Trump: How to Fight Domestic Terror. By Jack Collins
The seemingly impossible has occurred. Donald J. Trump has taken the White House to the surprise of politicians, commentators, and the mainstream media. He did so by riding a wave of popular discontent shaped by the static nature of status quo politics, which so crucially seems to have been underestimated in size.
The crescendo of this long and seemingly endless election was marked by the torrent of ‘October Surprises’. Clinton appeared to have sealed the election at the start of October when the now infamous Access Hollywood bus tape crashed on to the political scene. Trump’s numbers tanked, sending his campaign into a tailspin as senior Republicans rushed to publicly renounce their candidate. Things got worse for Trump as he continued to loudly proclaim that the election was rigged. From the voting machines to the media (who awarded him $2 billion of free air time). Some polls gave Clinton a 10-point lead, to which Trump characteristically heckled “RIGGED”! With Trump in self-destruct, Clinton coolly declared she was done with responding. Almost as soon as the words left her mouth the issue that haunted her throughout the election was given a new lease of life in the form of an ambiguous letter to law makers by FBI director James Comey. ‘Email-gate’ spluttered back into life but this time with disgraced congressmen Antony Weiner in tow. Yet despite the FBI clearing Clinton of wrong doing, the momentum stayed with Trump and carried him through to pull off a victory that has stunned America.
We are now faced with four years of a Trump administration which holds a controversial and contradictory stance on how to tackle domestic terror that concerns many internationally and at home. It is unsettling that throughout the campaign, and even in its closing days, Trump’s official position remained ambiguous.
Repeatedly Trump adopted multiple stances, sometimes in the same day. However, it is possible to identify some key points. His first attempt at the issue of counter terrorism was following the San Bernardino shooting. Trump called for:
“A total complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”
This was later walked back to banning Muslims who came from certain terrorist hotspots. However, its fundamental principle of banning people from entering the country based on faith stood. This position was further altered to what is now the ‘working policy’ of the Trump administration, extreme vetting. (1) Second, in response to Orlando, Trump called for the halt of the U.S intake of Syrian refugees. (2) Trump’s flagship policy, the border wall,(3) has frequently been referenced but more prominent was the scary degree of bluster and rhetoric. For example, Trump called for the surveillance of Mosques, acquisition of Iraqi and Syrian oil, the return of enhanced interrogation techniques (or worse), and the assassination of terrorists families.
The most dangerous characteristic of Trump’s standpoint is its pure despotism. Trump seems to see committing acts, which can be officially classified as ‘war crimes’, as justified in the fight against terror.
Extreme vetting is a popular policy. It involves delving into a person’s background to a level of minute detail. The aim is to find any potential terror red flags. If the process does highlight any areas of concern the person is denied entry to the U.S, thus preventing terror and justifying the policy. (4) Yet Trump’s approach is problematic. Other than the introduction of a cold war style ideology test, he hasn’t been entirely clear on what the process would involve. Second, the U.S already has a stringent and long immigration process which makes it difficult and costly to gain citizenship. Overall, extreme vetting in its current form has a long and controversial history. It started with the suggestion of banning all Muslims from entering the U.S. Obvious islamophobic connotations aside, how would this even be enforced? How do you determine someone’s faith when entering the country? Have the immigration officer ask? It is endlessly problematic.
Another feature of Trump’s proposed domestic counter terror effort is the banning of all Syrian refugees entering the country. Trump views this as ‘the great Trojan horse’. Problems arise here also. First, on an international level it would damage America’s standing as the defender of the oppressed and lead advocate of democracy. They would be seen to be turning their back on important values. Second, using the Trojan horse as an analogy is deeply misleading. It infers that all Syrian refugees are terrorists in waiting, a statement so blatantly false. Donald Trump Jnr, Trump’s son, tweeted a picture of a poster that tries to addresses this point (as seen in the picture opposite). The generalisation of desperate people as candy is abhorrent. Furthermore, the poster is misleading in its presentation of the scale of threat. It has been calculated that the likelihood of being killed by a refugee in a terror attack is 1 in 3.64 billion. Therefore, far from a small bowl of skittles, it would take 1.5 Olympic swimming pools filled with 10.93 billion skittles for there to be 3 that would kill you. The question is, are these odds worth the ‘risk’? To me the answer is clear.
Finally, the southern border wall. This represented the bedrock of Trump’s campaign: a bombastic project that will be paid for by the Mexican government to prevent illegal immigration. This relates to Trump’s declaration that terrorists are using the open border as a gateway to the U.S. Politifact has debunked this. The only strand of truth to be found is that some of those potential immigrants stopped have been from countries associated with terrorism, but importantly none have been found to have any links to terror groups. This is not to say that there is no risk, but is the border wall an effective solution? The debate on who will pay for it aside, the practicalities of such a project are cause for concern. Much of the land on the border is privately owned so must be brought through eminent domain, and most of the border is inaccessible by road and so the logistics of getting materials is complex and costly. Additionally, much of the border is a river and the attempt to build a fence in 2006 ended up leaving golf courses and houses in no-man’s land. Aside from this, is a wall an effective defence? Show me a 10ft wall and I buy an 11ft ladder.
Trump concedes that support from Muslim communities is also essential to preventing home grown terror. He has clearly failed to demonstrate how he would work to foster relationships with community leaders as seen in his repeated islamophobic remarks.
Now it remains to be seen what President-Elect Trump’s cabinet will look like, thus giving us an insight into how serious he is about perusing these policies. The country is undeniable divided and Trump is going to have an issue with legitimacy as Clinton is poised to win the popular vote. So for those democrats who are scared for the future of their country there remains hope. The checks and balances may shackle what many Americans see as an unhinged man now armed with the nuclear codes…