After the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris we now have a choice: We can either calmly come up with a rational plan to take on this very, very real threat or we can give ISIS everything it wants.
And Republicans, it appears, have decided they're going to give ISIS everything it wants.
You see, ISIS, like all terrorist groups, thrives on backlash.
It isn't just trying to win physical battles. It's trying to win propaganda battles, and for ISIS, the best propaganda victory is when it gets to portray itself as the sole, legitimate protector of Muslims all over the world.
Since the vast majority of ISIS' victims are Muslims themselves, this isn't exactly the easiest thing to do.
And so, ISIS has decided to attack the West in the hopes that doing so will provoke a backlash against Muslims that's so strong that European Muslims will start to believe its sick, twisted version of Islam and join the fight in Iraq and Syria.
This is literally what ISIS says it wants to do.
As one of ISIS's leading propagandists explained in a manifesto called "The Extinction of the Grayzone" that was published earlier this year, most Muslims in the West actually oppose extremism and have to be converted to the jihadist cause.
The best way to do this, this propagandist went on to explain, was to conduct terror attacks against the West that through their sheer violence provoked a vicious backlash against Muslims.
Once this backlash starts, he wrote, "The Muslims in the West will quickly find themselves between one of two choices, they either apostatize and adopt the [infidel] religion propagated by Bush, Obama, Blair, Cameron, Sarkozy and Hollande in the name of Islam so as to live amongst the [infidels] without hardship, or they [emigrate] to the Islamic State and thereby escape persecution from the crusader governments and citizens."
This backlash strategy also holds true in the Middle East, where ISIS hopes it can get Western powers to kill Muslim civilians and thus position itself as a defender of the faithful against the evil crusaders.
So, now that ISIS has made it very clear to everyone why it's attacking the West, you'd think that our politicians and elected leaders would do everything they can to not fall into its trap... right?
You'd think that they would do everything they could to make sure that ISIS' cynical propaganda fell on deaf ears... right?
As Max Blumenthal, points out over at AlterNet, Western leaders are now falling right into line with ISIS' "grayzone" strategy.
The problem is, not surprisingly, particularly bad in France, where in the wake of Friday's attacks politicians have demanded everything from the destruction of mosques, internment camps for "radicals" and a ban on Muslim immigration.
In a country that already clearly has a problem with religious extremism, a problem made worse by discrimination, a headscarf ban and widespread Islamophobia, ideas like this aren't going to help anyone.
They're just going to make it all the more likely that some unemployed North African immigrant sees what's going on around him and decides that hey, ISIS isn't so wrong after all.
And here's the thing, counterproductive Islamophobia isn't just a problem in France. It's a problem here in the US as well.
Republican presidential candidates have wasted no time in exploiting the Paris attacks as a way to prove who's "tougher" on terrorism, and in doing so, they've fallen right into ISIS' trap.
Ted Cruz, for example, has called on the Obama administration to carpet bomb Syria and Iraq because ISIS "will not be deterred by targeted airstrikes with zero tolerance for civilian casualties."
Nothing would help ISIS more than the US killing Muslims civilians, but apparently helping ISIS is exactly what Senator Cruz wants to do.
But Cruz isn't the only Republican presidential candidate doing his part to hand ISIS big time propaganda victories.
During an appearance on ABC's "This Week" this week Marco Rubio called the fight against ISIS "a clash of civilizations."
That's exactly what ISIS wants to hear - that it's a legitimate representation of Islamic "civilization," as opposed to what most scholars think it is: an extremist offshoot supported by people who have about as much a connection to Islam as Olympic stadium bomber Eric Rudolph does to Christianity.
So thanks for that, Marco.
I can't believe you'd be such an idiot as to give ISIS the legitimacy it so obviously craves - although George W. Bush did the same thing for al-Qaeda in 2001 - maybe it's just a Republican thing to love authoritarian religious zealots.
And then there's Donald Trump, who said on "Morning Joe" this week that he would think about shutting down US mosques in response to the threat posed by ISIS.
Never mind for a second the obvious First Amendment problems here, and just think about optics.
Shutting down mosques would be the ultimately propaganda victory for ISIS.
It would make it seem like the war on terror actually is about attacking Islam and not about taking down a group of radicals who, by the way, mostly kill Muslims.
This really shouldn't be that complicated
Taking out ISIS, if that's what we want do to, is going to be very, very difficult.
It's a terrorist group that controls territory across two countries, and we may not be able to defeat it by military means alone.
And because of that - especially because of that - we need to be careful that we don't give ISIS any more easy propaganda victories - particularly victories that they have literally told us that they want us to give them.
Now, more than ever, is the time for tolerance and not hate, because hate will only fuel a backlash that's guaranteed to cause more terror in the future.