Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Trump's Muslim Ban and Foriegn Policy by Imagination

What twitter hashtag should we use to describe this newest Trump executive order? #TravelBan or #MuslimBan? Which is more accurate depends on your perspective, I suppose. Opponents of the measure call it a Muslim Ban because that's the clear intent here. Trump and his supporters want to ban Muslim immigration, let's not dance around this fact. Yet his supporters point out that this order is limited in scope, does not cover all Muslim nations, and is "temporary". This is actually the kind of illogic that Trump and his government intended when they wrote this order. It's a cloud of dishonesty, creating confusion and nonsense.

Trump supporters believe that this executive order is both a Muslim ban and it isn't. To them, the president fulfilled his campaign promise to ban Muslim immigration, while arguing that he did not fulfill that promise because it is illegal. The left is overreacting in their eyes, yet Trump supporters really do want Muslims gone from this country. So the president is somehow both making good and not delivering, whichever is more convenient at the time. Trump himself has been pretty glib about the ban's intentions, saying "call it whatever you want". This is the kind of attitude that speaks volumes really.

So let's say for the sake argument then, this Travel Ban is not about targeting Islam specifically as a religion. Then what is it for? What are the operational goals of this Travel Ban? How can we measure success or failure? What is the strategic justification of banning travel from the sponsor of terrorism, Iran, and not the sponsor of terrorism, Saudi Arabia? Why target the civil wars in Sudan or Somalia and not the civil wars in Nigeria or Ukraine?

Consistent logic is not really a part of Trump's foreign policy. Trump has never made a case for why this ban is necessary because there is no case to make. It isn't about making a case, and never has been. Facts and strategy are too physical, they can be disproven. You can't argue against emotion and fear. How do you disprove foreign policy by imagination?

I'm pretty late to this particular party, all this was hashed out fairly thoroughly during the last round. So let's cover this quickly:

The nations listed in Trump's ban have not proved to be origins of very much terrorism here in the US. (The 9/11 hijackers mostly came from Saudi Arabia, but also Egypt, the UAE, and Lebanon, and all these nations curiously are all missing from this travel ban.) More violence and acts of terrorism have come from native citizens than foreigners. Islamic terrorism isn't even a particularly more dangerous threat than home grown right-wing terrorism. In fact no immigrant from the six nations on Trump's list have committed an act of terrorism in this country through the entire War on Terror.

More importantly, this Travel Ban represents bad strategy. If the ultimate goal is to end terrorist attacks on the US, this ban actually makes us less safe. Trump and his supporters have let the goal of terrorism, to terrorize, dominate their thinking. Presenting the United States as a country unfriendly to Muslims only enforces ISIS and Al-Qaeda propaganda. We're making their case for them. The War on Terror is a war for souls more than anything else. The United States is trying to present Western liberal democracy as an open alternative to the madness of Jihadism. Trump's Ban will have no benefit other than to radicalize future terrorists both at home and abroad. It's a self-fulfilling prophesy, making the world a more dangerous place.

But, none of that matters.

I'm right now using statistics and historical evidence. That's all "liberal bullshit". The Trump World is a lot murkier than that. Nothing is true to Donald Trump and his supporters, only what is most useful to Donald Trump right now. To them the entire world is a series of manipulations. I'm just a part of a massive liberal conspiracy against him, not a concerned citizen. Since everything is slanted and false, pick the narrative that feels the best. In this case, the one that feels best is the one that supports their own hatred and fear.

Un-reality is a powerful tool. It means that five million votes of the previous election can be fraudulent without evidence. It means that the media can hack away at Hillary, but the privacy rights of Trump officials are sacrosanct. It means that when another member of Trump's inner circle is revealed to have lied about Russian contacts, it must be the work of that sinister Kenyan, Barack Obama, tapping Trump Tower. The lies become more and more outrageous every passing day.

All criticism is #FakeNews. Trump will rage about news pointing out the flaws in his logic and his outright lies. But he'll profit from deranged conspiracy theories about the other side*. Everything is flexible.

Take for example, the view of the Right towards Muslims and how they can never be true Americans. A recurring Conservative argument goes over how radical Islam is anti-feminist, anti-gay, anti-free speech, and warmongering. This argument shows a shocking lack of self-awareness. The Trump government is against abortion and inspired massive protests from women worldwide just for existing. They're also against LGBT rights. Free speech is free-ish, he hates all media reporting negatively of him. And as for warmongering, Trump has a huge fetish for the military, loves torture, and does not believe in any moral superiority of the US.

