobs. Of course. Fixing infrastructure will create jobs by providing more public resources that private lives and businesses depend on. Public resources to create more public resources. Freedom creates opportunity that creates more freedom.

Third, keep out of nasty exchanges and attacks. Keep out of shouting matches. One can speak powerfully without shouting. Obama sets the pace: Civility, values, positivity, good humor, and real empathy are powerful. Calmness and empathy in the face of fury are powerful. Bill Clinton won because he oozed empathy, with his voice, his eye contact, and his body. It wasn’t his superb ability as a policy wonk, but the empathy he projected and inspired.

Values come first, facts and policies follow in the service of values. They matter, but they always support values.

Give up identity politics. No more women’s issues, black issues, Latino issues. Their issues are all real, and need public discussion. But they all fall under freedom issues, human issues. And address poor whites! Appalachian and rust belt whites deserve your attention as much as anyone else. Don’t surrender their fate to Trump, who will just increase their suffering.

And remember JFK’s immortal, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Empathy, devotion, love, pride in our country’s values, public resources to create freedoms. And adulthood.

Be prepared. You have to understand Trump to stand calmly up to him and those running with him all over the country.

___

George Lakoff is Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics Emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley. His most recent book is The ALL NEW Don’t Think of an Elephant! His previous books on politics and social issues are Moral Politics (1996, 2002), Don’t Think of an Elephant! (2004), Whose Freedom? (2008), The Political Mind (2008), and The Little Blue Book, with Elisabeth Wehling (2012). The third edition of Moral Politics will be published in September in time for the 2016 election.

This Blogger’s Books and Other Items from…

The ALL NEW Don't Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate

The ALL NEW Don’t Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate
by George Lakoff

Moral Politics : How Liberals and Conservatives Think

Moral Politics : How Liberals and Conservatives Think
by George Lakoff

See: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/george-lakoff/understanding-trump_b_11144938.html

Trump’s Biggest Scam: Fooling His Voters into Thinking He’s One of Them

Trump’s actual relationship to the establishment is complex in an opportunistic way.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Nomi Prins, Craig Wilson / Tom Dispatch

Emphasis Mine

This piece originally appeared on TomDispatch.

Give the guy credit.  Donald Trump makes perspective — on him at least — almost inconceivable, and that’s no small accomplishment.  Is he heading up or down?  Polling well or poorly?  Going to win or lose?  Who knows?  Take Nate Silver whose FiveThirtyEight website recently launched its poll of polls with The Donald having only a 19% chance of taking the presidency.  Silver was remarkably on target in election years 2008 and 2012, but he’s been off when it comes to Trump (and he’s hardly alone), so who really has a clue what that 19% may really mean on November 8th?

For months and months, Trump has performed a masterful version of media jiu-jitsu, leveraging the interest in him from what seems like every journalist, newspaper, website, and cable news network on Earth into more free publicity and coverage than any individual may ever have gotten.  It’s been impossible to escape the man. There probably wasn’t a day in months without a Donald Trump story (or often multiple ones) and he’s regularly dominated the news cycle with his latest outrageous statement or provocation, no matter what else is going on.  There is no Brexit without Donald Brexit; no ISIS without Donald ISIS, no Hillary without Donald Hillary.  He hires, fires, invites, rejects, embraces, insults, tweets, challenges, denies, refuses, ingratiates, blackballs — and whatever he does, it’s news By definition.  And don’t forget the endless scribblers and talking heads, faced with his all-invasive version of reality, who cough up reams of “analysis” about him, which only furthers the way he Trumps the world, no matter what they write or say.

You can almost hear the echoing voice from some ninth rate horror film echoing down the corridors: I tell you, you can run, but you can’t hide, ha, ha, ha, ha…

In Donald Trump’s world, as far as I can tell, there is only one reality that matters and it can be summed up in two words that begin with D and T.  Were he to become president, he would give Louis XIV’s famed phrase — whether or not the French king actually said it — “L’état, c’est moi” (“I am the state”), new meaning.

During these past many months of Trumpery, Nomi Prins has been sorting out the nature of the money game in American politics (onshore and off) for TomDispatch.  Now, she turns to the billionaire who has taken possession of us all.  Her focus: his frenetic version of “You’re fired!” this election season and how that’s played out with the Republican establishment, without whom (and without whose money) she doubts he can make it to the Oval Office.-Tom Engelhardt

Donald Trump’s Anti-Establishment Scam
The Insider Posing as an Outsider Trying to Get Back on the Inside

By Nomi Prins with Craig Wilson

Establishment: A group in a society exercising power and influence over matters of policy, opinion, or taste, and seen as resisting change.” — Oxford Dictionary

Early on in his presidential bid, Donald Trump began touting his anti-establishment credentials. When it worked, he ran with it.  It was a posture that proved pure gold in the Republican primaries, and was even, in one sense, true. After all, he’d never been part of the political establishment nor held public office, nor had any of his family members or wives.

His actual relationship to the establishment is, however, complex in an opportunistic way. He’s regularly tweeted his disdain for it. (“I wish good luck to all of the Republican candidates that traveled to California to beg for money etc. from the Koch Brothers. Puppets?”) And yet, he clearly considered himself part of it and has, at times, yearned for it. As he said early on in his run for the presidency, “I want the establishment — look, I was part of the establishment.  Let me explain. I was the establishment two months ago. I was like the fair-haired boy. I was a giver, a big giver. Once I decided to run, all of a sudden I’m sort of semi-anti-establishment.”

An outsider looking to shake up the government status quo? An insider looking to leverage that establishment for his own benefit?   What was he?  He may not himself have known.

He once rejected the idea of taking establishment (or Super PAC) money, only — more recently — to seek it; he rebuffed certain prominent establishment players, only to hire others to help him (and fire yet more of them).  He’s railed against the establishment, then tried to rally it to his side (even as he denounced it yet again). Now, with the general election only four months away, it turns out that he’s going to need that establishment if he is to have a hope in hell of raising the money and organizing the troops effectively enough to be elected. There, however, is the rub: power brokers don’t suffer the slings and arrows of “outsider” scorn lightly.

As a result, if he now needs the establishment more than he’d publicly admit, it may not matter.  He may find himself ostracized by the very party he’s set to represent.

