vicious attacks that killed 134 and wounded dozens more in Brussels are hard for me to separate from the manhunt recently completed for Salah Abdeslam, who participated in the Paris attacks in November. My sympathy is with the families of the victims of the Brussels attacks, as they were with those who suffered in the Paris attacks. While I wouldn't say for sure I thought there was a direct connection between Abdeslam's capture and these attacks, it seems likely to me that his capture may have been inspiration for people concerned that his cooperation with the authorities would lead to their own detainment. After all, he was able to elude authorities for four months--this tells me he had associates who knew who he was, but did not turn him in.
It is also hard for me to separate these attacks from our political atmosphere in an election year here in the U.S. One of the absurd things about our culture here is that there is nothing that won't be politicized in some way, but at least a response by our presidential candidates provide some glimpse into their thinking about national security and foreign policy.
And that's where the horror comes in. I was going to broach a lighter "read" of Donald Trump's hubris and unseriousness last night--the way he can pivot from a question about using nuclear weapons on ISIS to telling the Washington Post editorial board that they are some good looking folks, the way a staged job offer seems to fall into a press conference, the way a speech using Teleprompters at AIPAC still manages to include bizarre content, like the bravery of being Grand Marshal of a parade celebrating Israel's founding in NYC. I lost the stomach for it because of this very sort of thing: what Trump is selling in his candidacy isn't steaks, or a bullshit "degree" in business or even "slightly smaller than large" gloves. He's trying to sell us on the idea that he is the guy you want dealing with the world and with American security when these things happen.
He is one of the last people I want in charge of fuck-all in this situation, or in any situation. Today he reiterated his intent to close U.S. borders and to reinstate interrogation programs that meet the Geneva convention definitions of torture because he seems to believe that these are things that somehow work. These are horrible and impractical ideas that do not stem from any kind of real familiarity with who commits terror--especially in this country, and how real intelligence work is done. But they are ideas that could appeal at the visceral level to people who aren't as concerned about "right" answers, as about satisfying their fears and needs for retribution.
And I am afraid that those people--people who just want their biases fed into, who just want to hear the crap they already believe showered on them, instead of being spoken to forthrightly--are just loving what Trump says even though the reality is, his gaps in understanding are alarming.
But the plausible GOP alternative to Trump (disregarding Kasich, whose responses were honestly pretty decent although I don't think the man has really studied on foreign policy much), Senator Cruz, is also vastly horrendous. He stated that he wanted law enforcement to "patrol and secure" Muslim neighborhoods and, like Trump, viewed Islamic radicalization as an immigration problem. He also seems to be of the belief that "carpet bombing" is a path to "utterly destroying" ISIS.
There is so much wrong there that it's hard to know where to start, although it's clear that he is listening to his Islamophobic foreign policy adviser, Frank Gaffney, who is, frankly, a loon. But if we were to start from the premise that the instigator of violence originating in the Muslim culture were a matter of ideological extremism, perhaps the Senator might inform us whether he understands how one carpet bombs ideas? Or how he thinks singling out people of a given faith and subjecting them to different treatment under the law is liable to make them less prone to extremism? Or whether, indeed, if we have ISIS cells in Europe or even in the US--if he considers those areas ripe for "carpet bombing"?
This kind of demagoguery that Cruz engages in is disgraceful and I can not assume that I know to what extent he believes any of it--so to err on the side of caution, I must assume he really is a human horrorshow and as unfit for office as Trump.
Note--this is how they are responding to Brussels. The idea that Islamic radicalism is an immigration problem really doesn't match up with populations that have been extant in Europe for some time--but it is really out of tune for understanding Istanbul or Islamabad. But this is the world they have to deal with, and seem to unable to look at without "demogoggles" on.
And this is why you don't see me blogging about where I stand on Clinton or Sanders. I give points to Clinton for the extensive experience she has and to Sanders for being a person of compassion who doesn't have kneejerk responses to what other people want but is concerned with getting it right.
I want national security and foreign policy and intelligence and the military treaty as serious policy issues--not political hackey-sacks. Lives can hang in the balance. It needs to be done right and we should not let terror abroad encourage horror at home.