Trump has finally found a policy and a speechwriter and a teleprompter with which to try to sell it. It’s been sold as his first major policy speech on one of today’s most serious issues.
How does the very un-serious Orange Man do? Let’s go line by line looking for his answers.
Now, a … threat challenges our world: Radical Islamic Terrorism.
A fair start. How will you end that threat, sir?
We will defeat Radical Islamic Terrorism, just as we have defeated every threat we have faced in every age before.
Just as we won the Cold War, in part, by exposing the evils of communism and the virtues of free markets, so too must we take on the ideology of Radical Islam.
Anyone who cannot name our enemy, is not fit to lead this country.Anyone who cannot condemn the hatred, oppression and violence of Radical Islam lacks the moral clarity to serve as our President.
Fair enough, and a nice quote too. But for months he’s been attacking Islam per se, and now he’s condemning something he’s calling “Radical Islam.” So what is that specifically? Who exactly would you name as your opponents? (Compare it for example to the clarity of saying: “Our enemy in this war is: Islamic regimes that have in any way sponsored or supported attacks against the West, and jihadist groups that have planned or executed such attacks. The enemy regimes are primarily those in Iran and Saudi Arabia; and the jihadist groups include Hezbollah, Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda, and Islamic State."
And this thing he calls Radical Islam.” How does that differ to Islam itself?
No answer. (Maajid Nawaz suggested a distinction and taxonomy many months ago. Why not use that?)
If I become President, the era of nation-building will be ended. Our new approach, which must be shared by both parties in America, by our allies overseas, and by our friends in the Middle East, must be to halt the spread of Radical Islam.
Halfway through the speech, and still the concrete question is: ‘How?’
As President, I will call for an international conference focused on this goal.
Wow. A conference.
We will work side-by-side with our friends in the Middle East, including our greatest ally, Israel. We will partner with King Abdullah of Jordan, and President Sisi of Egypt…
How is this different to today?
We will also work closely with NATO on this new mission…
Changed your mind, then?
I also believe that we could find common ground with Russia in the fight against ISIS…
Just on ISIS? (I think we should be told.) And, yes, you have new friends. But what exactly will you and your friends do? (We’re now two-thirds through the speech and still nothing concrete.)
My Administration will aggressively pursue joint and coalition military operations to crush and destroy ISIS …
A plan. Finally. But is that very much different to what’s already failing? And what’s your end-game if you did succeed? And shouldn’t you perhaps recognise that previous aggressive operations, whether failed or successful, is precisely what created the vacuum and delivered to ISIS the military materiel to hold it?
… international cooperation to cutoff their funding…
… expanded intelligence sharing…
Which is already happening. What do you propose that’s different?
… and cyberwarfare to disrupt and disable their propaganda and recruiting.
Which is already happening. What do you propose that’s different?
So what else is proposed?
Our Administration will be a friend to all moderate Muslim reformers in the Middle East…
Who are they? No answer.
This includes speaking out against the horrible practice of honor killings … speak[ing] out forcefully against a hateful ideology
A lot of speaking out.
A new immigration policy is needed as well
Wouldn’t you know it.
The common thread linking the major Islamic terrorist attacks that have recently occurred on our soil – 9/11, the Ft. Hood shooting, the Boston Bombing, the San Bernardino attack, the Orlando attack – is that they have involved immigrants or the children of immigrants.
Not exactly true, but the way of stating it glosses over the real truth. The major attacks on US soil included everybody from natural-born Americans to people on tourist or student visas to the children of immigrants. And that’s it. The former could conceivably be solved with some superior kind of screening, but since the latter have been here for a generation, it’s clear the answer there has to be something very different. Whatever it is (and I’ve suggested responses before), since these people were already there, it’s patently not a problem that can be solved simply by keeping them out. Even a moron could see that.
The time is overdue to develop a new screening test for the threats we face today. I call it extreme vetting. I call it extreme, extreme vetting. Our country has enough problems. We don't need more and these are problems like we've never had before.
“Extreme, extreme vetting.” That’s a lot of vetting. What would that look like? And how would that stop the large number of home-grown attackers?
A Trump Administration will establish a clear principle that will govern all decisions pertaining to immigration: we should only admit into this country those who share our values and respect our people.
How would you do that? What would your “extreme vetting” look like?