Once upon a time not so long ago, making America great again involved a bankroll untainted by the Republican political establishment and its billionaire backers. There would, The Donald swore, be no favors to repay after he was elected, no one to tell him what to do or how to do it just because they had chipped in a few million bucks.  But for a man who prides himself on executing only “the best” of deals (trust him) this election has become too expensive to leave to self-reliance.

One thing is guaranteed: Donald Trump will not pony up a few hundred million dollars from his own stash.  As a result, despite claims that he would never do so, he’s finally taken a Super PAC or two on board and is now pursuing more financial aid even from people who don’t like him. Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, erstwhile influential billionaire backers of Ted Cruz, have, for instance, decided to turn their Make America Number 1 Super PAC into an anti-Hillary source of funds — this evidently at the encouragement of Ivanka Trump.

In the big money context of post-Citizens United presidential politics, however, these are modest developments indeed (particularly compared to Hillary’s campaign).  To grasp what Trump has failed to do when it comes to funding his presidential run, note that the Our Principles Super PAC, supported in part by Chicago Cubs owners Marlene Ricketts and her husband, billionaire T.D. Ameritrade founder J. Joe Ricketts, has already raised more than $18.4 million for anti-Trump TV ads, meetings, and fundraising activities. (On the other hand, their son, Pete, Republican Governor of Nebraska, has given stump speeches supporting Trump.)

To put this in context, that $18.4 million is more than the approximately $17 million that all of Trump’s individual supporters, the “little people,” have contributed to his campaign.  (He is no Bernie Sanders who raised $220 million from individuals in the 2016 campaign season.) Even with all his wealth, Trump is in a funding nightmare, lacking the confidence of the Republican party and its most generous loyalists.

To be sure, other establishment billionaires have expressed support for Trump, like funding kingpin Sheldon Adelson who said he’d fork over $100 million to the Trump cause. It’s just that he hasn’t done that yet. Chris Christie is similarly trying to help raise funds for the campaign.  But the man-who-would-be-veep hasn’t had much luck. So far, at least, Trump’s biggest establishment supporters have been more talk than action.

The Trump Team

In addition to the usual money not flowing in from the usual crowd, there’s the issue of actually preparing to staff a future administration with the usual people, not to speak of the seasoned set of advisers that normally surround presidential candidates. Increasingly, it seems that they may not be available or have already left the proverbial building — and that’s a problem.

Trump has vowed to fill his administration with “the best people.” (In a perfect world, they would, of course, be his clones.) Yet so far, he’s been pursuing what he has characterized as a “lean” strategy, which means that few are yet on board and it’s getting late in the game to fake it.

Usually by this time in the election cycle, nominees have pulled together their inner circle, mostly from well-known or rising establishment players, including policy wonks by the bucketful.  He hasn’t.  According to Vin Weber, a D.C.-based partner at Mercury, which bills itself as a global, high-stakes public strategy firm, who crafted Mitt Romney’s “policy shop” in 2012, the lack of infrastructure is unprecedented. Romney’s policy shop was first formed 18 months before the 2012 election and fine-tuned in January 2012. We’re in July 2016 and from Trump on this score — nothing. Nada. “Nobody in Washington that I know of,” Weber says, “is assembling a staff for an incoming Trump administration.”

Given his public war with his party, Trump may find himself without anyone left to fire.  It’s one thing to cut back on government, another to have no one around to do anything.

Maybe winging it on national policy and disparaging those who might someday make such policy is endearing in The Donald, but not to the Washington establishment.  Whatever the case, it might be useful before the Republican convention, which already promises to be a bizarre spectacle, to consider who Trump’s “best people” are — and aren’t — at the moment. Who are his most loyal advisers and supporters? Who would take a political bullet for him or put that bullet in him?

For the answers to such questions, it’s necessary to consider three categories: blood, money, and power. In the land of Trump (and Clinton), of course, blood — that is, family — comes first; financial interests, second; and the political power-elite (a.k.a. the establishment), last.

For Trump, family is foremost; general election finances are still remarkably lacking; and that final group remains infinitesimal, given how big the Washington establishment actually is.  And do note that this has not been because The Donald hasn’t tried to broaden his establishment support. He just seems congenitally unable to succeed at it.  It’s a deal he can’t broker. His supporters may think of him as one of them, but his outsider status has come about by default, not by strategic choice, and it shows.

Trump’s most loyal support comes from his family who make up his core “board of advisers.”  They are anything but inside-the-Beltway types.  If, however, he were to make it to the Oval Office, they could certainly be the new Clintons, the latest bloodline in Washington.

So from family to finances to establishment, here’s a rundown on key players in Trump World, who’s up and who’s down, who’s in and who’s out.

Trump’s Establishment Gets on Board

Ivanka Trump, Campaign Adviser

Omnipresent in his campaign, daughter Ivanka is the executive vice president of development and acquisitions in the Trump Organization. She “actively participates in all aspects of both Trump® and Trump branded projects.” The presidency is, of course, the ultimate branded project and were the economy to fall off a cliff one Trumpian day, the White House might make the perfect Trump luxury condo building.

For all practical purposes, Ivanka, not wife Melania, is Trump’s “first lady” (in waiting). She appeared on the presumptive board of The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice.  It was widely rumored that she was the one who had the clout to get Corey Lewandowski, the campaign manager who lifted Trump to victory in the primaries, fired. Put another way, the “establishment apprentice” got the shaft because he crossed the person with the real power in Trump’s campaign.

Before the turn of the twentieth century, the Stillmans (bankers) married the Rockefellers (industrialists) to breed young Stillman-Rockefellers who controlled a chunk of the banking sector for decades while advising multiple presidents. Depending on the fate of Donald Trump’s presidential bid, perhaps the 2009 Jared-Ivanka merger (wedding) will someday be seen in the same light.  It was, after all, witnessed by an array of movie stars, television personalities, and politicians like former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and present New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

If Trump is elected, Kushner could wind up appointed, say, Secretary of Real Estate. (Okay, that post doesn’t actually exist — yet.) Kushner set up critical meetings between Trump and key Republican dignitaries and leaders that were meant to elevate his father-in-law’s relationship with the party establishment.

In early May, the New York Times reported that “Donald J. Trump has asked his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to begin quietly compiling a blueprint for a transition team should he win the White House in November.” If his recent actions are a guide, Kushner will undoubtedly try to snag some significant establishment players as the race progresses.

