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GCN Weekly Security Bulletin: Executive Orders


GCN Weekly Security Bulletin: Executive Orders

In the first week of his presidency, Donald Trump signed a host of executive orders which led to protests throughout the world. The most controversial of these has been a travel ban for anyone arriving from one of seven Muslim-majority countries, which is intended as a security initiative to keep the country safe.

As well as a ban, this initiative includes a suspension of the refugee program for 120 days and a cap on the number of refugees admitted into the US of 50,000 for 2017. If the intention of this executive order is to bolster US security critics say, that it was poorly-conceived, drafted, executed and could have the opposite effect.

The order restricts entry into the US for individuals from the following countries – Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen. All of these countries are severely affected by war and conflict but that is not itself a prerequisite for posing a threat to the US. Alex Nowrasteh, the immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity suggests otherwise. In a database he compiled, he found that between 1975 and 2015, terrorists from other Muslim-majority countries, not on the list, like UAE and Saudi Arabia were responsible for more deaths on US soil than the seven being banned. This raises questions if the ban will effectively be able to “protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States,” as the executive order claims in its first line.

Secondly, fear of mounting reciprocity is already happening as both Iran and Iraq both intend to impose reciprocal measures for American citizens. There is very little protection for American citizens who are already in these countries and their safety is in jeopardy. The measure has led to significant anger and unrest among the immigrant population in the US which could lead to disturbances.

This move may be a boost to ISIS recruitment, according to some critics. ISIS has been weakening over the past year and the only thing to keep it afloat are new recruits. The major way to recruit individuals is through creative propaganda about the anti-Muslim West. This executive order makes it easy to convert to vile, hateful messages against the US and the west leading to an increase in recruits as foreign fighters.

The temporary ban and capping on refugees is a serious hit to America’s moral standing as a humanitarian leader. America as a melting pot and a country of immigrants has always been a refuge from persecution and violence for individuals from all around the world.

Some of America’s greatest minds and business leaders are immigrants or children of immigrants including Sergey Bryn, the co-founder of Google and Madeline Albright, the former secretary of state. The travel ban shuts another door on refugees fleeing persecution and may increase migrant flows to Europe.

Taking a macro-perspective, there are fundamental issues with ruling by executive order which should be posed to all US Presidents overusing them, including some of Trump’s predecessors. The existence of checks and balances in the US political system are intended to ensure that policies are well-considered, legal and represents the will of the people. It is the foundation of a democratic republic. The Trump administration is already experiencing some of this balancing through opposition in some courts.

Another disadvantage of ruling through executive orders is that it becomes very hard for government services to plan and prepare for the implementation of these policies. More importantly, it brings into question, how much allies can rely on the US anymore. As the sole superpower for the past 25 years, the US has had a vital role to play in affairs in every corner of the globe. Allies depended on US consistency and were able to align themselves with the US.

A fundamental switch towards each country creating policies and actions in isolation and retreating inwards from the international system could see the unraveling of the international system as a whole.

M. Sudhir Selvaraj

M. Sudhir Selvaraj writes the Weekly Security Brief for GCN. He is a fellow with the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life. His interests lie in security of religious minorities, secularism, U.S. foreign policy and politics of South Asia. He is currently pursuing his doctoral studies at King’s College London. He has a master’s (with distinction) in International Relations from the Department of War Studies, King’s College London and graduated cum laude (with honors) from Concordia College, Minnesota with majors in Political Science and Global Studies and a minor in Business.

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