Afghanistan, America First, border security, border wall, foreign policy, globalism, government shutdown, Im-Politic, Immigration, jihadism, Middle East, State of the Union, terrorism, The New York Times, Trump
With the possibility of another Border Wall-related government shutdown hanging over tonight’s State of the Union – and all of American politics – it’s pretty astonishing to recognize that The New York Times editorial board, which strongly opposes the wall, and which has long championed a globalist approach to foreign policy issues, has just unwittingly endorsed a Trump-ian, America First-style approach to border security.
The endorsement came in The Times‘ recent editorial calling for a prompt U.S. military pullout from Afghanistan – a position that’s also decidedly Trump-ian.
According to Times editorial writers, the main rationale originally cited for fighting in Afghanistan was flawed from the start. It focused too tightly on
“the idea that war abroad could prevent bloodshed at home. As [then President George W. Bush] explained in 2004: ‘We are fighting these terrorists with our military in Afghanistan and Iraq and beyond so we do not have to face them in the streets of our own cities.’”
Globalists well to the left of Bush endorsed this rationale as well, notably former President Barack Obama. His first bid for the White House stressed that Afghanistan was a “good war” and a conflict that “had to be won” in order to “take the fight to the terrorists” – in stark contrast to Mr. Bush’s “dumb” war in Iraq.
But The Times – which admirably recognizes that it bought this line as well – now suggests that this argument never made much sense. Although acknowledging that “since 9/11, no foreign terrorist group has conducted a deadly attack inside the United States,” it adds that
“there have been more than 200 deadly terrorist attacks during that period, most often at the hands of Americans radicalized by ideologies that such groups spread. Half of those attacks were motivated by radical Islam, while 86 came at the hands of far-right extremists.”
The Times doesn’t draw the obvious implication, but it couldn’t be clearer even to a minimally perceptive observer: The kinds of terrorist threats the paper spotlights have appeared in the United States in large measure because border security has been so shoddy for so long. In particular, American immigration authorities have never adequately screened newcomers from countries where radical Islam has taken root, and who are therefore unusually vulnerable to radicalization.
It’s conceivable that border security could effectively address these challenges without the kind of physical barriers now sought by President Trump – and demonized by most of Congress’ Democrats. But at the least, The Times‘ rationale strongly militates for other Trump-ian, America First-style border security measures, like applying travel bans against countries that are known hotbeds of terrorism and strict limits on admitting refugees and asylum-seekers from these same points of origin.
And barriers look especially important given the extensive legal/due process protections now automatically awarded to anyone who sets foot on American soil, including from countries whose threadbare (at best) governments lack the capacity to document the identity of their residents satisfactorily. Therefore, adequate vetting by the U.S. government will be excruciatingly difficult, to put it mildly.
But if The Times wants to clinch the case for withdrawing promptly from Afghanistan, it should make a point I’ve made repeatedly: It will be far easier to protect against terrorist threats by relying mainly on border security because access to the country is something Washington can reasonably hope to control. Protecting against terrorist threats mainly by chasing jihadists around a completely dysfunctional region of the world whose greatest strength is spawning extremism would base American strategy on something Washington can’t reasonably hope to control.
And of course, connecting an end to massive American military involvement in the Middle East with the need for more secure borders could only bolster President Trump’s position, too.