Paul Manafort, New Campaign Manager

Manafort, a man of controversy, comfortable with wealth and luxury (though refusing any cash compensation for being on the Trump Train), has 40 years of work for the Republican Party establishment under his belt. In addition to being a former principal at the lobbying firm of Black, Manafort, Stone, and Kelly, he played a leading role in George H.W. Bush’s nomination at the 1988 convention, Bob Dole’s in 1996, George W. Bush’s in 2000, and John McCain’s in 2008.

For a campaign selling anti-establishmentism, having a manager from the inner circles of D.C. might seem like sheer Trumpocrisy, but such seeming contradictions are the essence of The Donald.

Manafort, by the way, has kept an apartment in Manhattan’s Trump Tower, which, as we know, is “one of the world’s elite luxury residences, catering to public figures, athletes, celebrities, and other affluent sophisticates.” In other words, he’s establishment with a view.

Michael Glassner, Deputy Campaign Manager

Glassner is another classic insider. An adviser to the George W. Bush campaign of 2000, he became a top adviser to Sarah Palin in the 2008 election (which may have been a recommendation in Trump’s eyes). He had also once been an adviser to Bob Dole and the Southwest regional political director for the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee. Glassner is one of the small team of Trump’s establishment guys reportedly responsible for his chaotic preparations for the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Donald F. McGahn II, Chief Legal Counsel

McGahn, one of Washington’s best-connected lawyers, is legal counsel for Trump and a partner at Jones Day, the elite law firm that lists anti-trust and government regulation as its top specialties. By February 2016, the firm had already received more than $500,000 in payments from the Trump campaign.

According to MSNBC’s Zachary Roth, McGahn “was a crucial player in creating the out-of-control campaign finance system that his boss now denounces.”  He has helped connect Trump with Republican congressional leaders at his D.C. offices, further dispelling the myth that Trump is anti-establishment.

Steven Mnuchin, National Finance Chairman

Not to be outdone by Hillary’s Wall Street connections, Trump recently bagged a former Goldman Sachs partner to run his fundraising operation (the one he used to say he didn’t need). In terms of Mnuchin’s own political contributions, like the firm he once worked for, he’s spread the wealth around. He donated to both Romney and Obama. He also contributed to Hillary Clinton’s Senate andpresidential campaigns. In 2012, he donated $20,000 to the Republican National Committee. Overall, Mnuchin has contributed more than $120,000 to political groups over the past two decades, slightly favoring Democrats.

Shades of Trump, according to Variety, he left Relativity Media, where he had been a co-chairman, two months before it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2015. He also led a group of billionaire investors that took over beleaguered California bank IndyMac from the FDIC at a bargain price during the financial crisis, profiting, that is, from the pain of California’s foreclosure victims.

Who’s Gone From the Trump Train?

The list of those who have jumped off or were thrown from the Trump train is also heavy on establishment types, though most weren’t exactly from its crème de la crème. Among them were:

Corey Lewandowski, Former Campaign Manager

Lewandowski developed his establishment muscle working for various Koch Brother initiatives and was legislative political director of the Republican National Committee in 2001. He had also worked for three congressional representatives and, most recently, the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, a Koch brothers-funded organization.

According to the Wall Street Journal’s analysis of Federal Election Commission documents, Lewandowski was “paid $20,000 a month,” — the equivalent of an annual salary of $240,000, “or 45% more than 2012 GOP nominee and multimillionaire Mitt Romney paid his senior staffers.” He was involved in a notorious incident with a female Breitbart reporter.  It seems that, organizationally, he lost out to Paul Manafort, alienated Ivanka, and in June was fired by Trump.  He hit the tracks running — CNN promptly hired him as an on-air analyst for a reported $500,000.

Stuart Jolly, Former National Field Director

Jolly resigned on April 18th. He had previously worked at the Oklahoma chapter of the Koch brothers’ flagship group, Americans for Prosperity, and also at the Education Freedom Alliance, an organization focused on expanding school choice and free-market economics.

Upon leaving he offered this advice to Trump: “My hope is that you will continue to listen to those who have propelled you to victory.” However, he soon returned as a national adviser for political and fundraising activities at the pro-Trump Super PAC, Great America.

Roger Stone, Former Top Adviser

Stone, too, has been an establishment GOP operative for decades. In 1974, he left his position as staff assistant for Senator Bob Dole amid controversy over Nixon White House “dirty tricks.” Five years later, he co-founded the National Conservative Political Action Committee where he developed a knack for creating negative campaign ads.  Before he resigned from the Republican Party on his blog in 2012, he had worked on 12 Republican presidential campaigns.

The story of his fate in the Trump campaign is murky. The Donald insists he fired Stone, while Stone insists that he was the one who said, “You’re fired!”

Rick Wiley, Veteran Republican Adviser

An establishment player and a former political director for the Republican National Committee, he was removed as Trump’s national political director in May 2016, two months after having been brought on board by Paul Manafort. The media cited various unnamed sources offering various reasons why.  Whatever the explanation, he was in and then he was out, because measured thinking about position selection isn’t a Trump priority.  Wiley now works for the Republican National Committee.

Jared Kushner, Campaign Adviser-in-Law

Ivanka’s husband, real-estate developer Jared Kushner, tried to persuade one and all that his ownership of the New York Observer didn’t make the paper’sendorsement of The Donald any less objective.

Who Doesn’t Want to Be Seen at Trump Station?

The list of establishment players exhibiting no interest in associating with The Donald or an absolute animus against him seems to expand by the day. It includes, of course, Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, George W. Bush, and Lindsey Graham, among so many others — key players all in the Republican Party. Romney typically didn’t mince words, saying, “Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing the American public for suckers: he gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat.”

Romney might be wrong about the hat.

Meanwhile, a troop of prominent Republicans are heading for the hills, not the party’s convention. Congressional representatives are going into opposition; convention delegates pledged to Trump are restless and other delegates are muttering about revolt. A former Republican national security adviser and a former Republican treasury secretary (and former Goldman Sachs chairman and CEO) have thrown their support to Hillary and the establishment cast of characters thinking about heading for the exits continues to lengthen.

If much of the rest of the establishment follows the present pattern and departs Trump Station, what will this election look like? If history is any guide, family is not enough in American politics, only in banking. A candidate needs a party establishment for everything from experience to organization to money.

