North Africa, West Asia

Trump is creating a real threat to security by trumpeting a false one

The order is not only morally reprehensible and legally problematic; it is also strategically irresponsible and will create real security risks for the United States.

Julie Norman
30 January 2017
 Idaho Statesman/TNS/ABACA ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved.

Andrew Lynes of Boise, Idaho joins a group of more than 600 people protesting President Donald Trump's refugee policy on January 29, 2017 at the Boise Airport. Idaho Statesman/TNS/ABACA ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved.Trump’s executive order banning nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries (including war-torn Syria) and temporarily halting the admission of all refugees is first and foremost an affront to humanitarianism, rightly characterised by Dylan Matthews as a ‘triumph of cruelty’ towards those fleeing war and persecution.

From the thousands of individuals whose lives are being affected by the order, to the collective sense of ‘this isn’t who we are,’ the order undercuts the core values that the United States purports to stand for as it dismisses any sense of compassion.

the new order is not only immoral, it is also illegal, under both US domestic law and US obligations to the 1951 Convention on Refugees

As we have seen in the US and elsewhere in the past, ethics are often outweighed by other considerations in the formulation of policy. However, the new order is not only immoral, it is also illegal, under both US domestic law and US obligations to the 1951 Convention on Refugees, the Convention Against Torture (CAT), and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

Judicial rulings in Brooklyn, Boston, and Virginia were quick to block the enforcement of the order, but so far only in temporary, limited ways. Still, the legal arguments against the order can give more traction to purely moral protestations.

The order is not only morally reprehensible and legally problematic; it is also strategically irresponsible and will create real security risks for the United States.

The administration has rationalised the order in the name of security, though as Zack Beauchamp brilliantly illustrates, you are more likely to be killed by your own clothes than by an immigrant terrorist. (For anyone still concerned, both the US and the UNHCR (the UN agency responsible for refugee resettlement) already vet refugees extensively, so that typical processing already takes an average of 18 to 24 months.)

In reality, the actual security threat will come from Trump’s executive order.

As Senator John McCain and others have pointed out, the order only feeds ISIS propaganda and supports claims that the United States is fighting Islam rather than fighting terrorism.

Yet even more immediately, the order will compromise US counterterrorism efforts in Iraq, Syria, and Libya where US military, intelligence, diplomacy, and development agencies rely heavily on local partnerships.

These partnerships, in which local individuals who serve as translators, fixers, and colleagues do so with great risk to themselves and their families, will be severely compromised if the US cannot offer any protection in the form of visas.

In sum, the order is morally, legally, and strategically wrong. Challenging it effectively will require not only public protest and dedicated legal teams, but also those in the military and security sectors to speak up to counter Trump’s false claims and politics of fear. 

Can there be a green populist project on the Left?

Many on the Left want to return to a politics based on class, not populism. They point to Left populist parties not reaching their goals. But Chantal Mouffe argues that as the COVID-19 pandemic has put the need for protection from harm at the top of the agenda, a Left populist strategy is now more relevant than ever.

Is this an opportunity for a realignment around a green democratic transformation?

Join us for a free live discussion on Thursday 22 October, 5pm UK time/12pm EDT.

Hear from:

Paolo Gerbaudo Sociologist and political theorist, director of the Centre for Digital Culture at King’s College London and author of ‘The Mask and the Flag: Populism and Global Protest’ and ‘The Digital Party: Political Organisation and Online Democracy’, and of the forthcoming ‘The Great Recoil: Politics After Populism and Pandemic’.

Chantal Mouffe Emeritus Professor of Political Theory at the University of Westminster in London. Her most recent books are ‘Agonistics. Thinking the World Politically’, ‘Podemos. In the Name of the People’ and ‘For a Left Populism’.

Spyros A. Sofos Researcher and research coordinator at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University and author of ‘Nation and Identity in Contemporary Europe’, ‘Tormented by History’ and ‘Islam in Europe: Public Spaces and Civic Networks'.

Chair: Walid el Houri Researcher, journalist and filmmaker based between Berlin and Beirut. He is partnerships editor at openDemocracy and lead editor of its North Africa, West Asia project.

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