As any Ridgewood High School student knows by now, the Paris terrorist attacks of last month – which consisted of three suicide bombings, multiple public shootings, and the taking and killing of hostages resulting in roughly 130 deaths and 200 injuries – have completely dominated political discussion from the moment the story broke.
The most important political discussions right now happened at the Republican and Democratic presidential debates. Though terrorism was a prominent issue even before the attacks for the same reason it is after, the problem is incredibly amplified. The attacks occurred a day before the Second Democratic Debate, so an important question was how candidates would handle terrorism, specifically ISIS, if they were elected. During the Democratic presidential debate, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Martin O’Malley were all asked what foreign policy tactics they would employ. Terrorism has always been very important issue in the presidential race, and now, combined with the related refugee crisis coming from Syria, it is arguably the biggest one.
During times of war or foreign conflict, voters may very well cast their ballot for those with policies that are more conservative and militaristic, like the Republican candidates. The two front-runner Republicans, Donald Trump and Ben Carson, have no military experience, but neither do any of the popular candidates in either party. Trump plans to clean up the oil industry and “crooked banking system” which he thinks is holding ISIS up. Carson is also targeting oil companies and banks that are supporting ISIS, and wants to limit the terror group like all of the allies of the United States in the Middle East and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). Hillary Clinton plans to remove Bashar Al-Assad, Syria’s president, as a main target of ISIS in his regime.
When an entire country is concerned about terror, the candidates that stress security over other issues will likely be the most popular. Optimists like Bernie Sanders, who believes that climate change is still a great threat to the nation, may seem excluded to a certain extent by not agreeing with the stances on the most relevant issues of other candidates. Sanders says that he wants a response to terrorism that demands much more effort from Middle Eastern nations around areas of conflict, and that the United States should help. However, the nation would have to be extremely careful with drone strikes.
A more careful approach to world politics is necessary in the world that we live in. The media heightens the attention around issues like terrorism, especially after recent events in Paris, but at the same time it is important for policymakers to maintain a balance between crucial and the less salient issues.