Karl Vick writes: ISIS may be losing ground in Iraq and Syria, but things are very much moving its way on the next battleground: the realm of terrorist attacks like the truck rampage in Berlin. The group thrives on the kind of clash-of-civilizations rhetoric frequently invoked by populist politicians across the West — especially President-elect Donald Trump, who as a candidate famously declared, “I think Islam hates us.”
Counterterrorism experts warn that Trump’s them-against-us approach both encourages extremists and makes it harder to detect their plots, by discouraging cooperation from moderate Muslims. The likely result is a dangerously escalating cycle of attacks and reactions that fuel more attacks.
“There’s a pretty perfect storm brewing, insofar as the rise of populist nationalism in Europe and in the United states plays perfectly into the terrorists’ narrative,” Daniel Benjamin, a former counterterrorism chief at the State Department who is now at Dartmouth, tells TIME. “As we know, ISIS was using Donald Trump in its propaganda to try to enhance its recruitment. It’s now in a much better position to make the case that the West really is determined to destroy Islam and it’s an unalterable enemy, as it has been characterized since bin Laden.” [Continue reading…]