In the world of medicine and combating life threatening diseases there are two primary paths to follow. The path chosen is ordinarily dictated by whether the patient has been infected with a life threatening disease or has not. If the individual, for example let’s say a cancer patient, is undergoing treatment that treatment would normally include some chemotherapy combined with radiation to attempt to destroy the malignancy that is rearing its ugly head in the patient. For all those who have not yet been infected by a life threatening disease, the focus is ordinarily on prevention, such as no smoking, proper diet and the like.
Contrary to the ego-driven rhetoric of some of the presidential candidates, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump to be more specific, the same paths are required when dealing with ISIS. Limiting their response to a military action against existing terrorists without addressing the ever growing recruitment problem only serves to demonstrate their complete misunderstanding of how to deal with this deadly threat not just in the immediate but for the long term.
Yes, military action is required in dealing with the ever growing threat that is ISIS and a coordinated military effort has been underway for some time which includes relentless bombing of various strategic sites. Military action and the relentless bombing is, in a sense, the equivalent of radiating a malignant tumor.
It is in the area of prevention that similarities seem to break down. During my years in the Department of Homeland Security the phrase “if you see something, say something” was heard over and over again as the Department tried to convey the message that citizens can’t rely on government efforts alone to combat terrorism, but all of us must be vigilant and “say something when we see something.”
When it comes to radical Islam, who, exactly, is expected to say something when they see something? It could be you, it could be me, it could be anyone but most likely it will be a member of the Muslim community who is most likely to recognize suspicious activity in that community.
Ted Cruz suggests patrolling by law enforcement of neighborhoods with a Muslim presence. Donald Trump recommends rounding up Muslims. Neither candidate has a clue.
Assuming it is the Muslim community which would be in the best position to recognize activity that could pose a terrorist threat, could we reasonably expect a member of that community to come forward with potentially important information if that member is, as is currently happening as a result of campaign rhetoric, ostracized by the rest of society?
In Europe much of the Muslim population is quartered in specific neighborhoods, ghettos so to speak, and isolated from the rest of the population. As we have seen from recent events in Paris and Brussels, such a set-up is more likely to lead to hiding the terrorist than coming forward to ward off terrorist activity.
In the United States that set-up has not been the case as we have seen immigrant populations, including the Muslim population, do a much better job of assimilating into the rest of society. As New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton stated in the aftermath of the Ted Cruz call for patrolling of Muslim neighborhoods, a large segment of the New York City police force is Muslim. The same can be said for the U.S. military.
The point of this is that if we wish to look at prevention as it relates to the deadly threat posed by ISIS, a good place to start is to stop alienating an entire population. Rather, we need to do a better job of inclusion so that those who are in a better position to actually “see something” will actually “say something.” By taking this approach of inclusion, not exclusion as both Cruz and Trump seem to prefer as a strategy, we may also reduce the attractiveness of such destructive forces as ISIS to those who have come to feel alienated from the rest of society.
If a member of society, any member, is made to feel like he or she has something worth protecting, they will be more apt to taking steps to protect it. That has always been the case for all ethnic groups who make it to America. It is just as important today as it has been throughout our history.