Countless foreign affairs experts (including plenty of Republicans) and weathered military brass all agree: Donald Trump is grossly unfit to be Commander and Chief. But in reality, it’s not just that Trump lacks presidential qualifications; is that he’s uniquely qualified to make things a lot worse.
It’s already happening. ISIS is using Donald Trump as a recruitment tool, galvanizing support and boosting their momentum.
Think of it this way: if ISIS is a fire that we have to put out, having no access to water or a fire hose would render one unfit to fight it. However, the frightening truth is that Trump and his Republican backers are actively, willingly, and ignorantly throwing gasoline on the flames.
If you don’t trust U.S. politicians, then at least trust U.S. enemies: ISIS is rooting for a Trump presidency because it gives them a leg up. But why?
First, the ISIS worldview is simple: They see the world as believers vs. non-believers, divided between land governed by their version of Islam and the lands of its enemies. ISIS fears religious freedom and secular society, which is why their main goal is to “destroy the gray area of coexistence.” ISIS approves of Western Islamophobia, because it fuels their binary “us vs. them” doctrine; they gain power and support from the irresponsible and hateful brand of divisiveness Trump flings around when he solicits cheers for anti-Muslim rhetoric — like he did when he insulted the family of a fallen Muslim-American soldier.
What’s more, scholars agree that Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. is outright illegal under U.S. and international law, citing the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause and the First Amendment’s doctrine of freedom of religion. It’s not just illegal, it’s also not possible: there’s no ‘religion’ column on passports. So Trump’s nonsensical proposal has the sole effect of playing into ISIS’s narrative–basically doing their dirty work for them.
This isn’t all just theory, either. In a new analysis, Foreign Affairs magazine recently interviewed ISIS supporters, and according to a former ISIS fighter and self-identified jihadist, “We don’t need to convince Muslims in the Middle East that the West is against them … The next step for the Islamic State is to reach Muslims in America and Europe.” Another said, “Congratulations to us on the victory of Trump! Sit back and relax and watch the end of America at his hands.”
From the same Foreign Affairs analysis, another man who left ISIS said that ISIS wants to make the West an “incubator” for locally inspired attacks. ISIS is currently using video footage of Trump’s anti-Muslim sentiments around the attacks in Brussels and Orlando to recruit and galvanize support.
And since ISIS is losing ground on its home turf in the Middle East, they’re increasingly focusing their propaganda less on battles in the region and more on the Trump-type content that will encourage homegrown terrorism and lone-wolf attacks in the U.S. and Europe. Picture a room full of jihadi social media operatives splicing islamophobic Trump-isms into their recruitment videos, woven between footage of beheadings — what more do they need to justify their hateful narrative?
In an increasingly combative election, one of the few things we still all agree on is countering ISIS’s ideology and evil mission. Donald Trump, however, seems intent on designing”‘policies” and advancing an attitude that plays right into their hands, both ideologically and operationally. He claims that he alone can keep the country safe, but he’s actually singularly bad for our national security–and our enemies are taking notice, and using his rhetoric as fuel.
It all boils down to a simple question all American voters must ask themselves: If ISIS would vote for Donald Trump, why would you?
Kevin Samy is a political Partner at the Truman National Security Project and a communications strategy consultant. Views expressed are his own.
IMAGE: A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) holds an ISIL flag and a weapon on a street in the city of Mosul, June 23, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer/Files