There is a lot to say about the massacre in Orlando. There is my sympathy for the victims and their loved ones, all of whom must be kept close in our hearts. They were victims of a horrible crime committed solely because of who they loved, a heartbreaking tragedy that we must always remember. There is my deep and abiding concern that the Republican Party continues to stoke these fires of hate, calling trans women “sexual predators” and warning about the awful dangers they pose to children, then affecting a pious pose of bland sympathy when their hateful rhetoric becomes hateful action. There is my strong feeling that this is a test that one candidate has failed so thoroughly, so disgustingly that we cannot possibly trust him with even a Twitter account, let alone the Oval Office. There is my belief that we have to correct our course on gun control. This cannot continue.
But one of the most important things to say, I’ve already said on my own blog. I’m reposting it here because I don’t really think it can ever be said enough and in enough places. I wrote this after Paris, but it is no less true today:
Okay. I am going to try to explain this calmly and reasonably.
The most pessimistic estimates of ISIL’s membership put it at about 200,000 worldwide. That includes non-combatants, support staffers, administrators and other political actors as well as fighters, but 200,000 is going to be our baseline estimate because it’s always good to think worst-case scenario.
There are currently 1.3 million active US military service members, with a further 850,000 on reserve. This is solely the number of men and women that America can put into the field; it does not count our traditional allies such as France, Great Britain, Canada, et cetera et cetera.
There are 1.47 billion practicing Muslims worldwide.
Take those three sets of numbers together, and you will see a picture of ISIL as a tiny guerrilla force unable to do anything more than inflict cruelty on the defenseless. They are out numbered more than 10 to 1 by the United States military alone, and we are far from alone in our opposition to ISIL. Even many of the countries we have historically had a troubled relationship with feel that an apocalyptic death cult doesn’t make a good neighbor. ISIL is politically isolated and counting on two things to help them in their struggle against the West.
One, they are counting on the fact that because they are small and we are large, we have more to defend and they can choose to strike us where we are not expecting it. This is in the nature of guerrilla warfare. It is utterly tragic, and it will mean that Paris is not the last place that ISIL attacks us, but the same tactics that make them effective as a guerrilla force make them ineffective as a conventional army. They are not able to destroy America. They are not able to destroy anybody. They are only able to inflict cruelty upon the helpless when nobody is watching.
Two, the only way that they can progress beyond their status as petty, vicious murderers is by reframing the issue from “ISIL against the world” to “Muslims against Christians”. As a crazy, hate-filled death cult, they are a weak military force that has drawn the attention of some of the most powerful armies in history. As defenders of the Muslim faith, they have a potential army of over a billion that they can recruit from. They are desperate, literally desperate to convince Muslims everywhere that the West hates all Muslims with the same passion that they hate ISIL and want to crush Islam entirely.
In other words, when Donald Trump says that we need to shut down all the mosques to prevent ISIL from gaining strength in America, or when Ted Cruz says that we don’t need to care about civilian casualties when fighting ISIL, they are making ISIL recruiting speeches. They are doing our enemy’s work for them, and it is a testament to the kindness and decency of the overwhelming majority of the people of the Islamic faith that they have refused to give in to the hatred that their supposed allies around the world hold for them.
That doesn’t mean that they don’t need to stop and stop now.