In the Cold War, we had an ideological screening test.
Did we? So what would your “extreme vetting” actually look like?
The time is overdue to develop a new screening test for the threats we face today.
So what would your “extreme vetting” actually look like?
In addition to screening out all members or sympathizers of terrorist groups, we must also screen out any who have hostile attitudes towards our country or its principles – or who believe that Sharia law should supplant American law.
Easy to say. But what would your “extreme vetting” actually look like?
Those who do not believe in our Constitution, or who support bigotry and hatred, will not be admitted for immigration into the country.
So this would be a test that you yorself would not pass, sir. And what would your “extreme vetting” actually look like, that it would uncover these attitudes or beliefs?
No answer. This is the hook for the whole speech, really, and of detail there is and is likely to be none.
And the rest is trash-talk, Hillary bashing, and outright lies about suspicious terrorist behaviour not having been passed on for fear of being accused of “racial profiling” – the only actual concrete proposal being to “identify a list of regions where adequate screening cannot take place” and “stop processing visas from those areas until such time as it is deemed safe.” By whom, I wonder. And what would make them safe?
Well, there was this:
Political correctness has replaced common sense in our society.
That is why one of my first acts as President will be to establish a Commission on Radical Islam – which will include reformist voices in the Muslim community who will hopefully work with us. We want to build bridges and erase divisions.
The goal of the commission will be to identify and explain to the American public the core convictions and beliefs of Radical Islam, to identify the warning signs of radicalization, and to expose the networks in our society that support radicalization.
So that’s the best of the policy he promotes, and the only actual detail he delivers – perhaps because it’s a policy plucked from David Cameron, so that some details have already been developed. No shame in that. It’s a good policy as I said at the time – although Cameron’s policy had much more to it.
Now, bear in mind this is Trump’s only detailed policy announcement so far, in what has been a very long campaign. And this is all the detail he has. And the only detailed announcement he’s ever likely to make on this important issue, and amounts tactically to saying “I’ll do what’s already being done, but me and my frends will do it so much better.”
Which has been pretty much along the lines his other less detailed policies have said.
But at least he’s stopped thinking Obama was born in Kenya and was ISIS’s original founder. So maybe his speechwriter should be thanked for something.
And, you know, we’re not seeking perfection, merely the best policy out of a bad bunch of candidates. One whose hand might seem safe near the nuclear football. (Would you trust this one?)
So what do the other candidates say that we may be able to take seriously?
We already see the fruits of Hillary’s policies in the world we have around us. We barely need to know more. And Jill Stein is just largely me-too. So in the absence of any real thought or concrete plans or policy here, I turned to Gary Johnson’s, detailed last year, which has the clarity the buffoon’s lacks.
Isis, he says, is today’s Nazi fascism. Johnson begins, as MacArthur did in post-war Japan*, by distinguishing between the religion and its links with state violence – in this case between Islam and Sharia:
It is time that we face the reality that, while Islam is a faith that must be granted the same freedoms of religion as all others, Sharia is a political ideology that cannot coexist with the constitutional and basic human rights on which the United States is founded…
We need not and should not be Islamophobic, but all who are free and wish to be free should be Shariaphobic. In its determination to impose a “law” upon us and to kill, maim and terrorize in the process – as seen most recently in Paris, ISIS must be stopped…
Libertarians believe freedom and opportunity require limited government. Government costs too much because it does too much – and a government that does too much erodes liberty. But one responsibility of government is clear: To protect us from those who would do us harm and who would take away our fundamental freedoms. We believe liberty is the true American value, and that our government has a solemn obligation to preserve it.
We cannot dance around the fact that destroying human liberty and doing us harm are what Sharia law dictates. Whether it be mass murder in Paris, downing a Russian airliner in the Sinai, gunning down innocents in a Kenyan shopping mall, beheading Christians, or flying airplanes into the World Trade Center towers, ISIS and other like-minded Shariaists are engaged in a decades-long campaign to eradicate freedom and replace it with a Sharia political system that is antithetical to everything for which America stands.
In World War II, too many, including the U.S., stood by for too long as Hitler’s Nazi fascism spread across Europe, with horrendous consequences. Sharia and its ISIS fanatics are today’s Nazi fascism.
