Last week a friend and I were discussing what was the single most pressing issue of our present day. (And I asked this again on my facebook page.) Surprisingly, he felt that terrorism was and, even more surprisingly, he was concerned that President Obama was going to take our guns. (He and I had never discussed politics before, so this was a new side of him that I had not yet seen.)
I pointed out that President Obama has been President for seven years and he has not taken any guns, and that in fact gun sales have been at an all time high–due in large part to the NRA, the Republicans and the media stoking irrational fears and hate (targeting primarily blue collar men that were once able to support their families on a single paycheck.)
We live in Southern California and he pointed to the recent San Bernardino shootings. I countered with the fact that if it weren’t so easy for anyone and everyone to get their hands on as many weapons and as much ammunition as possible, we would be having a different conversation. He then admitted that weapons should not be so easily obtained by crazy people. I thanked him for making my point: exhaustive background checks. If you are against them, you are part of the problem.
The conversation then turned to ISIS. I pointed out that ISIS is in fact a very small–if not completely insane–group of people. Especially when you compare it to the United States. Not just the number of actual members, but their geographic coverage and–ahem–budget. (Not to mention that mosquitoes kill far more people every year than ISIS ever will. And we aren’t freaking out about them.)
Let’s compare ISIS to the United States:
- For context, the 2014 census calculates the population of California at 38.8million. In 2014 the number of ISIS fighters was estimated at about 20,000. Or roughly the same as the population of Hermosa Beach, California.
- ISIS’s stock pile of weapons is equivalent to approximately 3 American military divisions. Near as I can tell, the United States Army has 15 active divisions with many more that are on standby, like the Marines, the Navy (with 13 SEAL teams alone), the Air Force, the Coast Guard, the National Guard and don’t forget about local law enforcement including SWAT teams.
- ISIS generates about $1.46billion–according to highest estimates–annually, primarily from activities like carjacking, bank robberies, extortion and kidnapping. I was unable to determine what their estimated expenses are. The United States military budget is almost $600Billion. Annually.
- ISIS is believed to control about 90,000 square kilometers in Syria and Iraq, which is about the size of Jordan. Or Indiana. (feeling any safer yet?)
Or as President Obama put it on NPR:
“This is not an organization that can destroy the United States. This is not a huge industrial power that can pose great risks to us institutionally or in a systematic way. But they can hurt us, and they can hurt our people and our families.”
Obama blamed the media in part for fears, saying that in the past month “all you have been seeing, all you have been hearing about is these guys with masks or black flags who are potentially coming to get you.”
“The media is pursuing ratings, this is a legitimate news story. I think it’s up to the media how they want to cover this. There is no doubt the actions of ISIL are designed to amplify their power and the threat that they pose,” he added, using the administration’s preferred acronym for the terrorist group.