Trump’s “Muslim Travel Ban” will yield few practical benefits while boosting anti-Americanism around the globe. Yet, Trump’s doing it – because HE CAN.
A nation and its leadership should be able to employ any reasonable measures in the event of a national security threat, and even more so if it is a superpower.
That said, new US President Donald Trump’s ban on immigration and travel from seven Muslim Middle Eastern countries, which has become known as “the Muslim travel ban,” is a weird policy decision possibly made for propaganda purposes.
It will probably produce little practical benefit to America’s security, but will boost anti-Americanism around the globe and in the Middle East, and in the Muslim world in particular.
Does It Make Any Sense?
The aptly titled “Executive Order Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” signed by Trump on January 27, 2017, which also includes a temporary ban on accepting refugees, targets the citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
Weird, I know. How can any such measure (its questionable security benefits aside!) be complete without the likes of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, and Qatar, or even less risky countries such as Oman, Jordan, or Morocco, from where radical Islamist terrorists are also known to have originated? And what about Afghanistan and Pakistan?
Clearly, the criteria for selecting these particular Muslim Middle Eastern countries seem so arbitrary that somebody even came up with the explanation that the states from the Middle East which are excluded from the list are the ones where Trump has done business.
That’s probably wrong as per the simplest of rules: that correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation. But such an explanation does reflect the seeming randomness of the picks.
More logical and credible explanations, however, point in other directions. First of all, the Muslim travel ban seems like a great policy choice to do good by and rally up further support from his core electoral base: the “alt right,” white supremacists, and the wider Christian right.
Second, since the Muslim travel ban has sparked mass protests and generated legal questions, and rightfully so, it seems like a great way of diverting public attention from policy decisions that matter even more than this one.
Third, which is also very, very important when you are talking about Trump, who seems eager to be taken as seriously as Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, China’s President Xi Jinping, or even Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan, and the like: Trump is doing it because he can.
It doesn’t matter that these notable individuals don’t exactly preside over democracies.
From Trump’s point of view, that might be even why they are worthy: being able to make all kinds of decisions by ignoring their parliaments, oppositions (if any), media (if any, other than propaganda mouthpieces), the “liberals” (if any are still alive)—that sounds like Trump’s cup of tea.
And probably not because he is an aspiring dictator—that’s just his style as a real estate tycoon and a reality TV star.
What better way to demonstrate your worth as a strong leader, even a strongman, than by pushing through a dubious policy that’s going to drive your main opponents mad?
In addition to all else, or nothing else, US President Donald Trump’s “Muslim travel ban” seems like obnoxious political bravado, the kind of fickle posturing that only the Donald can afford to do because he is the Donald, and now he’s also the most powerful man on Earth.
Practical Benefits, Anyone?
The practical benefits of the “Muslim travel ban” are not exactly obvious. It’s not impossible that a whole constellation of international security experts came up with the country list and the specific restrictive measures.
(Either that, or someone in Trump’s inner circle was playing darts on a Middle East map.)
But what national security purpose does the ban serve? What is there that the world’s mightiest superpower would have been unable to do in terms of analyzing the security risks from the said countries without a blanket ban on their citizens leading to preventing really elderly women from visiting their grandkids in the States?!
Believing that a travel ban can be absolutely instrumental for US security is like believing that international (primarily Islamist) terrorism is an existential threat to the US.
A threat it is, no doubt. Yet, it’s not an existential one unless it gets its dirty hands on a dozen nuclear warheads and the means to deliver them. Hence, the actual existential threat to America is nuclear proliferation, not terrorism.
Terrorism can be anywhere from annoying to deadly and must be tackled with a wide range of measures.
But how can it, as a menace for the US, be compared with a nuclear exchange with Russia, China, or even North Korea?
Once again, I do believe that any sovereign nation (especially if it is democratic) should be entitled to introduce these kinds of policies if they lead to reasonable national security benefits. (The billion-dollar word here is “reasonable,” and it could mean a lot of things!)
If anything, Trump’s “Muslim travel ban” can be making America less, not more secure by, for example, flipping in favor of anti-Americanism whatever pro-American moderates there might have been in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
What is more, the US authorities could have introduced additional, tighter, highly efficient security measures quietly, without the pomposity and bravado, and without turning that elderly Iraqi woman at Los Angeles Airport into Tom Hanks in “The Terminal.”
Why couldn’t the US security authorities have let those harmless individuals through while still carrying out their security reviews and instituting better policies?
Perhaps it is because the Donald and his inner circle have had to make good on his Muslim-bashing campaign promises?
Yes, he can! (No pun intended with his predecessor Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan.)
Already Making Good on Promises
In case anybody hasn’t noticed, President Donald J. Trump has actually been making good on many of his highly questionable campaign promises, contrary to what pundits have been dismissing as mere campaign posturing (also known as “lying”).
While the common folk (working and middle class) in the US, Europe, and elsewhere in the West have become fed up with the political establishment, electing a reality TV star/real estate billionaire as president without seriously questioning his intended policies has hardly been the smartest thing in the world.
In his first couple of weeks, Trump has already put forth so many things that are genuine reasons to protest — like abandoning the TPP, disparaging the EU, seeking to undo NAFTA, bashing the media, and what have you.
Not to mention his insulting comments toward specific groups or individuals (but, hey, in a world of political correctness going to extremes you get a reaction that’s going to extremes, like, say, making the Donald the most powerful man on Earth).
It is true that American and European liberals are often utterly delusional about Muslim immigrants, not because those immigrants or their religion is bad, or anything of the sort, but because, not unlike immigrants who come from nominally Christian, Buddhist, etc. “Third World”, or even “Second World” countries, they happen to come from essentially pre-modern (pre-industrial, traditional) societies.
Jumping ahead not just in space but also in time into a post-modern, global society like the US or Western Europe often proves to be “too much,” so “Third World” immigrants tend to stick together and cling to their “culture” and “religion,” which often is in fact a pre-modern (not even modern, i.e. 20th century, and certainly not postmodern) way of life.
This sociological explanation warrants additional analysis, but I am convinced that it is the most credible one when it comes to problems with Muslim or other immigration into the West.
Of course, there is no denying that local xenophobia coupled with hypocrisy in Western countries is a whole other debilitating factor in that regard.
While Trump’s controversial policy decision about his “Muslim travel ban” might be enjoyed by his core demographics, it’s doing next to nothing to advance US interests.
While President Obama’s foreign policy legacy is largely disappointing, Trump’s seeming “erring at the front” is more destructive than Obama’s “leading from behind.” It has been terrible international publicity and has further poisoned the domestic political climate in the US.
President Trump’s “Muslim travel ban” is much bravado about nothing.
The damage that it will end up doing to both America’s standing and international peace, however, might be incalculable.
Any contribution is appreciated!
*Note: An earlier version of this article appeared on intelligencerpost .com.