Currently, America is in a fight for the hearts and minds of a number of young, impressionable people with the tech savvy, media slick ISIS operation. And Dr. Carson's comments about Muslims just gave ISIS a huge boost in recruiting, just to net some campaign bucks and a few primary votes.
Our foreign policy team will tell you that ISIS doesn't have a lot of powerful weapons, other than the ones they captured of ours from the Iraqi Army. Their recruits are raw, though growing every day. And they've got quite a pipeline from the United States and West Europe, drawing in thousands of new fighters, thanks to a well-oiled ISIS propaganda machine.
A combination of studying Western culture and a few defectors who had lived in the West has given Team ISIS a slew of videos and social media access that combine video game shorts, clips from movies, and an enticing call to fight evil regimes like Syria's Bashar al-Assad.
Of course, many who show up realize the truth, often too late. Others delude themselves, buy into the message, and work to gain new recruits, using everything from hip magazines to tweets, YouTube productions, and know the power of Instagram better than our own government, or even al-Qaeda ever could with their low-tech operations. And yes, they unload on President Barack Obama and Senator John McCain all the time.
For all their "cool" recruiting ploys, ISIS began to run into trouble. Those beheadings and burnings exposed ISIS for the lie that they are. And our own government slowly began to mock ISIS' message in much the same style, showing their own unholy war on innocents. Suddenly, victory on the battlefield or in cyberspace no longer seemed inevitable for ISIS.
But then, ISIS got a gift in the form of a naïve political candidate in Dr. Ben Carson, who said that Muslims should not be allowed to be President of the United States. As an expert on combatting ISIS noted this of Western countries: "The rising xenophobia on display at the moment plays very well into their narrative," according to a piece in Business Insider.
Rather than admit his mistake, and actually read the Constitution that he claims to love (which insists there should be no religious litmus test for presidential candidates), Dr. Carson continued to defend his remarks. And his campaign manager bragged about the number of Facebook likes and campaign dollars Dr. Carson was able to raise with that publicity stunt, designed to boost his electoral fortunes. Carson himself crowed about getting a million dollars since he made those remarks.
But thankfully, this is a country where leaders like Senator Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton actually read the U.S. Constitution, and could explain the law to Dr. Carson. This is a country where nearly every other candidate condemned Carson's comments, showing great bipartisan unity in the process.
It was a great time to remind the confused potential American recruit that we have Muslims in Congress, and Muslims have also been appointed to key positions of power by no less than Presidential candidate Chris Christie. It was a good time to show that a majority of Americans disagree with Carson, and would vote for a Muslim for U.S. President. And we also showed that conservatives, moderates and liberals will stand up to someone who tries to use discrimination for his or her own personal political gain. That's the message ISIS doesn't want their potential dupes to hear.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.