How to react to the controversy and disruption following Donald Trump’s immigration executive orders late Friday? I could be tongue-tied on this one. I have a lot of separate reactions, and it’s hard to draw a single conclusion.
My focus on all these pages is on how the individual should behave, and what does he or she need to step up to, as was the focus of my DADT-III book. Yet individuals need to belong to families, groups, countries, and share the outcomes for their supersets.
I’ll go back into my own history and recall that around 1:30 AM CDT on September 11, 2001 I woke up from a dream where a nuclear device had detonated somewhere around the Iwo Jima memorial in Arlington. The dream had been unusually lucid and I remember saying to myself I was glad this was only a dream. I was living in a Minneapolis apartment at the time. I would shut off the TV and home computer just before the attacks started, and learn about them about 8:25 AM CDT in my cubicle from a co-worker, and walk downstairs to the computer room and see the Pentagon attack aftermath unfold on the Jumbotron.
I even recall getting an email the previous Labor Day weekend (while in Canada) with a headline warning about “911” and some others had gotten it. I never opened it. We thought it was spam, maybe malware for a DDOS. Then on Sept. 4 Popular Mechanics had run a now-forgotten article on EMP flux devices (non nuclear) and how terrorists could deploy them.
After my “career-ending” layoff at the end of 2001, I gave a sermon on the implications of 9/11 at the Dakota Unitarian Fellowship in Rosemont MN in February 2002 (38 mn), with material that would become Chapter 3 of my DADT-2 book. I had considered particularly Charles Moskos’s call to bring back the draft and end the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy at the same time. I had even exchanged emails with Moskos about this in November 2001.
On April 1, 2002, an online draft of what would become that chapter was hacked (on an old Apache server that had been carelessly left open by the hosting company). The hack started right at a place where I was talking about “suitcase nukes” and seemed to contain bizarre gibberish references to the Lake Lagoda area of Russia. I sent the hacked file to the FBI, and easily restored the content myself. I still have it. In the early fall of 2002 I got a bizarre email that I could interpret as a warning about a possible disco attack in Indonesia. I shared that. Then in November 2002 I got a map (I think I opened the attachment at a Kinkos) that appeared to list locations of nuclear waste all over Russia.
In the summer of 2005 (having come back to my mother’s Drogheda in northern Virginia) I got an email claiming to know where Osama bin Laden had traveled in the US in the 1980s, including aviation training. I called the FBI, and spent 20 minutes on the phone discussing it with an agent in Philadelphia.
In August 2008 I got a bizarre email from a left wing group threatening oil field attacks in Nigeria. That one I posted. Tillerson should read that one.
Let me add here, that in every case, I make a decision to open an email based on full awareness of spam and malware. I usually will use an old or different computer first to determine credibility.
Since then, the “chatter” to my own unclassified world has settled down. I am not Wikileaks. But it seems like you don’t need a security clearance to have dangerous information sent to you. Too bad about all the homophobia of the world I grew up in, because I would have made a good intelligence analyst during the Cold War.
But I have paid particular attention to the possibility of large scale asymmetric threats that really could have existential character, and end our way of life. These include nuclear detonations, radiation dispersion devices (dirty bombs), and electromagnetic pulse devices, which, over smaller areas, do not need to be nuclear. Of course, they may include cyberwar, which could be mitigated by keeping the grid and other infrastructure (like pipelines) completely separated from the public Internet the way the military is supposed to be. I have often blogged about constructive proposals to strengthen infrastructure against these threats (such as some of Taylor Wilson’s ideas); but these ideas need a lot more “science” and both public and private investment (Peter Thiel may have us started on that). Much of this investment would encourage clean energy and domestic manufacturing jobs, but require skills that those displaced from legacy industries (Trump’s voter base) don’t have.
So we come back to Trump’s controversial immigration order. Of course, they need to be considered in combination with other orders. But they seem to be motivated in large part by Trump’s perception (largely correct) that individual American civilians even at home can become targets of an unusual enemy that does not wear a uniform. Radical Islam has an ideology that conscripts everyone. But the suddenness of the order (as a weekend started) is supposedly justified by the “threat” that “bad dudes” could slip through — with the president ignoring the fact that existing vetting processes (shown in the film “Salam Neighbor“) take 18 months or more, and even normal visas take some time.
The Cato Institute has noted that there have been no Americans killed by terrorists from the seven banned countries. (I compare this statistic to counting chest hairs in a soap opera.) Fareed Zakaria mentioned this analysis on his “Global Public Square” broadcast on Sunday. Jan. 29. But the Trump White House claims that the seven countries, because of civil war and very poor governance (“failed states”) are more likely now that larger states (except Iran and Iraq) to breed hidden, undetectable Trojan Horse terrorists, and that Obama had already singled out this list of countries. . The Trump administration claims that this is not a faith-based ban because large Muslim countries are not included. It also claims that religious exceptions are made only for religious minorities in target countries with which the US has poor diplomatic relations. They don’t have to be Christian (like Yazidis). There are some legitimate questions about Trump business interest (and therefore conflict of interest) in some larger, more stable Muslim countries.
