The travel ban imposed by the American president on the citizens of seven largely Muslim countries marks a break with tradition for a nation of immigrants. It could become a big problem for Donald Trump.
Over the weekend, thousands took to the airports, to the streets and to the White House to protest against Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim policies. Thousands streamed on Saturday night to Terminal 4 at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, where they held up signs like “No Wall!” ir “Let Them In!” Similar images could be seen in other cities across the country, including Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
The crowds are growing and they are getting louder.
In recent months, it often seemed as though Donald Trump could no longer outdo himself when it came to demonstrating his lunacy. But the decision to ban people from seven Muslim countries from entering into the United States is just one further absurdity on the part of the new U.S. president. It is indeed un-American because it places a question mark over the United States’ very identity as a nation of immigrants. It is more dangerous than any other action he has taken since his inauguration.
With the ban, Trump is fulfilling a promise he made during his campaign — namely that he wants to make the United States safer by protecting it from Islamist terrorism. The desire for greater protection is a theme currently being felt in all Western societies. It’s one that politicians cannot escape.
And this argument is one that applies more in the U.S. than in most other countries. The effects of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington still color the country today. More than a dozen perpetrators were involved in the attacks. They came from Saudi Arabia and Lebanon.
And that gets right to the catch in his new policy: Not a single one of these countries is included in Trump’s travel ban. None of these attacks would have been prevented, even if the order had been issued years ago.
Trump himself should know that the travel ban bypasses the problem. The worst terrorist attack committed in the country since Sept. 11 happened early last summer in the middle of the election campaign at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub. The attacker, Omar Mateen, came from New York — a young, lost American who shot and killed more than 50 people in the name of the Islamic State. A terrorist who had grown up and radicalized in his own country.
The world is complicated and terrorism, unfortunately, is as well. With his simplistic answers, Trump isn’t making the U.S. any safer. It could already be considered a success if he didn’t take any steps to make it less safe. But his crude decree will merely fuel new prejudices against the United States in the Muslim world. It will create new anger. Anger among the film directors, artists and athletes who have been turned away at the country’s airports or were not permitted to travel to the U.S. in the first place. Among their relatives back in their home countries and among people not immediately affected by the ban. Among the many moderate Muslims all around the world.
A Gift for I.S.
The travel ban is a gift for a terrorist Islamic State that is currently losing ground in Syria and Iraq and is under pressure to find new arguments for why joining the holy war against the West is still a worthy endeavor.
The travel ban provides just the narrative the terrorists need. Donald Trump may have given a few new reasons to susceptible people this weekend.
And it is the president himself who carries full political responsibility for this. Running the White House isn’t idle play or a reality show. It’s a job that can influence both the situation in the United States and ultimately, the entire world. That’s something Trump is going to have to learn. Unfortunately, though, it will come at the expense of others.
His advisers should understand this. Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan as well as White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus are veteran politicians. They should know the kinds of consequences the president’s moods can have. As such, they are also equally responsible.
Politics under Donald Trump have taken on a speed that has made it difficult for even experienced observers to constantly register effects the president’s often impulsive words and actions will have. The fact that this has happened is also a product of the social networks which Trump, to an extent not seen in any president before him, has made a decisive tool in his political leadership.
It was by harnessing the power of these networks that Trump became president. He understood how to exploit public sentiment to his advantage with his unscrupulous use of rumors, half-truths and lies.
But it is also a power which cannot be tamed — not even by Trump. This weekend, after only a few hours, social networks brought together tens of thousands of people who protested in the cold on Saturday night against Trump and again on Sunday. They were the second mass protests to take place against Trump in the United States in the course of a single week. The virtual is becoming real and is striking back.
Donald Trump had better watch out.