On Monday, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump set media heads spinning with his proposal to ban all Muslims–including tourists–from entering the United States “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” (Which means, effectively, forever.)
It is a terrible idea–though not for the constitutional reasons the left imagines. It would cause harm to our economy, our diplomacy, and even our security. Even for some (not all) Trump fans, the “no Muslims” idea is too extreme.
Ben Rhodes, a failed creative writer who managed to become a White House deputy national security adviser despite having no national security credentials whatsoever (I want to know what happened in that vetting process), told Wolf Blitzer on CNN that Trump’s idea would violate the Bill of Rights.
Actually, it would not: Trump’s policy applies to Muslim immigration (and visitors, his campaign manager told the Associated Press)–hence, non-citizens. And we already have a “religious test” for refugees.
The biggest problem with Trump’s proposal is not that it violates the Constitution (it does not), but that it violates virtually every other national interest of the United States.
It would damage trade–not just with the Middle East, but with Europe and Canada, where significant populations of Muslims reside and engage in business and the professions.
It would cause major diplomatic fallout, isolating the U.S. at precisely the moment when we need a global coalition to help us destroy the so-called Islamic State.
In fact, as Ben Shapiro points out, a ban on all foreign Muslims would also make it much harder for the U.S. to gather intelligence and recruit agents in our fight against terror.
A ban on Muslim visitors would certainly end American participation in international sports competitions. We might not miss the World Cup, but we would probably miss the Olympics.
And it would keep out many pro-American, pro-democracy individuals, such as my esteemed colleague Raheem Kassam, editor-in-chief of Breitbart London.
He’s lost my non-vote. https://t.co/j7G4pfgEa6
— Raheem Kassam (@RaheemKassam) December 7, 2015
If Trump had merely called for stopping immigration from particular Muslim countries, that might have been defensible–perhaps. And the pace of immigration from the Muslim world is certainly something worth debating, given the growing evidence that some Muslim communities are becoming insular enclaves, resistant to the values of broader American society.
But a ban on all Muslims carries with it darker connotations of a kind of Charles Lindbergh-style nationalism that has gone dangerously over the edge.
That is not to say Trump’s suggestion is unthinkable. Before Trump proposed it, many Americans likely had the same thought.
The evil brilliance of the San Bernardino terror attack was that the perpetrators were good neighbors whose hid their intentions. Maybe they wanted us to fear all Muslims–and perhaps more Americans do. Perhaps Trump’s idea makes more sense than our president’s evasions.
But leaders are supposed to help us overcome fear. That, fundamentally, is where Trump has fallen short.
Update: Trump’s spokesperson Hope Hicks told The Hill that his ban on Muslims would apply to “everyone,” including American citizens overseas–a blatant violation of the Constitution. Trump himself later told Breitbart News that Muslims already in the country, or serving in the military, would be exempt–solving constitutional problem, though not (ironically) the terrorism problem (see Fort Hood).
Are we really having this debate?