It seems that a longer view of history is applicable. In October 2001, the Sunday that President Bush announced the start of a war in Afghanistan, networks aired a video screed from Osama bin Laden telling individual Americans at home that they had no right to feel safe. This came from the “established” Al Qaeda, well before the rise of ISIS. History shows that aggressors (state-based or not) often target civilians, with Nazi Germany as only maybe the most notorious example of all.
Many of the high-profile terror attacks in the US have come from “second generation” adult kids of immigrants whose families turned out to be dysfunctional. The attacks generally have not come from “saboteurs” who came into the country in the style of an Alfred Hitchcock film. A number of the 9/11 hijackers were still in the country in legal non-immigrant status.
Some commentators view the overstated visa issue as more problematic for security than the actual physical access of undocumented immigrants at the border. The number of people here in the US illegally is quite large, and statistics show that undocumented immigrants as a whole commit fewer crimes than the general population, and are more likely to be gainfully employed and in stable marriages when possible. Even so, the crimes committed by some immigrants, legal and illegal, have sometimes been quite spectacular (like the Washington DC Mansion Murders in 2015), and fuel the impression that some of our immigration is dangerous – bringing up the subject of The Wall.. Furthermore, from anecdotal stories (even told to me), the “illegal” problem in some areas along the southern border is quite serious for residents and ranchers in the area. But no one has seriously entertained the idea that American consumers should foot a 20% tariff on some goods to pay for a Green Monster. The tariff could destroy many farmers and small businesses.
American civilians, even given lower crime rates overall, rightfully feel fearful of becoming targets in spectacular or bizarre criminal activities – the kind that wind up as Dateline specials – than in the past. People are not as insulated by neighborhood or self-segregation as in the past. Social media, and the possibility of recruiting for terror or even framing people (or making people into targets by happenstance association), comes into the picture. The threat is more one of “quality” than of “quantity”. National security policies need to be crafted around the real threats that are likely. It stands to reason that the easy available of guns complicated the issue. But in Europe, by comparison, gun control may, while lowering crime overall, may make it harder for civilians to defend themselves when caught on the sites of unconventional attacks.
One issue left out by the media this weekend is asylum seekers. It’s unclear if president Trump’s Executive Order could hold up the processing of asylum requests. But, as covered here before, asylum seekers, by definition (by not being allowed benefits and to work for some extended time) need private help to stay in the country. US law (even before Trump) does not provide a framework for private citizens to assist asylum seekers without some unknown risk, compared to Canada, which supports full private sponsorship of refugees.
Along the lines of an individual’s deciding what is dutiful, Trump’s “America First” idea comes to mind. It seems that the marching orders are to “take care of your own” first before “the others”, even if that sounds counter-faith. We are willing to house refugees, but not our own homeless. Yet, “America First” sounds like a mantra in a declining world, in a zero sum game, an idea that placates a particular voter base that feels left behind and snubbed by a sophist elite. There are genuine security reasons to bring back manufacturing to the US and many constructive things that can be done, but they don’t lead to motivating a crowd in a mass movement. To my view, “Black Lives Matter” and “rural whites” are both playing identity politics in ways that attract authoritarian politicians but that don’t help the country prosper and make itself really safer. .
I want to close this impromptu posting again noting that the idea of “stepping up” (as in my DADT III book, Chapter 6) does sometimes put individuals in the path of “other people’s bullets”. It brings up ideas about not just courage but avoiding cowardice (as in a recent piece by David Brooks). It tests the balance between individual autonomy and belonging to the group.
In the Washington Post Sunday, Outlook. Andres Miguel Rondon wrote “Venzuela showed us now not to fight a populist president. “What makes you the enemy? It’s very simple to a populist. If you’re not a victim, you’re a culprit”. I have that in my own experience with the far Left. Opposing this mentality seems to be the point of all of Milo Yioannopolous ‘s writings.
The in the Epoch Times recently, Joshua Philipp writes about “The Danger of Political Labels”. where the need to generate ideology externally and divide people into opposing camps comes right from Marxism.
(Posted: Monday, January 30, 2017 at 3:30 PM EST)
Reference: Cato Institute, Alex Nowrasteh and Dave Bier: “Terrorism and Immigration: A Rosk Analysis”
Pew: “Unauthorized immigrant population trends for states, birth countries, and regions”