Trump’s ban is meant to send a message to Muslim world. It will be received as such

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL February 3, 2017

war on islamLet’s calm down for a minute and consider. What does Donald Trump’s executive order banning the Syrian refugee intake and the entry of people from seven mainly Muslim countries accomplish?

What does it do to achieve the one aim that Americans would want for themselves and the whole world would want for them?

It does nothing.

Literally nothing.

And the reason is clearly spelt out by Americans who’re deeply interested and knowledgeable about efforts to counter terrorism.

The executive order is over-inclusive and under-inclusive, both in ways that harm the United States.

Here’s how:

** No extremist from any of the seven countries on Mr Trump’s list has carried out a fatal attack in the US in more than two decades

** The 9/11 hijackers didn’t come from Somalia or Syria or Iran; they came from Saudi Arabia and Egypt and elsewhere, all countries that are not affected by the order

** The order keeps out tens of thousands of innocent refugees, already vetted by the US for two to three years. And it makes it impossible for Syrian refugees to apply for admission. This makes the US appear unkind

** It prevents huge numbers of ordinary people – like you and me – from entering the US, as students, professionals, tourists, if they were born in one of those seven countries

** As for domestic terrorism by people of the Muslim faith, one of the San Bernardino attackers was US-born and of Pakistani ethnicity and the other was Pakistani and lawfully resident in the US. The Orlando shooter was US born and his parents arrived in the US from Afghanistan back in the 1970s. One of the Boston marathon bombers was a naturalized US citizen and the other a green card holder. Both were from Kyrgyzstan.

Benjamin Wittes, editor in chief of Lawfare and a Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, describes Mr Trump’s executive order as both malevolent and incompetent.

It’s worth noting that Mr Wittes holds uncompromisingly hardline views on security issues. As he admits, “I believe in strong counterterrorism powers. I defend non-criminal detention. I’ve got no problem with drone strikes. I’m positively enthusiastic about American surveillance policies. I was much less offended than others were by the CIA’s interrogations in the years after September 11. I have defended military commissions.”

And yet, he describes Mr Trump’s executive order as “malevolent”.

Here’s why.

It is meant to do exactly what it is doing.

It is a Muslim ban.

It sends a message.

As Mr Wittes writes, “I don’t believe that the stated purpose is the real purpose. This is the first policy the United States has adopted in the post-9/11 era about which I have ever said this. It’s a grave charge, I know, and I’m not making it lightly. But in the rational pursuit of security objectives, you don’t marginalize your expert security agencies and fail to vet your ideas through a normal interagency process. You don’t target the wrong people in nutty ways when you’re rationally pursuing real security objectives.

He goes on:

“When do you do these things? You do these things when you’re elevating the symbolic politics of bashing Islam over any actual security interest. You do them when you’ve made a deliberate decision to burden human lives to make a public point.”

Obviously, it will not make the US safer.