President Trump’s overall approval rating may have fallen, but there’s one issue on which he has the support of 60% of the American public. That’s the proposed travel ban from certain Muslim-majority countries, according to a Politico-Morning Consult poll earlier this month. In fact, Trump has enjoyed the support of a plurality of all voters, Democratic as well as Republican, since he first proposed a travel ban in December 2015. Trump’s boldness horrified the Establishment but probably won him the nomination; three-quarters of Republican voters in the key South Carolina primary backed the travel ban. The whole Republican leadership abhorred him (Paul Ryan in Dec. 2015 accused Trump of “violating the Constitution”). Well, Trump won and the Republican leadership lost.
It’s always been about Islam–the camel in the living room, to coin a phrase. One and a quarter billion people, roughly a fifth of the world’s population, cannot make the leap from tribal society into the modern world. Their anguish and rage is a source of continuous instability and an occasional threat to the security of Western countries.
Western leaders from George W. Bush to Pope Francis I struggled to avoid a clash of civilizations, praising Islam as a religion of peace. Trump, by contrast, told Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia May 21 that the onus was on them to extirpate terrorists from their countries and mosques. Trump isn’t seeking civilizational war. He’s giving Muslim leaders fair warning and a chance to avoid it.
That is what the whole kerfuffle is about. The Democrats’ notion of intersectional victimization includes Muslims as victims of Western colonialism and “people of color” (never mind that Islam launched the bloodiest wars of conquest of which we have records and created the African slave trade). The Republican Establishment and their neo-con punditeska view the Muslim world as a giant laboratory for the export of democracy. The CIA and the rest of the Deep State made a good living selling arms from the stockpile of the late Col Qaddafi (whom the U.S. helped overthrow in 2011) to “moderate Syrian rebels” — directly or indirectly abetting the rise of ISIS, as Gen. Mike Flynn warned in a now-celebrated 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency memo. The Europeans want a long-term accommodation with Islam as they drift slowly into demographic oblivion.
Trump humiliated his own party’s Establishment. He negotiated a ceasefire in southwestern Syria with Russia and Jordan, the first positive step towards ending the butchery in that miserable country since the 2011 “Arab Spring.” As he said throughout the campaign, he’s willing to give Russia the chance to unite with the U.S. against barbarism–proving himself a tough and canny negotiator with the slippery Kremlin bosses.
Russia is part of the issue, but indirectly: The neo-cons thought that a democratized, pro-American Muslim world could be turned against Russia; Trump doesn’t care much how the Russians govern themselves as long they help contain strategic threats to the United States. (Neither do I.) That’s what “America First” means; we look at what other countries do according to what advances our interests, NOT according to what we imagine is best for them. So far, Trump has done exactly what he promised to do during the campaign, and made a certain amount of progress.
That’s why the Democrats, the Establishment Republicans, and the Europeans hate him so much. There are lots of little issues that annoy the Europeans–the Paris climate accord, for example, and talk of trade barriers against European products (which in my view are a waste of time). But that’s not what evokes gut-hatred of the president of the United States among the European elites. They made a commitment to coexistence with Islam, and Trump pulled the plug on it. Among other things, the Democrats as well as the Europeans were determined to force Israel into a supposed peace deal that would create yet another terror state on Israel’s borders. Trump has ruled that out.
There are plenty of things that I wish Trump had done differently. But on the big issues, he is magnificently right, as J.M. Keynes wrote of Franklin Roosevelt in another context.