Having read some more about Trump’s Executive Order I think he was trying to make three (or possibly more) points with it.
1) By basing it around existing legislation endorsed by Obama he was able to show that the criticism, protests, and outrage has little to do with the content or implications of the policy and everything to do with the fact that it is he, Donald Trump, that is signing it. Trump knows full well that the media is simply a branch of the Democratic opposition and that the protests and outrage will continue regardless, so he believes the best course of action is to discredit them. Or, more accurately, give them enough rope so they will discredit themselves. If this keeps up, and I can’t see how it won’t, people will simply tune out the protests assuming they haven’t already, and will dismiss any criticism as being dishonest and incoherent. The protesters, media, and foreign politicians have done themselves few favours by not realising this EO was largely based on a piece of Obama legislation, about which they said nothing.
2) As Roué le Jour says under my previous post on this subject:
Trump is establishing ground rules. Only US citizens have a right to enter the US, everybody else does so at the discretion of the US government. Once you have accepted that, we can talk.
The fact that this needs saying shows how warped people’s impression of the USA has become. I think the criticism about the timing of the order, which left people stuck the wrong side of immigration counters at airports, is valid but it used to be fairly uncontroversial that a country has the right to decide who it lets in and on what terms. Insofar as most countries are concerned this is still the case, but with millions of migrants blatantly flouting border restrictions in Europe while the respective governments watch on impotently, this idea appears to have been lost on some. Trump was elected mainly on the basis that he would put America first and foreigners second, and this was to address a perception – either real or imagined, it doesn’t matter – that this had not been the case under Obama and probably Bush as well. I think this statement that the American government and nobody else gets to decide who enters the USA and on what terms is something that many Europeans wish their own governments would say.
3) Scott Adams says something interesting in a recent post:
President Obama’s approach was to give a free pass to Islam in general and to any Muslims that were just minding their own business. But the unintended consequence is that Muslims have less incentive to police their own ranks. Trump changed that. Now if you want to stay out of the fight against terrorism it will cost you.
So Trump has created a situation – or will soon – in which the peaceful Muslims will either have to do a lot more to help law enforcement find the terrorists in their midst or else live with an increasingly tainted brand. Trump is issuing no free passes for minding your own business. His model makes you part of the solution or part of the problem. No one gets to sit this one out.
There is a school of thought that says pressure needs to be brought to bear on Muslims to get their own house in order. Ultimately, Islamic terrorism and the elements which make it incompatible to the West need to be addressed from within. Thus far, for whatever reasons, this hasn’t happened and the West has been waiting for it to happen for over fifteen years. Some believe that it has been too easy for supposed moderate Muslims to remain silent over the problems other Muslims are causing, simply preferring to put their hands in the air and say “nothing to do with me”. To be fair, as I argued here, I don’t blame them for this: if the Western leadership cannot bring themselves to condemn Islamic extremism, then why the hell should moderate Muslims? I’ve long thought the Western policy of kow-towing to Muslim activists and downplaying the atrocities does moderate Muslims no favours in the long run. As I said earlier:
If our leadership – and I use that term loosely – lacks the conviction to uphold the principles which supposedly define the West, why the hell should we expect Muslims to come out in support of them? I suspect for many, faced with a choice between leaning towards Islamic principles and Western principles, many moderate Muslims are choosing the former because they are unconvinced that the latter even exist. Hell, I’m not convinced they exist in any meaningful sense any more, so why should somebody who comes from a culture where they have been historically absent?
In his inauguration speech Trump called a spade a spade, the first time a Western leader has done so in a long time. I don’t believe this Executive Order will do much by itself, but it is a warning shot across the bows of the Islamic world that things are going to be different from now on. The elephant in the room is Saudi Arabia, whose dual policy of funding jihadists and extremism while supposedly remaining allied to the United States has been allowed to go on for far too long. If wealthy Saudis (and others) were made to feel the pain of their actions by finding themselves unable to travel to the US for their business meetings and shopping sprees, then maybe they would reconsider what they are doing. Sadly, I don’t think even Trump will take on the Saudis in this regard: the two countries are far too interdependent on one another and once you go down that route there is no saying how it might all unravel. But the point remains nonetheless: the pain is going to be shared around a little more evenly than before and we might go several steps further yet, so start getting your house in order.