Trump himself lacks experience in government or public service of any sort. He’s essentially at sea when it comes to what it might mean to govern this country.  In this, he is anything but typical among Republican frontrunners who became president.  William Taft was a former secretary of war. Herbert Hoover was secretary of commerce. Warren Harding was a senator. Calvin Coolidge was his vice president. Dwight Eisenhower was a decorated general. Richard Nixon was his vice president and had been in Congress for years. Ronald Reagan was, yes, an actor, but had also been the governor of California. George H.W. Bush had been a congressman, an ambassador, and director of the CIA. His son was, of course, governor of Texas.

If Trump continues to play the outsider card (as he essentially must, given what his supporters now expect) and continues to alienate ever more of the establishment, he’s likely to find himself fighting a battle of diminishing returns in his own party. And what about that establishment’s money? After all, what’s an election these days but a pile of donated money and backroom deals?

We know he raised significantly less than Jeb, Ted, and Marco and still beat them in the primaries, and that undoubtedly gave him a certain unrealistic sense of what was possible in a presidential campaign. The result: this May his campaign raised only $1.3 million to Hillary’s $42.5 million. If that’s a sign of what’s to come and his supporters, unlike those of Bernie Sanders (the only true populist in the race) don’t begin to up the ante drastically, watch out. 

Unsurprisingly, establishment pockets are looking a good deal less deep these days when it comes to him, though Trump has begun to say that he might need to find up to $1.5 billion to run this race.  Key establishment money-raising figures have now visibly turned their backs on him, just as he did on them.

The Koch brothers are not atypical in refocusing the future contributions of their Super PACs on Republican races in the Senate and House. Charles Koch even signaled the possibility, however faint, of taking a further step and using his money for the other side. “We would have to believe [Hillary’s] actions would be quite different than her rhetoric. Let me put it that way,” he said in an interview on ABC’s This Week. When asked if it was possible that another Clinton could be better than a Republican, he added, “It’s possible.” (With establishment money, all things are possible.)

Outside groups — PACs and Super PACs on both sides of the aisle — have already spent a combined $34.1 million on Senate and House races, according to a Bloomberg News analysis of Federal Election Commission data. That’s nearly double the amount spent at this point in the 2012 campaign. The Freedom Partners Action Fund Super PAC, a political arm of the Koch empire, has dividednearly $10 million among four key Senate races in Wisconsin, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. It has, however, kicked in only $36,000 for anti-Hillary efforts and not a penny for Trump.

American Crossroads, a Karl Rove Super PAC, is also opting to focus on Republicans in the Senate, though so far it has doled out just $100,000 for that effort and $135,000 against Hillary. Rove has called Trump “a petty man consumed by resentment and bitterness,” which tells you all you need to know about where he’s likely to put his outfit’s money this election season.

It’s increasingly clear that the GOP establishment is playing a different end game than The Donald. Whether Trump or Hillary wins, they want a Congress stacked in favor of their needs, and perhaps many of them are looking to a Paul Ryan run in 2020 as their saving grace.

Trump Wins

So here’s a question for that ultimate insider of outsiders: Can Donald Trump actually lose the 2016 election?  Let’s say Hillary beats him, as the polls of the moment suggest she will.  Has he lost?  Probably not.

After all, he’s brought his brand to a far broader global audience on a stage so much larger than any Apprentice imaginable. He could lose dramatically, blame the Republican establishment for being mean to him, and then expand the Trump brand into new realms, places like Russia, where he’s long craved an opening. Vladimir Putin and he could golf together bare-chested while discussing the imminent demise of the American empire. “My country could have been great again,” he could sigh, “if only it had voted me in.” His consolation prize: a Trump Casino in Moscow’s Red Square?

In other words, whether the establishment supports him or not, whether he wins on November 8th or not, his brand wins, which means that he triumphs.

Consider this: the Old Post Office building on Pennsylvania Avenue with views of the White House is already wrapped in blue Trump International banners as it’s being converted into a luxury hotel. Due to open two years ahead of schedule and two months before Election Day, it’s one of Ivanka’s projects.  It ensures that her father has branded the avenue regardless of whether he ends up in the White House or not. Given the property’s location and what its “presidential suite” is sure to look like, working in the Oval Office might prove to be a downgrade.

 Nomi Prins, a TomDispatch regular, is the author of six books, a speaker, and a distinguished senior fellow at the non-partisan public policy institute Demos. Her most recent book is All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances That Drive American Power (Nation Books). She is a former Wall Street executive.

See:http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/donald-trumps-anti-establishment-scam-insider-posing-outsider-trying-get-back-inside?akid=14424.123424.NykLLl&rd=1&src=newsletter1059895&t=8

Brussels: Just the Latest Failure of the ‘War on Terror’

The two major aspects of the West’s ‘War on Terror,’ an enormous amount of violence and the demonization of Muslims, are only recipes for increased terrorism.

Source: RSN

Author: Paul Gottinger – Reader Supported News

Emphasis Mine

Once again the West has been stirred to outrage. Two bombs were set off in a bustling airport and one in crowded subway car in Brussels. Now we #PrayForBelgium.

The West has long turned a blind eye to the violence it wages around the world, but this is different. Once again, ‘they’ are attacking ‘us’ here at home.

The attack is tragic, but it shouldn’t be a surprise. To say the West’s ‘War on Terror’ has been an extraordinary failure is inaccurate. In actuality, it is accelerating terrorism.

In fact, during the 14 years of the ‘War on Terror,’ the West has failed to eliminate even one terror organization, yet groups like ISIS have risen from the ashes of the West’s counterterror policy.

My analysis of US State Department data shows that terror attacks have increased by a staggering 65 percent since 9/11. This massive escalation in terror really skyrocketed during the US War in Iraq. British Intelligence has dubbed this the ‘Iraq Effect.’

According the US State Department, in 2003 there were 208 terror attacks around the world, but that number had jumped to 11,000 attacks just two years later. In the years since, the number of attacks has generally been above 10,000.

It’s tragically fitting that the attack in Brussels occurred just 2 days after the 13th anniversary of the War in Iraq. That war, the centerpiece of the US ‘War on Terror,’ gave rise to ISIS, the very terror organization that claimed responsibility for the attack in Brussels.

Many of the US’s counterterror failures have their roots in the colossal disaster that was the Iraq War. ISIS exploited the destruction and instability of war to attract foreign jihadists, gain local support, and create a deeply rooted organizational structure.

Anger over the Iraq War is a common motivation cited for why individuals join ISIS, according to interviews with captured militants.

