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Letter: Fear has become a political strategy

In a recent letter appearing on this page, Republican State Sen. Torrey Westrom warns against allowing Syrian refugees to settle in Minnesota. He joins with other Republicans in stirring up politically orchestrated hysteria around Syrian refugees.

This occurs against the daily reports of domestic terrorism in the form of gun-wielding Americans against other Americans, most recently in Colorado Springs.

It is remarkable how closely the tactics of ISIL leaders and the tactics of Republican leaders correspond with each other. Both use fear as a tactic to achieve political advantage.

The foot soldiers of ISIL are losers who are attracted by an ideology that seems to give purpose and meaning to their otherwise meaningless lives, a sense of being in on something really important.

In contrast, the leaders of ISIL are intellectuals, chess players, and strategic thinkers. They use the most extreme forms of terror, not for its sake, but as bait. Their strategic goal is to draw the U.S. and the West to stumble into a major ground war in the Middle East. Their ideology is apocalyptic. They believe that we are living in the end times. Does that sound familiar?

In their vision the modern Crusaders of the West are drawn into a great war in the Middle East. Muslims pour in from throughout the world to confront the Crusaders. It all ends up in a great battle in a designated Syrian town that will mark a great military victory for their side and the end of time.

Sure, it’s nuts, but we need only look around or look back in history to see how nutty ideas can motivate people to do great harm. And what about the Republican use of fear for political gain? It is as simple as it is cynical. If voters are motivated primarily by fear, they will more likely vote Republican. If they are more concerned that America has become very unfair and that things need to change internally, they are more likely to vote Democratic.

We need to think before fear causes us to dive off the deep end.

John H. Burns