Donald Trump’s policies and actions will not stop terrorist attacks in the United States. I doubt that they will reduce them. They will increase attacks against civilian and military Americans in other countries, and they will increase terror attacks against unfortunate Muslims in the United States and abroad.
My conclusions arise from my view of Donald Trump and from my thoughts about the origins and nature of international jihadist terrorism and of terrorist attacks in the United States, which are not associated with Islam for the most part.
Trump is a racist, bigot, xenophobe, a flaming narcissist, and astonishingly ignorant. His narcissism and failure of empathy borders on sociopathy or psychopathy. His ignorance is more than lack of knowledge, but involves negative knowledge, as I can’t think of a better description. Much of what he confidently knows is false. Perhaps delusional is the word for it.
Trump’s anti-Muslim ban, advertised as a step to make us safe from terror attacks from immigrants and refugees, arises from his bigotry and his ignorance. It will be counter-productive and make us, and our allies, including Muslims, less safe.
Neither Trump nor his administration pay attention to the distinction between refugees and immigrants, but fruitful thought requires it. Trump believes that radical Islamic terrorism is a concatenation of synonyms. Indeed, here’s a Reuters report that the administration intends to rename the Countering Violent Extremism program the Countering Islamic Extremism program or the Countering Radical Islamic Extremism program. Snopes labeled this report Unproven saying that the change hadn’t been made and that the US government had other important programs that included other sources of terrorism in their missions. The idea, however, is consistent with what we know of Trump’s beliefs about Islam, Muslims, and terrorism.
Particularly telling, in my opinion, was Trump’s response to a question from the audience of the town hall style presidential debate. Considering the existing prejudice against American Muslims, a woman asked, what did the candidates intend to do to deal with Islamophobia? In his answer, Trump rejected the premise of the question. We have a problem, he said, because radical Islamic terrorists are attacking us. He knows, he admitted, that some Muslims are decent people, but they aren’t helping us against the many dangerous Muslims. As a matter of fact, American Muslims do co-operate with law enforcement to protect themselves and other Americans. Indeed, Muslims around the world are co-operating with the United States and other nations in the fight against radical jihadist killers in their midst.
Trump misunderstands the problem. As he is a narcissist, he thinks about this problem in so far as it relates to him. He believes that the violent Muslims fighters are out to take over the United States. Of course, many others believe this too. Hence, the many ignorant efforts to ban Sharia law in the United States. After the 9/11 attacks, President Bush explained that the killers attacked us because “they hate our freedom.” This is false. After an early misstep, President Bush learned not to describe our War on Terror, or our invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as a crusade.
President Bush, President Obama, and all responsible leaders of our counter-terrorism efforts rarely or never describe the terrorists as Islamic terrorists or even radical Islamic terrorists, but Trump considers these words a magic charm. Readers will remember that he attacked Hillary Clinton on this repeatedly during the debates. The reason why all responsible US leaders don’t openly associate Islam and terrorism is that they recognize the truth that we cannot defeat these terrorists without the help of Muslim nations and their people. Trump, however, believes that all Muslims are suspect by being Muslims. A tendency to brutal murderous violence is characteristic to them.
I don’t claim to be an expert in foreign policy, counter-terrorism, or in Islam. I consider myself an amateur student of history and of current events. From my reading and thought on the matter, I’d describe the sources of attacks against the US by some Muslims as collateral damage from a brutal, bloody, and immense struggle within the Islamic world. That world includes nearly a billion and a half people and extends from Indonesia to Morocco, and beyond. The people of this great culture remember centuries past when Islamic nations and people were the most advanced and dynamic civilization. They also remember that Christian Western nations and their people erupted from Europe and swarmed across the globe during the ages of exploration, of imperialism, and colonialism. Today, the West, including the United States, is the world’s dominant civilization, although imperialism and colonialism are gone. People from many non-Western nations wonder how this could have happened. Among Muslims, some have concluded that Muslims were insufficiently pious, had forgotten the teachings of Mohamed, and had emulated the evil ways of the West.
