The Trump administration has the media and its political opponents (or do I repeat myself?) in a lather as the White House continues to fire executive orders in quick succession, demolishing the old order and enraging both liberals and their newfound neoconservative allies. Amid all the virtue-signaling hysterics, the most significant aspects of what is occurring are being overlooked – and it’s my job to point them out.
While the blue-state crowd is protesting President Trump’s order banning travel to the US by citizens of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia, what gets lost in all the shouting is that the legal and political basis of his order was laid down by President Barack Obama. These people don’t care to recall that, in 2013, Obama banned all refugees from Iraq for six months, and his action was hardly noticed: Trump is only proposing a ninety-day pause. What prompted Obama’s action, as ABC News reported at the time, was “the discovery in 2009 of two al Qaeda-Iraq terrorists living as refugees in Bowling Green, Kentucky — who later admitted in court that they’d attacked U.S. soldiers in Iraq.”
Two years later, Congress passed a law, the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act, that restricted travel visas for citizens of “states of concern,” i.e. Syria, Sudan, Iraq, Iran and “any other country or area of concern.” Obama promptly signed it. In early 2016, the Department of Homeland Security unilaterally extended these restrictions to Yemen, Libya, and Somalia. What this meant was that the visa waiver program did not apply to citizens of these countries: travelers had to apply for a visa at US embassies, a highly problematic matter (Syria, for one, has no such facility) and were very unlikely to be successful in their efforts. I don’t recall any protests at the time.
In short, the legal and political basis of Trump’s executive order – which is being denounced as an unprecedented attack on our allies (Iraq), civil liberties, and decency itself – was laid during the previous regime. Trump has simply dispensed with the fiction that these travelers are welcomed by our government, and issued an ostensibly temporary outright ban.
Aside from the hypocrisy underscored in that history, however, a larger point needs to be made: this all follows from our bipartisan foreign policy of perpetual war. Regardless of one’s views on immigration, the idea that we can invade the world and then proceed to invite the world is worse than naïve – it’s dangerous. As Garet Garrett, that prophet of the Old Right, put it more than half a century ago:
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