Most of the leadership of ISIS is Iraqi, and the group’s rise reflects the political failures in Iraq and Syria. The discrimination and violent repression of the Sunni community by the Iraqi government and the Assad regime in Syria created a situation where many Sunnis see ISIS as a preferable option to the state structures ISIS has replaced.

In response to the rise of ISIS, the West has taken its preferred form of action, violence. The US-led coalition has launched almost 11,000 strikes, which have killed 10,000 ISIS fighters in an ISIS military force that the CIA officially estimates to be 30,000, though this is likely a large underestimate.

This enormous use of force has predictably been largely unsuccessful. In fact, it actually fuels resentment by the local populations by leaving communities caught between ISIS’s harsh rule and the West’s indiscriminate violence. Military destruction without a political solution has only deepened the crisis and aided ISIS recruitment.

The US-Russia/Iran rivalry is another serious problem. It only sows division in the effort to fight terrorism in Iraq and Syria. The effect is that the US is turning its back on some of the most effective partners in the fight against ISIS.

Anyone hoping for a change of course in the West’s reaction to terror was quickly disappointed this week.

The US Secretary of Defense quickly announced that the Pentagon will increase funding for the US air strikes on ISIS, and Obama is even concerned a major terror attack in the US may force the US into a “large and costly war in the Middle East.”

But more violence abroad wasn’t the only response to Brussels the US offered. We also saw Donald Trump renewing his pledge to ban Muslims from entering the US, and Ted Cruz calling for police patrols in ‘Muslims neighborhoods.’

Not to be outdone by politicians, ordinary citizens exhibited some of that famous ‘Western civilization’ with the hateful hashtag #StopIslam, which was trending worldwide on Twitter.

Hillary Clinton also got in on the action. She called for censoring the Internet and for Muslims to rat on their friends and family if someone they know catches the ‘extremism’ bug.

Based on these responses, it seems the West will be unable to stem the tide of terror in the West, and worse yet, there doesn’t seem to even be an understanding of what drives individuals towards ‘jihadism.’

The two major aspects of the West’s ‘War on Terror,’ an enormous amount of violence and the demonization of Muslims, are only recipes for increased terrorism.

ISIS may lose territory, but if the underlying sectarian polarization and political crisis is unresolved, the conditions that allow ISIS to exist will remain in place in Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, if the vast majority of the West’s resources continue to go to escalating the risks of terror and the West continues to ignore the Persian Gulf’s funding for extremism, then all the police and intelligence integration imaginable will fail to stop terrorism. The fundamental goal of counterterror should be to prevent the conditions that draw people to become terrorists, rather than just attempting to prevent attacks from being carried out.

A seismic shift is needed in the West’s counterterrorism policy, or the attacks in Belgium are sure to be but a small taste of what is to come for Europe and the US.


Paul Gottinger is a staff reporter at RSN whose work focuses on the Middle East and the arms industry. He can be reached on Twitter @paulgottinger or via email.

See: http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/35950-focus-brussels-just-the-latest-failure-of-the-war-on-terror

San Bernardino Killings Unleashing Right Wing Wave of Fear Mongering, Islamophobia and War Fever

No voices of reason, restraint or wisdom.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Stephen Rosenfelt

Emphasis Mine

This weekend, America’s right wing—from the 2016 GOP candidates to its media echo chambers on cable TV, online and talk radio—have unleashed what may be their most hate-filled, fear-based, war-mongering fusillade since the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

The attacks—from a former GOP congressman taunting the U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to arrest him after threatening American Muslims on air, to RedState.com encouraging people to shoot the Saturday edition of The New York Times for its editorial calling for a ban on all militarized weapons and to post that image online—are the tip of this latest rage-filled response. Ex-New York Gov. George Pataki, a going-nowhere GOP 2016 candidate, also called for “war on radical Islam” and taunted Lynch. Fox News is berating moderate Muslims to “fix this,” while other right-wingers mock their spokesmen.

This wave of hyperbole comes in the wake of Friday’s law enforcement leak that Tashfeen Malik, the Pakistan-born wife of Syed Farook—who both carried out this week’s mass killing in San Bernardino—had pledged allegiance to ISIS on Facebook. Whether that’s true or not, ISIS, media manipulators themselves, on Saturday called the pair “supporters,” throwing more fuel on the right-wing firestorm.

The American public, which is legitimately shaken by yet another mass shooting, is being subjected to a bottomless season of nastiness, racist hate-mongering and war fever—where any viewpoint urging cooler heads and non-violent solutions is belittled by Republicans or their propagandists.

Hillary Clinton’s post-San Bernardino comments that new federal gun controls were needed now, and such measures have nothing to do with aggressively going after terrorists, was mocked by 2016 GOP hopeful Marco Rubio as “typical of the political left.” In the Senate, Bernie Sanders said militarized weapons should be banned and gun access restricted, adding that more attention had to be paid to treating mental illness.

The escalating right wing hyperbole is not just irresponsible but dangerous, as it promotes undue fears and offers more confrontations and violence as a solution, such as calls for all Americans to carry guns. What’s forgotten in that line of thinking is that many people won’t, or don’t want to use guns.

The GOP presidential candidates, in contrast, relish the thought of war with ISIS. One after another, at Thursday’s Republican Jewish Coalition summit in Washington, declared the nation was “in a time of war” (Ted Cruz), facing “terrorist attack” (Chris Christie), “they’re already here” (Lindsey Graham) and the feds should spy on anyone, anywhere, anytime: “Edward Snowden is without a doubt a traitor and should be tried for treason” (Carly Fiorina).

These trigger-happy remarks mimic their racist frontrunner, Donald Trump, who has said U.S. Muslims should be registered and tracked by federal authorities. It seems like so long ago when he grabbed the headlines with his Mexican-bashing. Other candidates, playing the juvenile game of “I’m-the-toughest,” have mocked Black Lives Matter and been xenophobic, especially with admitting Syrian War refugees. Protesters at Trump events have been ejected, spit upon, or beaten up by mostly white crowds.

What’s lost in all this deliberately fanned chaos and ugly noise is the reality that getting control of America’s epidemic of gun violence—especially the harm by militarized arms—is critically important. Last week saw another failed attempt by Senate Democrats to push for a modest expansion of federal gun laws—increased background checks and banning sales to those on the FBI’s terrorist watch list. Instead, the San Bernardino massacre is expected to drive up gun sales, arms industry officials told reporters.

