The Republican Right: Al-Qaeda’s Unwitting Hype Men?

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s alleged terrorism attempt demonstrates that Al-Qaeda no longer has the juice to conduct large-scale attacks. But Republicans are singing the same old tune—and playing into Osama Bin Laden’s hands.

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Getty Images

The substantive objections the GOP has to Obama’s national security policiesbeyond his decision to outlaw torture and close Guantanamoare few. Even George W. Bush and John McCain wanted to close Gitmo before Republicans realized they had another opportunity to stoke American fears to their advantage. Consider the polices that Republicans now advocate: Keeping Gitmo open;. torturing detainees in American custody or treating Muslim Americans differently from everyone else simply because they are Muslim. These policies only work to al-Qaeda’s advantage by making their complaints against the West look substantive, supporting the idea that Islam is locked in a “clash of civilizations” with the West.

The GOP’s attempts to inflate the threat of terrorism has had terrible consequences for American interests in the past—although the strategy has clearly worked politically. In their attempts to exploit American fears of terrorism, the right’s terrorism hawks have become al-Qaeda’s most reliable hype men.

The tragedy is that a panicked superpower willing to fight terrorism by abandoning its democratic institutions and overextending itself through prolonged military conflicts is exactly the kind of outcome Osama bin Laden had in mind in the first place.

Adam Serwer is a writing fellow at the American Prospect.