Intensely reading the Koran, where the solution must be found, some Muslims have concluded that a return to past glory requires a return to an imagined pious past, when Allah brought military and cultural victory, and wealth, to believers. These believers find in the Koran instructions for war against Islam’s enemies and against apostates from within. Jihad. These men have begun a now decades long struggle for power in Islamic nations. Hence the fact that this tiny minority among Muslims are mostly killing Muslims. They have killed or maimed untold thousands of Muslims, asserting that they are apostates or traitors.
The great majority of the world’s Muslims read the same words in the same Koran and find instructions to lead peaceful and charitable lives. Jihad for them refers to the internal spiritual struggle to live according to Allah’s will. These Muslims face life’s struggles while living in widely distinct cultural and national circumstances. Some live under dictators or authoritarian rule, as in Saudi Arabia or Syria, others in parliamentary democracies or constitutional monarchies, as in Turkey, Indonesia, or Morocco. Some live in Muslim majority nations, such as Pakistan and Bangladesh, others are minorities, as in India. Some of these nations are impoverished, other developing, some resource rich, some not. These people are the victims of the violent jihadis. The terrorists blow them up, shoot them, strangle and behead them. Sometimes these terrorists murder and kill innocents as part of their war on governments, and sometimes out of beliefs that their victims are not innocent, but apostates or false Muslims.
The peaceful Muslims look to their governments to protect them, which they do with varying degrees of success. Some of those governments are our friends and allies, others just ones with whom we have normal, peaceful relations. American and European nations have trade and commercial interests world-wide. As we are likely to support governments who are our friends and allies, the jihadists see us as meddling in local affairs and against them. They, for the most part are not interested in us or our society except to the extent that, as they see it, we are helping their enemies. This is the reason they attack us, when they can get their hands on us. Of course, in some of these nations, we are not just supporting the locals, but we are engaged in combat against the jihadists, as we are in Iraq and Syria against ISIS. When we do this, they seek ways to strike against us.
It is difficult for them to do this. The United States is far from the fight. It is hard for them to get at us. That’s why the attacks against us and our European allies have not been by fighters from war zones invading the West, but from tiny numbers of lone actors, inspired or encouraged from the war zones.
Even attacks such as 9/11 are more along the lines of threats intended to induce us to leave countries with civil struggles. Al Queda didn’t fly planes into our buildings to induce us to adopt Sharia law, or to conquer the United States.
In Syria, but not only there, the society has fallen into a bloody multi-sided civil war, and outside nations support some of the warring parties. This ferocious war has driven hundreds of thousands of Syrians into internal or external flight. These refugees, as defined by international law, deserve the world’s support. Most of them wish only to return to their homes when the fighting ends. They are fleeing the violent jihadists and the violent Syrian government and its allies.
Trump’s ban on accepting Syrian refugees is both cruel and uncivilized. Any terrorist group intending to attack US targets would be stupid to plan to use the world’s refugee programs to get their fighters into the US. The process takes about two years, and the outcome is uncertain. Refugees, who are 2/3rds women and children, are thoroughly scrutinized by the United Nations and by US officials. A terrorist who could elude detection during this scrutiny could certainly elude detection and enter the US with a tourist or student visa.
Trump has the odd idea that people who hate the United States are trying to come here. He wants to make sure that immigrants and refugees support American values. For two centuries and more, the United States, and the colonies before it, were havens to people suffering political and religious persecution and people who sought economic opportunity in our welcoming society. That is, people come here precisely because they support and admire our values and social and economic system. History shows that immigrants learn English, adopt American ways, work hard, fight in our army and navy, rear their children, eat at McDonalds and shop at WalMart. The immigrant generation, of course, remembers their original home, sometimes with fondness and regret and sometimes with relief to have escaped, the second generation is thoroughly American. Indeed, it is Trump who is trying to change America. Instead of openness and welcome to newcomers, he wants to pull up the welcome mat, shut the gates, and build a wall.
Just yesterday, Iran’s supreme leader thanked Trump for showing America’s true face with his anti-Muslim policies. We can be confident that the jihadists are over-joyed that Trump agrees with them that the West is at war with the world’s Muslims.