Let’s be clear. Stopping ISIS and Sharia have nothing to do with religious freedom or the rights of Muslims – here or abroad. It has everything to do with protecting people who are free or wish to be free from murderous fanatics who will stop at nothing to establish a global caliphate under which no one would be free.
Dealing with this threat is the most American thing we can do.
So how would you do that, sir?
Putting tens of thousands of American troops on the ground in Iraq or, especially, Syria, won’t work. We have learned that the hard way. Those realities, however, do not mean that we do nothing.
First, even barbarians and fanatics need money. ISIS is collecting an estimated $1 million per day in profits from oil sales. That buys a lot of terror. Reducing or stopping that flow of money will do more to stop ISIS than bombing a training camp here or there, and the United States – along with our allies – must get serious about turning off the ISIS oil spigot. While ISIS is receiving support from sympathic individuals and organizations in the region, even the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are taking concrete steps to cut off ISIS’s daily oil windfall. The U.S. must do the same. The finances and transactions of ISIS and their brethren must be disrupted.
ISIS’s recruitment and attacks are being executed largely via cyberspace. There will be no invasion that can be repelled with missiles or warships. Rather, they will enlist, plan, finance and coordinate with believers who are already here to conduct their murderous campaign. Paris was just the latest example. We must deploy our formidable technological might to join the battle in cyberspace – and win.
And while invasions and doomed-to-fail attempts at imposing Western democratic values on unwilling peoples will not work, reviving and supporting strategic partnerships with those who are fighting ISIS in Syria and elsewhere just makes sense. The U.S. must assume a stronger, more committed role to galvanize and lead an alliance based on those partnerships that will first contain and ultimately neuter ISIS.
Fighting and defeating ISIS wherever they are is not “intervention”. It is stopping violent jihadists whose stated objectives are to kill Americans, wipe Israel off the map and destroy the very freedoms – including religious ones – upon which our nation is founded. It is protecting us from those who would and are doing us harm.
In a short statement delivered many months ago, Johnson gives the details Trump doesn’t, and argues against further direct intervention of the type Trump favours.
Who would make the better president?
* “The basic principles of a rational policy towards Islamic Totalitarianism—with clear strategic implications—were revealed in a striking telegram sent by the U.S. Secretary of State James Byrnes to General Douglas MacArthur, the American commander in Japan, in October, 1945. The telegram established the basic U.S. policy goals towards Shintoism, and laid out, for MacArthur and his subordinates, the basic principles by which those goals were to be achieved:
“’Shintoism, insofar as it is a religion of individual Japanese, is not to be interfered with. Shintoism, however, insofar as it is directed by the Japanese government, and as a measure enforced from above by the government, is to be done away with. People would not be taxed to support National Shinto and there will be no place for Shintoism in the schools. Shintoism as a state religion—National Shinto, that is—will go . . . Our policy on this goes beyond Shinto . . . The dissemination of Japanese militaristic and ultra-nationalistic ideology in any form will be completely suppressed. And the Japanese Government will be required to cease financial and other support of Shinto establishments.
“The telegram is clear about the need for separation between religion and state—between an individual’s right to follow Shinto and the government’s power to enforce it. This requirement applies to Islam today (and to Christianity and Judaism) as strongly as it did to Shinto. In regard to Japan, the job involved breaking the link between Shinto and state; in regard to Islamic Totalitarianism the task involves breaking the link between Islam and state. This is the central political issue we face: the complete lack of any conceptual or institutional separation between church and state in Islam, both historically and in the totalitarian movement today.
“As for what we should do about this, the 1945 telegram is direct. Here is its opening, rewritten to substitute Islam for Shinto:
“’Islam, as it is a religion of individuals, is not to be interfered with. Islam, however, insofar as it is directed by governments, and as a measure enforced from above by any government, is to be done away with.
“There is no question here about religious freedom. Individual religious belief is to be left alone—as is all freedom to think and to speak by one’s own judgment—but state religion must be eliminated. It is vital that this principle be understood, stated clearly, and enforced—for this is a precondition of the thorough and permanent defeat of America’s current enemy.
“Totalitarian Islam, an ideology that merges state power with religious belief, must go.”
~ John David Lewis, from ‘“No Substitute for Victory”: The Defeat of Islamic Totalitarianism’