Monday, November 23, 2015
Terrorism is Only Secondarily a Foreign-Policy Issue
Articles like this one by the Christian Science Monitor usually involve the Conventional Wisdom types expressing surprise that after the Paris attacks, in a time of crisis, people are still flocking to Trump and not to the "moire serious" candidates such as Jeb or Marco (to be fair, Ted Cruz is also sometimes mentioned). Whiole Greg Sargent does not express any surprise over it, he also to some extent misdiagnoses the problem as being entirely due to Trump's "strong man" image; that is, people care less about policy than about the fact he makes a big noise about it. There is a more important point, though, that I think most people are not getting. Most pundits, and many politicians, insist on seeing the Paris attacks and terrorism in general as primarily an issue of foreign policy; we are being attacked by a foreign power and need to retaliate; we need to conquer the foreign power that is attacking us. In reality, the problem is the enemy within; many western countries have large, unassimilated, and unassimilating Muslim populations. When we are told that most of the Paris attacks were carried out by French and Belgian nationals, the media try to distinguish them from immigrants in order to make us believe that the problem is our own people; in reality, what it proves is that the enemy has infiltrated us. But there is an importance to the distinction; it's not that immigrants are not dangerous; it is that the problem with Muslim immigrants is not merely one of whether individuals have terrorist ties, it is whether or not people of Muslim background are likely to become, in essence, fifth columnists in the future. In other words, there is an explicitly racial/cultural/religious angle to the political question of immigration, and more importantly, IT IS PERFECTLY REASONABLE FOR THERE TO BE A RACIAL/CULTURAL/RELIGIOUS ANGLE. What we are getting from the "serious people" is that the primary solution here is to destroy ISIS and other radicals at the source and to remove their threat. While definitely this is a part of the war on terror, it is unclear whether this will accomplish anything as long as we are letting millions of Muslims into the West, many of whom share, if not the exact ideology of ISIS, ideologies of conquest that are just as deadly to western civilization. And the problem here is that among the most ardent hawks are also those who most want vastly increase immigration (e.g. Marco Rubio, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte, Bob Corker, George W. Bush, Jeb Bush). The fact of the matter is, the most effective way "not to fight the terrorists here" is NOT TO BRING THEM HERE, and "fighting them over there" is a secondary tactic. After 9/11, we were assured by all of the usual suspects that illegal aliens were "willing workers" and that we should distinguish between desperately needed low-pay farmworkers and people with bombs strapped to them or some such. The point being that controlling our borders was not a good way to keep terrorists out, so instead of course we ought to focus on fighting wars in the Middle East. Many came to feel that these wars at least in part served as a distraction to stop the public from demanding actual homeland security policies that dealt with the immigration angle. Being asked to have security guards look at you naked is not too high a price to pay for security, but not letting American corporations get foreign labor for a dollar less an hour is off the table. What we are getting from Trump is someone who is talking about protecting the homeland first and foremost. He was talking about immigration before any of the other candidates made it a big deal. People sense that he is interested in avoiding Islamic terrorism via immigration policy to a greater extent than any other candidate, and therefore they flock to him, not to "serious" candidates like Rubio, whose Gang of Eight bill would have vastly increased immigration, including giving administrations far more leeway in granting refugee and asylum claims. Almost certainly the Gang of Eight bill would have brought more Muslims into the United States. So no one trusts Rubio. Similarly, Bush's love of immigrants over and above American citizens makes people distrust him on this issue. In other words, Trump is dealing with the issue that most Americans think is most behind the terrorist attacks. Being a "serious candidate" means dealing primarily with an issue that most Americans think is at best a back-up to the primary issue and at worst a distraction. Hence Trump's success. That is all.