How to lose the War on Terror

Robin Wright:

On Wednesday, a draft executive order circulated that would call for an end to all processing and admission of Syrian refugees in the United States “until such time as I have determined that sufficient changes have been made.” The arrival of Temple Sinai’s refugee family, who have been waiting for years and come so close to finding a safe haven, could now be put off indefinitely “or forever,” Dettelbach told me. “They were vetted to an inch of their lives. It’s insane to hold them accountable for what is going on in their country—or in our country.”

The restriction would be part of a wide-ranging, eight-page document titled “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals.” It would also halt all refugee admissions and resettlements from any country for the next four months, to allow for a review of vetting procedures. It would order an immediate thirty-day halt to the admission of all people—even for business or trade, family reasons, humanitarian emergencies, or tourism—from Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen, as well as Syria. Trump would also cut the number of visas for refugees worldwide by more than half, to fifty thousand, for 2017…

A recent report by the international-security program of New America, a Washington think tank, echoes the Rand study. “Far from being foreign infiltrators, the large majority of jihadist terrorists in the United States have been American citizens or legal residents,” it said. Even more notable, “every jihadist who conducted a lethal attack inside the United States since 9/11 was a citizen or legal resident. In addition about a quarter of the extremists are converts, further confirming that the challenge cannot be reduced to one of immigration.” …

The terrorism threat from Syrian refugees is low for three reasons, according to Dan Byman, a staff member of the 9/11 Commission, which in 2011 conducted the official inquiry into the Al Qaeda attacks. “First, very few among the refugees support the terrorists,” Byman, now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told me. “Second, the vetting for the refugees is extensive. Third, the American Muslim community has consistently shown itself to be hostile to terrorism and reports most of the few suspects in their ranks.”

The real danger is the rippling effect that the order would have on allies and enemies—and even at home. Trump’s decision, Byman said, would discourage other countries from taking in refugees. It could legitimize or fuel anti-immigration movements that have been gaining ground across Europe. It could indefinitely set adrift almost five million Syrians sitting in camps in Turkey (2.8 million), Lebanon (one million), Jordan (six hundred and fifty-five thousand), Iraq (two hundred and thirty thousand), and Egypt (a hundred and sixteen thousand), where employment opportunities are often nonexistent and education is limited. The kids have few outlets; they are susceptible to criminal and extremist groups. Inside Syria, another six and a half million people are displaced, or forced from their homes; many want to flee.

Jihadi movements—the Islamic State, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and dozens of smaller groups—will almost certainly exploit the move as proof that the West is at war with world’s 1.7 billion Muslims. In a recruitment video last year, an Al Qaeda branch in Somalia showed footage of Trump, then on the campaign trail, proposing his ban of all Muslims from the United States. [emphasis mine]

Or, nicely summed up in this tweet:

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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