One of the bloodiest incidents in modern American history occurred in Las Vegas on Oct. 2. Stephen Paddock, a senior citizen from Nevada, rained fire on a country music festival, killing 59 people. In this article, we look at how this nightmare in Las Vegas will backfire on Donald Trump's domestic and foreign policy, and why the image of an outside enemy is so important.
Not much is known about Stephen Paddock, the dead gunman. He was 64 years old. He was a wealthy man who loved country music, played poker professionally and did not have any children. On the unfortunate evening of Oct. 2, he rented a room at the Mandalay Bay Hotel, from which he had an excellent view of the festival. After Paddock stopped shooting at the crowd, he committed suicide.
Less than a day later, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the shooting. Representatives of this organization, which is prohibited in Russia, announced that the “combat name” of the gunman was Abu Abdul Barr al-Amriki. According to the Islamic State group, the gunman carried out a direct assignment from the leader of the organization, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Almost immediately, the FBI stated that there was no connection between the gunman and the Islamic State group. Nevertheless, the investigation into this tragedy has not yet been completed, and it is too early to jump to conclusions. If Islamic terrorism indeed has a connection with the shooting in Las Vegas, then Trump will obviously capitalize on it.
So, if the shooting was indeed perpetrated by the Islamic State group, how will it help the president? In the same way that 9/11 helped Trump’s predecessor, George W. Bush. Firstly, the shooting will prompt the country to unite against the “foreign enemy.” Secondly, the shooting provides carte blanche for implementation of a tough foreign policy toward the Middle East.
The collapse of the twin towers overshadowed domestic problems in the U.S. in favor of solving the antiterrorist question. Faced with global terrorism, Bush felt justified in unleashing a campaign of unprecedented scale and violence in the Middle East. It is unlikely that such a campaign could have been possible before 9/11 – it would absolutely have been censured by society and would not have overcome legislative obstacles.
In terms of its scale and public response, the shooting in Las Vegas is, of course, inferior to 9/11 – although, on the other hand, there has never been such a massive public murder in the U.S., and Oct. 2 will certainly go down in history as one of the country’s darkest days. If a connection between the gunman and the Islamic State group is proven, then it will be much easier for Trump in terms of both domestic and foreign policy. His passionate speech about the tough and uncompromising fight against terrorism will no longer be perceived as routine trash talk. The FBI will recognize that it was wrong. Anti-Islamic legislative acts will be substantiated, and military operations justified.
Additionally, if the Islamic State group had no connection to the shooting, then the foundation of Trump’s policies and positions face a very serious problem: too much symbolism. The killer is American, and it all happened in Las Vegas at a country music festival – all symbols of the United States. It turns out that there is no need for a wall on the border with Mexico, no need for anti-Islamic laws, no need for intimidating rhetoric and exaggerating images of outside enemies if, inside the country, authorities were asleep at the moment when a mad citizen started shooting at his compatriots.