Against the backdrop of bad Republican arguments for positing war with “radical Islam,” in stumbles Ben Carson to underscore the importance of calibrating our language, not just for empathic reasons, but for strategic ones too. In defending the view that the U.S. should reject Syrian refugees, Carson compared them to dogs that might possibly be infected with rabies.
“If there’s a rabid dog running around in your neighborhood, you’re probably not going to assume something good about that dog,” Carson said at an event in Alabama this week. “And you’re probably going to put your children out of the way. That doesn’t mean that you hate all dogs.”
Conservatives will play like this isn’t outright bigotry and fear mongering. But they can’t play like Carson hasn’t once again revealed stunning cultural and geopolitical obliviousness.
To the practicing Muslims we hope to enlist against ISIS, dogs are unclean and disfavored animals, and to compare a Muslim to a dog is a profound insult. This isn’t some obscure dogma. It’s there for anyone with the patience to Google two words. Whatever their private views, most serious Republican foreign policy eminences would advise against antagonizing potential allies with heedlessly inflammatory language like this. But if they recognize the strategic value in not antagonizing Muslim populations, they’re basically ceding the point that “war against radical Islam” language is barely concealed incitement.