“Radical Islam” is not a magic phrase, an “abracadabra” that will suddenly make ISIS pack up and leave. “Well, she said ‘Radical Islam’ was the enemy, so I guess we’re done here,” said no terrorist ever.
Still, many Republicans get upset that President Obama and Hillary Clinton don't use those words to describe ISIS. Some believe the reason the President and other administration officials do this is because either they're secretly supporting terror, or simply don't understand the threat. In fact, there are very good reasons to be "PC" in this case, and limit our description of terrorists to exclude a specific and simplistic religious label.
The first reason should be obvious--calling these terrorists "Islamic" feeds into ISIS propaganda. The Islamic State’s message is simple: "the West has declared war on Islam, so we’re waging war on them." ISIS surely appeals to violent, mentally-disturbed people, but its sales pitch isn't "wanna rape and murder? come on down!" ISIS depends on creating a narrative where America is the evil empire, out to destroy the Islamic way of life. Our counter-messaging depends on making it clear our war is not against Islam, but those who use it as justification for murder, rape, and other atrocities. Do we really want to say, “Yeah ISIS, you’re right! We do hate Muslims!" I’m sure that will play very well and not at all add fuel to ISIS recruiting efforts.
ISIS has used the words of Donald Trump, not Hillary Clinton, in its propaganda videos, to “prove” that the West seeks to destroy Islam. It’s hard to imagine any action America can take to invite more acts of terror than to elect a guy who openly pledged to keep Muslims out of America.
The second reason, of course, is that there is no "understanding" to be gained by treating these terrorists as "Islamic terrorists." In what ways would our strategy change if we focused on the religious aspect as the driver of terror? Well... you start to go down a dark road. Why is it that many Republicans think that Islam is one monolithic hive mind where everyone believes the same interpretations and beliefs? Or that it's any more prone to extremism than any other religion or nationality: historically, vastly more slaughters of innocents were committed by Christians.
If every Muslim is a suspect, it stands to "reason" that to be safe, you'd have to treat every Muslim differently. Plank one of Trump's plan is to ban all Muslim immigrants. But does it stop there? Are the 3.3 million Muslims living in America our enemies? What about the millions of Muslims who have never committed an act of terror, nor supported one? Or our Muslim allies? What “final solution” can you come up with when you believe all the followers of a different religion are monsters, or that the acts of a few represent the threat of the many? The road this leads you down is a road humanity has traveled down before, to disastrous results.
How does Trump’s ban plan work? Do you give everyone a religious test they need to pass? Judge them on appearance? How about that little Syrian boy? He’s Muslim… is he a terrorist?
Even if you believe profiling suspects wouldn't mire us in false-positives, add wasted man-hours interrogating Cat Stevens, feed a culture of paranoid xenophobia and inspire more extremism... you'd still be stuck with reason number three: the intelligence value of being friends with your "enemy."
Just because the middle east hasn’t turned into happy unicorn land in the 15 years since 9/11 (while we actively fought wars there for most of it, and left power vacuums in Iraq and Afghanistan thanks to the short-sighted policies of Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and George W. Bush) doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t continue to work with Islamic nations. How else can we gather intelligence? Send a white guy with a Texas accent into Syria to say, “Hey there partner, I’m totally a Muslim who is into ISIS and not a spy! So when's that next terrorist attack?” Maybe we keep our troops stationed in flying blimps, instead of our bases based in Muslim countries?
Bush tried capturing suspected terrorists and torturing them. Even then, to know who those terrorists were required coordination with intelligence services in Muslim countries. They don’t want these guys threatening the stability of their nations either. How does completely giving up diplomacy help anyone? We saw what happens. War. Stupid, pointless war. Do you want more troops on the ground? Are you going to fight?
Hillary and the current administration would rather those Islamic nations, Islamic rebels, and Kurdish militias do the fighting for us, with our support. A plan that so far, is working. Declaring Islam as our enemy doesn't aid those alliances.
Trump's counter-argument has not been to offer up a real plan to fight ISIS (it's a secret, he says) but to accuse Hillary of having conflicts of interest that would prevent her from making decisions in the interest of the American people. Should we list the countries Trump and his close allies have done business with? Or perhaps just point out the differences between the charitable Clinton Foundation and the not-so-charitable Trump Foundation?
Are we to believe that Trump, with zero diplomatic experience, multiple business conflicts of interest, a dependence on fake Russian news sites for intel and a declared willingness to abandon our NATO allies at the drop of a hat, would be better? Based on what?
I shouldn’t have to say it, but a senator, a Secretary of State, or even a President, is not Superman (or Wonder Woman). He or she can’t stop every worldwide catastrophe, every death personally. Trump seems to think he can fix everything himself—he’s actually said that. He accuses Hillary of doing nothing because certain things in the world still occur.
Hillary, her entire career, has fought for human rights here and abroad. Her accomplishments have been a mixed bag, but they're not nothing.
Just because we don’t live in a magical puppy utopia doesn’t mean Trump, who has dedicated his whole life only to Trump, will do any better. Considering he never addressed any of these issues until a few months ago—and Republicans certainly didn’t during 8 years of George W. Bush, I don’t see how we can have any faith he will.