There’s “fear in the air,” the Times reported Friday, echoing a national poll released Thursday finding 83 percent of Americans expect a major terrorist attack. Meanwhile, overseas, the U.S. is deepening the military response to ISIS—following the Paris attacks—and NATO allies that had limited their involvement are now sending troops, planes and ships.

In other words, contrary to what the GOP presidential candidates would have the public believe, the U.S. is very much at war in Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile, they and their propagandist allies are opposed to removing weapons of war from individuals at home.

Americans who don’t think the answer to violence in America is carrying a gun anytime they step outside find themselves in an escalating climate of real fears, fear-mongering, panic-driven gun sales, and an urge by many to strike real or imagined foes.

What is not happening on as large a scale is hearing enough people put these latest events and trends into perspective, historic contexts or offering wise responses—although The New York Times ran its first front-page editorial in decades on Saturday morning urging Congress to ban militarized weapons and calling the recent domestic gun-caused slaughter as terrorism.

Most of the TV news, however, is reading a different script, hyping the FBI announcement that it was investigating the San Bernardino shootings as a terrorist incident.

That trend in the news business—if it bleeds, it leads—poses a larger challenge for everyone. The southern California killings may end up as no more of a global conspiracy than the mass shooting by deluded loners at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, or at Fort Hood, Texas. What’s clear is too many in the media and political life are obsessing on threats from abroad while ignoring threats at home, namely gun violence.

That upside-down mindset fosters a public belief that such violence is normal and to be expected. The GOP is doing all it can to ignore the gun carnage, turn away from Syrian War refugees, and thwart the Obama administration’s climate change policies, even as a global conference on that real threat is unfolding in Paris and experts say it will worsen the global refugee crisis.

The White House has ignored most of the noise coming from Congress and the 2016 campaign trail, making reasonable-sounding remarks that are quickly overshadowed by hyped headlines. The lack of a stronger, clearer and wiser countervailing presence from Obama has had serious consequences, however.

It’s created a void filled by an onslaught of irresponsible GOP hyperbole and rightwing propaganda, fear mongering and war fever. Ironically, Obama is allowing the end of his presidency to be colonized by exaggerated fears and darkness, when he was elected by a majority of Americans seeking a far more hopeful future.

(Editor’s note: Late Saturday afternoon, the White House announced Obama would address the nation “on keeping the American people safe” on Sunday evening at 8 PM Eastern Standard Time.)

See: http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/san-bernardino-killings-unleashing-right-wing-wave-fear-mongering-islamophobia-and-war?akid=13741.123424.rHkGmA&rd=1&src=newsletter1046852&t=6

 

Bernie Sanders’s Refreshingly Sane Foreign Policy

In his speech last week, Sanders said what every presidential candidate ought to say about ISIS and the Middle East.

Source: AlterNet

Author:Sean Illing / Salon

See: http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/bernie-sanderss-refreshingly-sane-foreign-policy?akid=13718.123424.aks17V&rd=1&src=newsletter1046419&t=16

The Right Responds to Paris With Bible-Thumping, Scientific Illiteracy, Frat Boy Antics

The situation in Syria is very serious, but conservatives keep responding in idiotic and childish ways.

Source: Salon via AlterNet

Author: Amanda Marcotte

Emphasis Mine

The Paris attacks brought renewed interest in ISIS and the ongoing crisis in Syria, and unsurprisingly, that means that we’ve all had to endure right-wingers rolling out the usual chest-thumping bravado from Republicans who have no personal worries about ever seeing combat. But never fear! Slobbering enthusiasm for war is far from the only right-wing neurosis that is being trotted out in response to the ISIS situation. Our friends on the right are also responding with usual mix of the Bible-thumping, anti-science rhetoric, and gross sexism they manage to work into nearly every conversation.

The right’s growing hostility to scientific evidence is on full display when it comes to the issue of how to deal with the millions of Syrians displaced by the civil war who are seeking some place safer to live. Hysteria over the refugees is reaching a fever pitch as right-wingers claim to be afraid that ISIS is smuggling terrorists with the refugees who will come kill us all.

Even on its surface, these claims of fear should provoke skepticism, and not just because ISIS is too busy begging Muslims to move to Syria to start smuggling people out. As the Paris attacks show, if ISIS wants to bomb something, they’re going to go after iconic cities that can be held out as modern Sodoms. In other words, they’d go after New York, not Birmingham. So why was Alabama the first state out of the gate to deny the refugees welcome?

But if you dig into the actual scientific evidence, it really shows how completely disconnected from reality the right is on this issue. As Michael Halpern, writing for the Union of Concerned Scientists, explains, the overwhelming scientific evidence shows that allowing people refuge from war is not only safe itself, it actually decreases the chance of future terrorism. In fact, looking over the evidence, it suggests that the best way to keep people safe is to bring in as many refugees as you can.

This isn’t just because none of the two million refugees accepted into our country since 1990 have committed terrorism, which can be compared that to the almost routine terrorism committed by native born right wingers. Research also shows that a refugee’s chance of embracing radical views is much reduced if he moves to some place like the United States or Western Europe. Relocating to a country that is closer often means being closer to the conflict and more likely to pick up on radical views that lead to terrorism. If you want a young man who is just beginning to form his views to turn away from radicalism, your best bet is moving him here.

But, as usual, Republicans don’t think they need science because they have religion. The Bible-thumping has gotten completely out of control in the past week, with Ted Cruz proposing a religious test for Syrian refugees—if you’re Christian, you’re in, if you’re Muslim, you’re not—and Mike Huckabee pretending that Muslims are the only people that commit terrorism.

Compared to this unvarnished hatred, John Kasich might look like a gentle soul, but his idea on how to deal with ISIS is the same thing in a prettier package. “We need to beam messages around the world about what it means to have a Western ethic, to be a part of a Christian-Judeo society,” he told NBC News, adding that he wanted to start an agency “to promote core Judeo-Christian, Western values that we and our friends and allies share.”

So he wants to broadcast targeted messages at Muslim populations that argue that Jews and Christians are better and more moral than Muslims. What could possibly go wrong?

Kasich may pretend he’s a moderate, but he’s buying into the same narrative as Cruz and Huckabee that this is some grand conflict between religions. Luckily, that happens to be ISIS’s message, too! I have no doubt that ISIS would love nothing more than the U.S. sending a bunch of messages out about how we think Christians (and, as an afterthought, Jews) are better than Muslims, because ISIS thrives on the idea that the differences between Muslims and Christians are irreconcilable and that war is the only answer.

