You wouldn't expect an obscure presidential candidate from Pennsylvania to be the voice of reason. But he is. When it comes to fighting terrorism as we know it, John Kasich (R-OH) just gets it.
"We must be more forceful in the battle of ideas," Kasich said in a speech on Tuesday. "U.S. public diplomacy and international broadcasting have lost their focus on the case for Western values and ideals ... I will consolidate them into a new agency that has a clear mandate to promote the core, Judeo-Christian Western values".
The Washington Post likened this to a propaganda agency. I liken it to brilliance (consequently, I was also likened to an Islamophobe on Facebook, but that's a different story.)
Let's explain what he means. Better yet, have him explain: "values of democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of association." (To my Facebook friends: freedom of religion is not Islamophobic. It's the opposite.)
So by "Judeo-Christian Western values," Kasich really means values that most Americans and our allies naturally share, namely freedom. The idea that we can have an open society. And while we may take this for granted, remember that terror groups like ISIS think otherwise.
"We join a mass movement to escape individual responsibility, or, in the words of the ardent young Nazi, 'to be free from freedom,'" Eric Hoffer wrote in his famous The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements. What ISIS understands is the very human impulse to avoid responsibility.
ISIS isn't new. It brings us back to some of our most basic needs, such as feeling like there are solutions to our problems, that the world isn't really all that complicated. ISIS ideology let's us embrace our inner child.
Which is why it's dangerous. We need to recognize the potency of their way of thinking, because we need to fight fire with fire. Make no mistake: This is a war of ideas. This is a battle of philosophy. Because at the end of the day, it's our society vs. theirs. And they're winning.
They're making their case in a way that moves people. Frustrated, vulnerable people -- the worst kind of fighters. The kind willing to commit death.
Our mantra can't be less compelling than theirs.
Back to Kasich. Remember that the pledge of allegiance didn't always exist, and that it was created in the wake of the American Civil War, at the time when the country was most divided. Unity needs to be instituted. Patriotism has to be active.
People don't adopt the idea of freedom as quickly as we think -- just look at the Nazis. Or any popular fascists, for that matter. Anti-freedom is also attractive. Worse, it paves the way for dictator-like leaders, and the more collectively lost we become as a society, the more likely we are to crave a strongman in the Oval Office.
Kasich is not a strongman. He comes across as a weak man, unfortunately, and is not doing very well on the polls. He will probably lose (but hey: at this time in the election cycle future President Jimmy Carter was a virtual unknown too, so you never know.)
Still, Kasich's proposal is right on the money. We need to reinstitutionalize patriotism. We need to reincorporate our values. And if history is any indicator, we ought to do it sooner rather than later.