Trump supporters are proponents of liberal freedoms only as long as it makes Islam look bad. The moment that actual LGBT issues come up, they want the government legislating bathroom privileges and will defend the rights of homophobic florists to oppose gay weddings. Do these arguments mean that right-wing Christians cannot be true Americans either?

This is the same Right or Alt-Right (I don't know the difference anymore) that was all for Milo Yiannoupolis until a few weeks ago, who wrote this piece about how the washing machine and birth control ruined women's lives. Yiannoupolis is one foreigner who apparently just doesn't have, to paraphrase Steve Bannon, the right DNA for democracy. Remember too the hordes of online trolls that make up the Trump camp. The ones who considers trans lifestyles as a mental illness, make awful GameFAQs forums about how "Horizon Zero Dawn is a feminist trap, and then paradoxically, hate Jihadists for being against freedom.

This slanted utterly flexible worldview seeps into the latest version of the Muslim Ban itself. The first version was rushed out, thoughtlessly creating chaos across our nation's airports. The justification the Trump administration made for the sudden order made without oversight of Congress, the national security apparatus, or even Trump's own cabinet, was that this had to be an emergency security measure. If that order was a necessary emergency action, the second order disproves Trump's own case. The stakes were so high that currently Iraq has been removed from the second order without comment. Iraqis are safe now**? Suddenly Christians are no longer given special exemption from the executive order, meaning now they are a special threat when they weren't before? Effectively the administration admitted that the first order was unlawful and unnecessary. How necessary is this second one then? Or how lawful?

There's all this talk of emergency, threats, reexamination, demands for "extreme vetting" but ultimately over nothing. Trump wants "extreme vetting" for refugees, a group of people who are already fairly extremely vetted already. And who in this country represent no particular threat. The president has the power to act in the nation's security interests. But do our "best interests" apply to phantom threats the that president has largely invented?

The Travel/Muslim Ban is more awful that it appears simply because it's based on nothing. I can't argue with its supporters than the ban isn't going to work, because the ban can't work. In order for something to work it has to be made to achieve something. This ban is only made to achieve a normalization of hatred in this country, it has no basis in facts. Once the 150 day period that Trump has arbitrarily given to the order passes, we can't measure if it worked or failed. The president can simply imagine new threats. (Or more likely,  he'll hear about them on FOX News.) We've seen how well foreign policy by imagination has worked before. How many Weapons of Mass Destruction did Sadam have after all?

Now before I end this post, I'll qualify some things. Terrorism exists. Terrorism is a danger to our country. There are terrorists living in all six or seven countries Trump wants to ban travel from. But this specific strategy is a bad one, based on fear. It's an empty promise. It's as useless as those assault weapon bans the Democrats keep making such huge political theater over. Only this time while being ineffective, it's also a callous piece of hate, adding to the misery and pain of the world.

We need careful discussion around this issue. But Donald Trump has made the world such a confused place that discussion is outright impossible. Trump doesn't need facts, he has his alternative facts. He can lie loudly with such certainty, that nothing is real any longer. How do you negotiate with such a man? How do you even debate him? He doesn't need to be internally consist, he doesn't even need to make sense. Trump can do anything with non-reality. He can invent flaws in Obamacare, he could start wars, he could tear away the environmental protections this country needs more than ever.

You can't let the Muslim Ban stand not just because it's awful, xenophobic, and a bad precedent for this country's future. You also can't let it stand because government by imagination will be a disaster for us all. I've seen enough of how Trump's imagination works. He lives in a dark world. I'd rather not let my world become his world.

* It's gotten so bad that yesterday on /r/the_donald, a post claiming JFK was murdered by the CIA reached the very top. There are people out there who still believe in Pizzagate.

** Bizarrely two Iraqi nationals are referenced as evidence of the danger from the banned nations in the new version that excludes Iraqis from the ban. That's just sloppy editing.


  1. in more positive news, are you planning on reviewing Breath of the wild, loving it so far, but my last playthrough ended with those giant octopuses killing me in one hit right when i was heading to my first champion. heh, looks like nintendo is remembering it's roots. i really hope you enjoy it more than Skyward sword, that review was pretty sad.

  2. Very well written, Blue. It boggles my mind how people can't tell actual information based on reality from information that is obviously altered or manufactured to feed into your bias. It's scary how the real threat is right here within in our borders, but nobody acknowledges it. We call them lone wolves at worst or self radicalized individuals at best. It's maddening. And with Trump basically giving the A-ok to express your hatred based on exaggerated facts and lies I've lost many of friends who've decided to show their bigotry.

    Keep fighting the good fight, Blue. I hope to see more think pieces like this that lays it out in a informed and intelligent manner.