If we are to believe the narrative being written an ocean away in the United States, it seems humanity has entered the winter of its empathy. America is now the land where racism, Islamophobia—whatever arbitrary definition it takes on today—and hatred reign. Evil, it seems, has won. With President Trump signing an executive order temporarily suspending immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries, the bell tolls for charity and decency. Our world has turned its back on Muslims, so the story goes, and whatever fate awaits them is no longer our concern.
This narrative is, of course, a false one, although one might be forgiven for believing otherwise — popular fictions being often favoured above truth by those who fervently wish to believe. However, I wonder if the obscurantists who are constructing this narrative have stopped to consider this one question: If Trump’s executive order is intended to bar Muslims, and only Muslims, from entering the United States, why don’t Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nigeria—the five most populated Muslim countries — figure on his hit list?
The answer, as it so often the case, hides in plain sight. Compared with their Middle-Eastern and North-African counterparts, the aforementioned Muslim countries are functioning states, not purely hotbeds of radicalised Islamic terror. Libya, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen are.
But all this confusion could have been avoided if the petulant progressive parade had, instead of accepting the celebrity version of events on Twitter, taken the time to actually read the executive order in its entirety and extract its intent. The title alone provides this: Protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States.
It will also irritate the regressive left to find that nowhere in the order are Muslims mentioned—only ‘foreign nationals’. This makes it incredibly hard to virtue-signal, but a good progresive will always met that challenge. As to why the measures are needed, well, Section 1 of the executive order spells it out:
Deteriorating conditions in certain countries due to war, strife, disaster, and civil unrest increase the likelihood that terrorists will use any means possible to enter the United States.
This is by no means an unreasonable conclusion. If recent years have taught us anything, it is this: the road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions. After all, anyone who denies that Germany’s open border policy has been anything short of an unmitigated failure has never heard of the multicultural revelry at Cologne station and many other locations.
In just one year, 2015, migrants committed over 200,000 crimes in Germany and were responsible for a further 90,000 in the first quarter of 2016. New Year’s Eve celebrations were marred at the start of 2016 by a spate of sexual assaults carried out by mostly migrant populations (this, however, was swept under the rug to prevent public opinion from denouncing the entry of over one-million migrants with little-to-no vetting procedures). And reports of ISIS militants sneaking into Germany posing as refugees become increasingly common as the situation in Syria worsens.
But these threats aren’t endemic to Germany. Turkey’s experience is also cause for trepidation. In October, 2015, Turkish officials warned of ISIS militants shaving their beards and concealing their identities under niqabs in an attempt to make their way across the border. Sweden, too, was embarrassed by the migrant crisis after a plethora of fully grown men found their way into the country by fraudulently claiming to be children—this would be almost comical, if it weren’t for the fact that one of the ‘unaccompanied minors’ is standing trial for stabbing a twenty-two year old woman to death at a youth hostel.
The lesson here is simple: radicalised Muslims are willing to go to extreme lengths to flee their countries and disrupt the peace of others. Sovereign nations must be vigilant in their vetting procedures. It also means suspicion of those claiming to be refugees is justified.
Because the US understands this, and elected the current president partly as a consequence of this perception, the Trump administration has enacted a ‘temporary’ travel ban from at-risk countries. By exercising his constitutional right as President to maintain the sovereignty of his nation’s borders—as outlined in US Code Title 8 Section 1182—Trump has granted the US time to determine a course of action that guarantees refugees admitted into the US will share its values, rather than those “detrimental to the interests of the United States.”
But pragmatism alone isn’t enough to prevent progressives from denouncing as bigots anyone who supports this action or is at least consider the possibility of its merit. This despite the fact that the executive order expressly opposes actual bigotry:
…the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including “honor” killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.
The progressives somehow still believe conservatives, libertarians, classical liberals, nationalists, or any other group who helps constitute the silent majority, take joy in Trump’s executive order. They believe we think all migrants are terrorists. what reprehensible stereotyping! It should go without saying that an overwhelming majority of those in favour of temporarily suspending immigration from war-torn countries find the situation incredibly disheartening.
The only difference is that they are sufficiently flexible to understand the reasoning behind it, rather than clinging to those comforting and much-chanted cliches that do so much to burnish the virtuecrats’ self-regard.
No person on either side of the political spectrum enjoys watching the Middle-East become an even bigger basketcase than is its norm. Slaughter in the name Koranic intolerance is utterly vile and deserving of severe condemnation. The idea that some think otherwise is not only shameful, but perverse. But therein lies the nature of bad ideas: they nestle most contentedly in the emptiest of heads.
Whilst it is a measure of the West’s compassion to provide refuge for the most desperate and vulnerable, national safety cannot be compromised by a rejection of reality. The American century is marked by its failures to modernize underdeveloped nations through Western expansion, and each failure ultimately came back to bite the hand that fed it. From Iran to Afghanistan, and more recently in Iraq, the US, having begrudgingly accepted the role as the world’s policeman, is slowly accepting that it is virtually impossible to disseminate certain cultural values into fundamentally incompatible regions unless said regions truly desire them. And if other cultures aren’t willing to accept American values on home soil, they are highly unlikely to accept them abroad. Some things are just too entrenched to remove, no matter the impediment they pose to actual progress.
Nevertheless, with Brexit, Trump, the rise of One Nation in Australia, and with Angela Merkel calling to ban the burqa after conceding ‘our laws take precedence over honour codes, tribal customs and sharia’, perhaps an argument could be made that the West is beginning to shift its focus. Instead of instilling Western values into divergent countries, a policy that governed international relations for over a century, and one that has to an extent contributed to the regional instability we face at present, it appears the thinking now is that Western values should instead be contained within the borders that define where they are already and universally accepted. Maybe, in part due to exhaustion, the West is beginning to prioritise internal security matters over external ones. Could it be that our civilization is ushering in an era of cultural preservation, a period defined by defending the pillars of Western tradition instead of diffusing them?
As Harvard’s Samuel P. Huntington notes in his seminal Clash of Civilizations, “the survival of the West depends on Americans reaffirming their Western identity and Westerners accepting their civilization as unique, not universal, and uniting to renew and preserve it against challenges from non-Western societies.”
If Western power and influence is declining in the global economy, and if Western cultural values are increasingly declared irrelevant on the global stage, perhaps the West can no longer guard the rest of the world from tyranny and must instead look after its own house. In the meantime, before the US resumes its refugee intake, it is the nation’s responsibility to guarantee it has the resources and services available to help those most deserving thrive in their new home. And this it must do by ensuring that those who make it to their shores truly want to be there.
But more importantly, as stated in the executive order, it must not admit those who “bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles.”
Ciaran J. Ryan is a Melbourne writer