Trump’s Policies Toward the Islamic World Are a Triumph
From the day he was sworn in, President Trump has faced screams of protest and intense media hatred. Oh yes, and a coup attempt. Despite this hysteria, his policies, both foreign and domestic, have been quite sound. Specifically, this administration has made the US and the Middle East safer. How? By changes in three key areas: immigration, alliances and fighting terrorism.
We heard much wailing about Trump’s alleged “anti-immigrant” views and policies. But overall legal immigration has not changed much. About 1.1 million immigrants came in yearly under Obama. In Trump’s first full year in office (2017), nothing changed.
By the way: it is almost impossible to gather data on this issue. Information is spread across many sources. And some sites, like this one, are suspiciously missing links. I’ve never seen this happen with any other topic.
Currently 14% of the US population was born elsewhere (some 45 million). That number soon will certainly exceed the previous high of 14.8%, hit in 1890. The President’s 2018 attempt to stem that tide, and to prioritize skills over family relations in admittance to the country, lost in the Senate.
Un-banning Christian Refugees
But in the more narrow refugee realm, the Trump Administration has made progress. What’s the difference between immigrants and refugees? According to the United Nations, immigrants are folks who move in order to improve their lives. Refugees do so in order to save their lives. Between 2002 and 2016 the US admitted as refugees 400,000 Christians and 280,000 Muslims. But the American population is still at least 72% Christian, and Christians are the world’s most-persecuted religious group. So might it make sense for this country to admit more of the majority’s co-religionists than those of other faiths?
Trump has done just that. Obama’s administration ramped up Muslim immigration at the expense of Christians, and in fact in 2016 admitted 39,000 of the former — a record number. Over both Obama terms, more than 43,000 Somali Muslims were let in, a substantial chunk of those into Minnesota. This explains the 2016 jihad in St. Cloud, the on-going terrorism recruiting taking place there, and the election of Ilhan Omar to the US House of Representatives.
Obama isn’t a Muslim, but his domestic (and foreign) policies showed where his heart lay. Trump is an imperfect Christian (like me, and probably you), but his immigration policy is helping persecuted co-religionists. In the first quarter of 2019, 83% of refugees to the U.S. were Christian. The top countries of origin? Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ukraine, Myanmar and Eritrea.
Are there any problems with Trump’s refugee program? Yes. It reduces the number from 85,000 down to 30,000, so fewer oppressed religious minorities (both Christians and sectarian Muslims) come from, say, Syria. That country is the only nation on Trump’s failed state (not Muslim) travel ban with a significant number of Christians.
Immigration a Vexed Issue
Still, America and her presidents do what they can, not always what they should. Many debate whether the U.S. should be the world’s policeman. By the same token, Americans are split over whether this country can serve as the world’s sanctuary of last resort. A majority of Americans support reducing immigration. Trump agrees. And so he sees no need to bring more folks here who support Sharia law, suicide bombing, stoning for adultery and death for adultery.
Trump prefers to deal with the Islamic world over there, not here. Thus, he “bigly” adjusted our alliances. He has restored the US to its friendship with Israel. In particular, Trump moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and endorsed Israel’s 52-year long possession of the Golan Heights. (Even before the latter, the President was wildly popular in Israel.)
He dumped Obama’s Iran deal, which was supposed to slow down the ayatollahs’ pursuit of nuclear weapons. It didn’t, despite releasing to Iran some $150 billion frozen since the Carter Administration. Overall, Trump gave up on getting along with the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism. Instead, Trump reestablished the traditional U.S. alliance with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, first forged by FDR. (Saudi Arabia is solidly pro-American, despite adhering to the fundamentalist Sunni Islam knowns as Wahhabism.) Our list of allies in the region had grown thin under Obama. Trump is doing his best to fix that.
It is in the counter-terrorism area that this President has made the most strides. In 2014 ISIS caliph Ibrahim al-Baghdadi ruled over a territory the size of Indiana. The caliphate stretched from just west of Baghdad to just east of Aleppo. Now its domain is a few isolated desert towns in far eastern Syria — if that. The caliph resurfaced last week, sans beard dye, but is probably not even in his rump caliphate at all. The Iraqis say he’s hiding out “in a neighboring country.”
How did it come to this? Obama had always promised to “degrade and destroy” ISIS. As usual, he was half right. His administration did the former, but never accomplished the latter. Trump unleashed our Special Forces, increased aid to the various Kurdish militias and expanded the numbers of airstrikes. He also ceased calling and working for the ouster of Bashar al-Assad. While controversial, this allowed the Syrian President to use his forces more effectively against ISIS. To be fair, the Russians and the Iranians also contributed (for their own problematic reasons, of course) to destroying ISIS. But the heavy lifting was done by the US, under Trump’s leadership.
ISIS has returned to its terrorist roots. But while it began as AQI (al-Qaeda in Iraq), it’s now regional, particularly in Africa. That’s where this President’s “National Strategy for Counterterrorism of the United States of America” comes in. Again, Trump made major changes to Obama’s 2011 document. That focused on AQ, and promoted “international coalitions” to fight it.
Getting Over Obama’s Naivete
Obama’s people were incredibly naive in two areas. They expected Pakistan to help against Islamic terrorism. Also, they assumed that the “Arab Spring” would bring Middle Eastern democrats to power and peace to the region. Instead, we see failed states, fundamentalists and refugees. The biggest problem with Obama’s plan? It ignores the root cause of terrorism. Islam. That word is mentioned only once in Obama’s document. And that is only to mock AQ as “a distorted interpretation” of it.
Trump’s NSCT program points out the need to defeat “radical Islamist terrorism,” and uses that phrase 16 times. As I have pointed out before, jihadi terrorism is not radical in Islam. The term “Islamist” is redundant, too. It implies only some Muslims politicize Islam. But in fact it’s been so since 622 AD.
We Must Defeat Political Islam
Still, this NSCT acknowledges that Islam has something to do with today’s 50+ foreign terrorist groups who fight for Allah. And it notes that we must defeat this ideology, just as we did fascism and totalitarianism. Of course, no document created in Washington would see the light of day without a few references to other “violent extremist organizations.” One listed is the Nordic Resistance Movement. (I believe Thor briefly belonged to this, before joining the Avengers) And of course, it’s stated we need to “promote voices of pluralism and tolerance.” (Way ahead of you, Mr. President.)
Even so, Gitmo will remain open, and the need not just to drone terrorist to death, but to go after the networks and ideology supporting them, is laid out. All in all, then, the Trump Administration’s take on terrorism may be one-eyed. But that is much more clear-eyed than, and infinitely preferable to, Obama’s willful blindness. Taken as a whole, President Trump’s Realpolitik approaches to immigration, Middle Eastern alliances and counter-terrorism are a vast improvement over the Obama Administration and its fool’s hope.