Of course, not all responses from the right to the situation in Syria have been about Bible-thumping. The frat daddy contingent of the right that is mostly motivated by the ever-present fear that you might forget they have penises has to have their say, as well. For that set, of course, you have the Daily Caller, which ran a piece aimed at those men titled, “13 Syrian Refugees We’d Take Immediately.” (As it is a naked attempt to get traffic, I will not link. Rest assured my description will be enough.)

What follows is a bunch of photos from the Instagram account Syrian Girls Got Beauty, which is just what it seems to be, a fashion and beauty photo blog, presumably from Syria. There’s no evidence that any of the women are refugees or even know that their photos are being repurposed to make mock of the crisis in their country. The blog hasn’t been updated in over three months. Indeed, the photos aren’t even of 13 separate women—as a colleague of mine pointed out over email to those of us who were too appalled to look further, one of the women in the list is pictured twice.

But you have to give credit to the Daily Caller for really distilling the right-wing mentality down to the basics: Who cares about human rights, international relations, scientific evidence, thoughtful analysis, or even giving two minutes thought about something before forming some idiotic, knee-jerk opinion about it? It’s all about them: Their bigotries, their need to be told their religion is the best, their need to remind you every five seconds that they are heterosexual.

It’s a shame that we have to thank our lucky stars, in this environment, that at least we have a grown-up in the White House. Let’s hope it stays that way come November.

Amanda Marcotte co-writes the blog Pandagon. She is the author of “It’s a Jungle Out There: The Feminist Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Environments.”

 

 

 

See:http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/right-responds-paris-bible-thumping-scientific-illiteracy-frat-boy-antics?akid=13672.123424.K9DEnV&rd=1&src=newsletter1046025&t=14

Six Keys To Understanding ISIS’s Barbarism, Apocalyptic Vision and Desire for an End Times Battle In Syria

The presidential candidates don’t know want they are dealing with.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Steven Rosenfeld

Emphasis Mine

The latest terrorist attacks by ISIS have changed the 2016 presidential race, sparking a range of predictable reactions across the partisan spectrum—from ‘Fortress America” stances from Republicans to Democrats pushing to create a new international coalition and combined military response.

But do most Americans, especially those running for president, understand what ISIS is about: what they believe; seek; why they are so bloody; luring recruits from abroad; and now striking in Paris and Beirut? Last winter, The Atlantic’s Graeme Wood spent weeks with ISIS defenders, sympathetic clerics and academics overseas before writing a revelatory profile, “What ISIS Really Wants.”

After it was published, Wood asked his sources if he got it mostly right. “In general, they saw the portrayal of ISIS in the Atlantic as one they could recognize,” he said in an interview. “They saw it as something that legitimately attempted to portray them in terms they could see and say, ‘Yeah, that’s more or less us.’”

“The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths,” the article’s teaser begins. “It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse.”

What follows are six key takeaways from Wood’s reporting, updated from a previous AlterNet report.

1. They are Islamic. Very. There are many experts in the West and the Middle East, from academics to other conservative Islamics, who, like President Obama, have said that ISIS is not Islamic or is a twisted distortion of the Muslim faith. That’s wrong. ISIS “follows a distinctive form of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment matter to its strategy,” Wood writes, explaining that they are not like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt—or even Al Queda under bin Laden—but akin to “the realization of a dystopian alternate reality in which David Koresh or Jim Jones survived to wield absolute power over not just a few hundred people, but some 8 million.”

ISIS lives by the most literal translation of the Koran imaginable, as revealed by Mohammed in the seventh century. A Christian analog would be living under the strict edicts in the Book of Leviticus.

“Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and announcements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationary, and coins, ‘the Prophetic methodology,’ which means following the prophecy and example of Mohammed, in punctilious detail,” Wood writes. “But pretending that it isn’t actually a religion, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combated, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it.”

2. The most extreme of extremist sects. Just as there are many flavors of American evangelical extremism, ISIS is on the furthest end of the conservative orthodoxy, in terms of its beliefs, literal interpretation of seventh-century law and punishment, and what’s required of true believers for jihad. Wood said that ISIS’ beliefs stem from “a branch of Sunnism called Salafism, after the Arabic al salaf al salih, the ‘pious forefathers.’ These forefathers are the Prophet himself and his earliest adherents, whom Salifis honor and emulate as the models for all behavior including warfare, couture, family life, even dentristy.” Before ISIS’ emergence, the Sunnis who were best-known conservative followers of the Koran were Saudi Arabians.

According to Wood, the Saudis and 200 million Shiite Muslins—a denomination that developed later—have sinfully departed from seventh-century law. The examples range from having governments that send diplomats to non-Islamic bodies like the United Nations, to Shiites who worship at the graves of revered imams. The departures—like cursing one’s parents under Leviticus—are punishable by death. “Being lax about calling other people apostates” for voting in elections or being Shiites, like most of Iraq, is a capital offense. “So too are the heads of state of every Muslim nation, who have elevated manmade laws above Sharia by running for office or enforcing laws not made by God,” he writes.

3. To ISIS, required punishment; to others, war crimes. Anyone who followed the news last winter saw ISIS’ horrific videos of beheadings, the burning alive of a captured Jordanian pilot, and the reports of mass executions of men and enslavement of women and children, as well as forcing women to be concubines, such as the Yazidis in northwestern Iraq.

Wood writes that ISIS has published scholarly analyses in its magazine, Dabiq, named for an area in Syria near the border with Turkey where it believes an Armageddon-like battle will occur. One article discusses the punishment for the Yazidis “if they are pagans.”

“The article’s anonymous author wrote, ‘Yazidi women and children [are to be] divided according to the Shariah amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who participated in the Sinjar operations… Enslaving the families of the kuffar [infidels] and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Shariah that if one were to deny or mock, he would be denying or mocking the verses of the Koran and the narration of the Prophet… and thereby apostatizing from Islam.’”

In other words, ISIS sees its carnage as a prayer and required devotion, not as arguably the worst manifestation of evil on the planet today.

4. Top prophecy: they’re in the battle for end times. In America, some evangelical Christians are among Israel’s biggest defenders because they believe it will hasten the end times foretold in the biblical Book of Revelation. ISIS believes in an Islamic version of a similar end-times prophecy, of which they are a central actor. This is key to understanding what their terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut are in part about, which according to Wood is baiting Islam’s enemies to fight them where the end-times battle has been foretold.

