Perhaps the greatest responsibility the president of the United States has is ensuring the nation’s security at home and abroad. In this article, I will be analyzing President Donald Trump’s plans to deal with threats to national security, primarily the Islamic State (IS).
In May 2015, in an interview with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren, Trump claimed to have a “foolproof way of winning the war with ISIS.” However, he claimed he had to keep the plan a secret so “the enemy” would not know what the United States’ military had planned. Throughout the campaign, Trump stuck to this notion that any plan to defeat IS must be kept a secret. As I noted in my piece of the battle for Mosul, military experts say this notion that military plans must be kept under wraps is a total ignorance of military strategy.
One thing has remained remarkably consistent in interviews that Trump has given in regards to his strategy to fight IS: take the oil. While some have claimed this would be a legal action under wartime conditions, there are these pesky little things known as international laws, like the Geneva Conventions, that bar nations from carrying out actions like this. In addition, even if we were to cripple IS’ ability to generate revenue from oil sales, the group still has other significant revenue streams.
As I stated in my first article in this series, the rise of IS has its roots in the political and social instability of the region. The role that oil plays in Iraq’s economic well-being cannot be understated. Oil sales provide the state more than 90 percent of its government revenue. While destroying those reserves in the hands of IS may place strain on the organization, it also places that strain on the recovering state of Iraq.
In addition, Trump has often proposed working with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in fighting terrorism in Syria. This is a dangerous road to go down. Neither of these actors have much of a commitment to fighting IS in Syria. Assad has a penchant for releasing Islamists from prison when it is politically convenient, either to fight a proxy war against the United States or to discredit the rebels in the Syrian civil war. Meanwhile, the Putin administration has seen it more worthwhile to target moderate rebels than IS and other affiliate groups. Infamously, Russian bombs destroyed UN aid convoys within Syria.
In short, these are bad guys whom we should not enable with either foreign or domestic policy that flies in the face of the facts, which is exactly what Trump has done.
On Jan. 27, Trump signed an executive order that temporarily barred individuals from certain Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. This decision has created a shockwave both in the United States and in the international community.
Regardless of how the order fares in the courts, the damage has already been done.
As I described in my introductory article, IS wants to alienate global and local opinion of Muslims. The organization’s goal is to drive Sunni Muslims to a place where joining the organization is the best way to ensure their survival. A policy designed to exclude Muslims from the United States is a step toward ensuring IS’ worldview becomes reality.
Even if we ignore the humanitarian arguments against this policy (which in my opinion should be at the forefront of this debate) and focus on this issue from a strict national security standpoint, this decision is still foolish. If this policy is upheld, it will restrict important allies from entering the United States. This is highlighted in the story about British MP Nadhim Zahawi. Zahawi, an Iraqi Kurd who fled the country as a child in the 1970s. Under the provisions of Trump’s executive order, he would be banned from entering the United States.
Even if the Trump administration were to amend the order, thus allowing individuals like Zahawi into the U.S., it would present an obvious arbitrary element in the law. In retaliation, some states like Iraq have proposed a ban on U.S. nationals from entering the country. This would be detrimental to the fight against IS.
If Trump is serious about confronting IS, then it is essential that he stop enacting stupid policy. Social disorganization gave rise to IS, and social disorganization will continue to revitalize the organization so long as the political actors involved are more concerned with puffing their chests out than with building the formation for organized states within Iraq and Syria.