In issuing the recent restrictions on entry to the U.S., writes Tom Gross, the president has done much damage. But the hysterical reactions of his critics have not displayed much understanding, or ethical discernment:
The executive order is morally unacceptable (it amounts to collective punishment), strategically dubious (since many terrorists are home-grown or came from countries other than those seven), and was initially implemented in a confusing and clumsy way which caused [unnecessary] distress and uncertainty to many travelers, including U.S. residents, even if they were not in the end affected by the order. Additionally, it sets an anti-immigrant tone, when immigrants can hugely benefit their new countries. . . .
But whereas those protesting Trump are in many ways correct, the self-righteousness and double standards of some is troubling. . . . [T]he war in Syria descended into barbarity in part because President Obama encouraged the rebels, and the Sunni majority population of Syria who supported them, promising them arms and protection, and then abandoned them. Obama went on to release billions of dollars in funds to the Iranian regime, whose forces and Shiite militias in Syria have done much, if not most, of the killing there these past six years. The new funds helped the Iranians fuel the effort to cleanse Sunnis from Syria, leading many to seek sanctuary in Europe and beyond. While millions of people in America, Britain, and elsewhere have protested Trump’s refugee policies in just one week, they had little to say about Obama’s foreign policies over the last eight years. . . .
The Guardian’s Owen Jones helped promote last night’s “Emergency demo against Trump’s #MuslimBan” outside [the British prime minister’s residence on] Downing Street. But where was the protest when Israelis were banned from Malaysia and fifteen other Muslim-majority countries—including Yemen, Syria, Libya, Sudan, and Iran, the same countries whose citizens will now face increased vetting before visiting the U.S.? . . .
Donald Trump’s start as president has not been good. But he may yet find creative ways to stop the refugee flow in the first place. He is reportedly in talks with the Saudis about setting up safe zones for Syrians inside Saudi Arabia (if not inside Syria itself), and limiting Iran’s “destabilizing regional activities” in the region. If this works, it could, in the longer term, be more significant in helping Syrians than anything that was done under Obama.