Terrorist groups like al Qaeda have gone out of their way to frame the War on Terror as a religious war; as a war not just against them, but against Islam as a whole. Whenever ill-informed pundits and politicos use the actions of a few to tar a culturally and doctrinally diverse group of over a billion people, they make al Qaeda's argument for them. Every time Muslims hear their religion is inherently violent or sick, or that they are by definition incapable of tolerance, Osama bin Laden's obscene philosophy gains a little strength.
Another way in which War on Terror partisans make life easier for the terrorists is by exaggerating the scope of the international terrorism "apparatus" in an effort to underline the threat we face. That's not to say there isn't a threat. There is, and it's grave. That said, attributing all of the various terror cells and splinter groups to one massive and far-reaching conspiracy — turning myriad ragged bunches of nihilists into a monolith of pure evil — confers an exaggerated power onto them. It's a power they would greatly like to possess, and couldn't without our help.
If we in the United States and the Western world as a whole are serious about confronting the problem of international terrorism and geopolitical upheaval, we need to be far more nuanced in our thinking. The problems are too real and too complex to be dumbed down for the election cycle and used as a battering ram against domestic political enemies.
The current administration has proven itself utterly incapable of taking anything other than an opportunistic and cynical approach to the problems of our age. The political opposition shows no signs of being any different in this respect.
And that's election season in a nutshell. Happy voting!