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Islamic State the New Favorite of Fear Mongers

By: Malgorzata Lange - @MalgoLange - Oct 29, 2014, 9:35 am
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The Islamic State terrorist organization has exceeded the notorious brutality of parent-organization al-Qaeda. (Melty.es)

EspañolOver a decade has passed since former President George W. Bush launched the US War on Terror against extremist organizations in the Middle East and the governments that support them. In part, this campaign has been justified by the hazily defined existence of al-Qaeda, the group-turned-doctrine that came to encompass all things terrorist and fueled vehement political rhetoric across the United States.

The rise of al-Qaeda enabled enormous international undertakings, such as the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. On the domestic front, the Secure Border Initiative has been an effort by the Department of Homeland Security to cut down on illegal immigration by walling off the border with Mexico.

Now, insecurity in the Middle East and the perception of domestic insecurity in the United States are becoming more complex in the face of changing contingencies and challenges. The discussion is no longer focused on al-Qaeda and the Axis of Evil states that sponsor them, but rather on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and its adherents’ efforts to create a caliphate.

Meanwhile, the US population has remained vulnerable to fear mongering, despite more than 10 years of extraordinary measures taken by the federal government to ensure public safety.

Consider the wall erected along the Mexican border, to dissuade the broad group of clandestine transnational actors from the United States — chiefly immigrants, smugglers, and terrorists. It is a security measure in which the United States has invested considerable human and material resources.

However, the construction of the wall has been in vain. Every effort to strengthen it has thus far been negated by a deficiency of equal proportion, not to mention that those who seek to harm the United States have historically entered the country on international flights, not by way of the border.

Boogeyman 2.0

Thee years after the death of Osama Bin Laden, and al-Qaeda seems to have disappeared from the radar. Once a powerful discursive force, al-Qaeda-inspired rhetoric has been exhausted by overuse and notoriety. Yet from al-Qaeda has emerged the Islamic State, which in many ways has surpassed the fearsome image of the organization that created it.

Conservative and Republican politicos have already harnessed the Islamic State for political use, much as they have done with the Ebola virus, by citing a threat to national security.

Republicans have warned of a secret plot to ferry ISIS fighters across the border with Mexico for months, urging the United States to wake up to the porous Southern border. California Congressman Duncan Hunter even went so far as to claim that “at least 10 ISIS fighters have been caught coming across the Mexican border in Texas,” during an interview with Fox News earlier this year.

Although the Department of Homeland Security has denied the existence of any sort of ISIS plot to cross the Mexican border, media coverage has continued to breath life into the claim. The result is a favorable climate for tougher immigration and border-security policies.

The discourse is already laying the groundwork for action. This fear mongering will not cease until voters have agreed to build even higher walls that further seal off the border.

To paraphrase Texas Democrat Beto O’Rourke, the United States has long had a tendency to project fears and apprehensions at the border.

ISIS is real and frightening. But assuming that their fighters will come pouring across the border with Mexico is little more than a psychological maneuver to placate uncertainty and place the enemy on a map. Fear as a political recourse is both cheap and efficient, but nobody seems to notice the collateral damage produced over time. Confidence and security are easily lost and difficult to recover.

As the border is being sealed, it becomes a true monument to another myopic political strategy in a long line of poor domestic and international policies.

Translated by Peter Sacco. Edited by Fergus Hodgson.

Malgorzata Lange Malgorzata Lange

Malgorzata Lange is a native of Poland who lives in Santiago de Chile. She holds degrees in political science and international Relations, and is a PhD candidate at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. She is also a radio panelist on international politics issues. Follow @MalgoLange.