Their declaration that the Islamic State is a caliphate, or a state fully enforcing Islamic law—which “had not functioned except in name for about 1,000 years,” Wood writes—is “not just a political entity but also a vehicle for salvation.” States like Saudi Arabia are apostates, he said, because they selectively follow Islamic penal codes, but not “the whole package.” In a similar vein, ISIS considers Al Qaeda to be another effort marred by half-measures.

However, declaring and establishing a caliphate, which requires the taking of territory, is only a step. ISIS “already rules an area larger than United Kingdom,” noted Wood, who spoke at length with ISIS supporters in England and Australia. They told him that only that form of government was legitimate—both requiring people be stoned to death for adultery and providing free healthcare, for example. That purity accounts for ISIS’ appeal to foreigners, Wood said, who feel they are not only living marginalized and mundane lives in the West, but want to take part in the epic battle for the end times.

Bin Laden didn’t talk about the apocalypse. But ISIS’ leaders believe that confrontation is coming and they see signs of it everywhere, Wood said. ISIS propaganda is filled with the belief “that the armies of Rome will mass to meet the armies of Islam in northern Syria; and that Islam’s final showdown with an anti-Messiah [taken to be a mix of Iranian and U.S.-led forces] will occur in Jerusalem after a period of Dabiq.

“It is here, the Prophet reportedly said, that the armies of Rome will set up their camp. The armies of Islam will meet them, and Dabiq will be Rome’s Waterloo or its Antietam,” Wood writes, citing ISIS videos and magazine articles. “Now that it has taken Dabiq, the Islamic State awaits the arrival of an enemy army there, whose defeat will initiate the countdown to the apocalpyse. Western media frequently miss references to Dabiq in the Islamic State’s videos, and focus instead on lurid scenes of beheadings.”

5. The allure for true believers. Oddly, the reference to the armies of Rome might be the only place in Wood’s article where ISIS is willing to bend a little for modernity—by saying its great battle with Islam’s last adversaries could be any infidel army. ISIS believes it will win on the plains of Dabiq and sack some western cities, but it will suffer some big losses before the final confrontation that occurs in Israel.

“An anti-Messiah, known in Muslim apocalyptic literature as Dajjal, will come from the Khorasan region of eastern Iran and kill a vast number of the caliphate’s fighters, until just 5,000 remain, cornered in Jerusalem,” Wood writes. “Just as Dajjal prepares to finish them off, Jesus—the second most revered prophet in Islam—will return to Earth, spear Dajjal, and lead the Muslims to victory.” He notes, “The Islamic State has its best and worst days ahead of it.”

All of this may sound like a middle-school dystopian fantasy novel or video game, where archaic heroes and anti-heroes fight for the fate of humanity on a dreary plain. But it’s all too real in the minds of pious ISIS believers, Wood said, which also explains why it has been able to recruit Muslim seekers and converts from abroad.

These beliefs also mean that “the biggest proponent of an American invasion is the Islamic State itself,” he writes. “The provocative videos, in which a black-hooded executioner addresses President Obama by name, are clearly made to draw America into the fight.”

6. Countering evil in our time. Clearly the first steps in countering the evils an apocalyptic regime like ISIS presents—mass murder, sexual bondage, child slavery and more—is understanding who and what they are, Wood writes. He does not say what is obvious about the current flock of presidential candidates; that appear mostly clueless about ISIS’ beliefs and strategies, or in the case of the GOP would take their bait and deploy troops anew to western Iraq and Syria.

Wood believes ISIS’ agenda and brutality is not just knowable but predictable.

“The ideological purity of the Islamic State has one compensating virtue: it allows us to predict some of the group’s actions,” he writes. ISIS “has an obligation to terrorize its enemies—a holy order to scare the shit out of them with beheadings and crucifixions and enslavement of women and children, because doing so hastens victory and avoids prolonging conflict,” one ISIS defender explained to him. ISIS’ beliefs also bar it from negotiating with what it sees as heretic governments—which the Taliban did in Afghanistan.

“It’s hard to overstate how hamstrung the Islamic State will be by its radicalism,” Wood writes, saying ISIS uses tactics that are truly terrifying, yet it isn’t a terrorist group. “Al Qaeda is ineradicable because it can survive, cockroach-like, by going underground. The Islamic State cannot. If it loses its grip on territory in Syria and Iraq, it will cease to be a caliphate.”

“Former pledges could of course continue to attack the West and behead their enemies, as freelancers,” he continues. “But the propaganda value of the caliphate would disappear, and with it the supposed religious duty to immigrate and serve it. If the United States were to invade, the Islamic State’s obsession with battle at Dabiq suggests that it might send vast resources there, as if in a conventional battle. If the state musters at Dabiq in full force, only to be routed, it might not recover.”

Wood’s profile and analysis is remarkable. But what’s happened since his Atlantic piece appeared in March is equally striking. Last spring, the Iraqi army, backed by a handful of U.S. forces that did not fight in the frontlines, fled from ISIS and abandoned the city of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter has since been upbraided by American and Iraqi critics for speaking the apparent truth—that ISIS was more determined, strategic and effective than the Iraqi army.

More recently, ISIS has been losing some territory in western Iraq, and has come under attack by some of Russia’s forces and in the past several days, France, in retaliation for its Paris attacks. Meanwhile, Obama has repeated that simply sending in U.S. troops would not lead to lasting gains once they were withdrawn, and has continued to press a mostly covert war in Syria, using special forces and drone assassinations.

But what’s missing in the presidential trail rhetoric—a genuine understanding of ISIS’s goals and beliefs—is very disconcerting. A doomsday-driven Islamic regime is staking out as empire and waiting or foreign infidels to invade. The politicians vying to be the next president have offered little that is insightful about how to confront the newest face of evil in our times. The White House’s policy of containment and slowly reversing ISIS’ gain may be slowly working, but it didn’t stop the Paris and Beirut attacks.

Meanwhile, ISIS’s holy war and atrocities continue—and mostly in Syria and Iraq beyond Western eyes. As Wood writes, “It is a hermit kingdom; few have gone there and returned.”

This article is adapted from a previous article on the same topic.

See:http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/six-keys-understanding-isiss-barbarism-apocalyptic-vision-and-desire-end-times-battle?akid=13660.123424.HLHZK7&rd=1&src=newsletter1045890&t=2