A newsy bit from today’s foreign policy speech. I like the idea a lot in principle. I wonder how easy it’d be to enforce.
“As he laid out in his Orlando remarks, Mr. Trump will describe the need to temporarily suspend visa issuances to geographic regions with a history of exporting terrorism and where adequate checks and background vetting cannot occur,” Miller said.
Trump is also expected to propose creating a new, ideological test for admission to the country that would assess a candidate’s stances on issues like religious freedom, gender equality and gay rights. Through questionnaires, searching social media, interviewing friends and family or other means, applicants would be vetted to see whether they support American values like tolerance and pluralism.
Once the word is out overseas that you need to at least pretend to believe in tolerance and pluralism to enter the United States, would-be immigrants will wise up and make sure that they (and any acquaintances who might be interviewed about their application) pretend to believe. It’s the same problem at bottom that Trump’s Muslim ban had. If you’re determined to get in, it’s easy enough to lie on the key question. We needn’t make the perfect the enemy of the good, though, especially since this tighter individual scrutiny is Trump’s answer to criticism that his original Muslim ban was wildly overbroad. Some applicants will get weeded out this way either because they’re stupid or too principled to misrepresent their beliefs on their application. The net effect, I’d guess, is that immigrants from more liberal countries like those in Europe and South America will have an easier time getting in while immigrants from the Middle East and Africa will have a harder time. Republicans will be fine with that result.
Explain to me, though, how, say, the questions about “gay rights” are going to go. What’s the criteria for exclusion? If you believe that gays should be imprisoned? If you believe that they should be shunned? If you believe that they shouldn’t be allowed to marry? Because a lot of American evangelicals still hold that last position. This isn’t an academic question either: Any statutory change in policy would need to pass the Republican House, which isn’t going to sign off on an ideological test that might undermine some of its own base’s beliefs. (One of the most fascinating wrinkles of Trump’s populist nationalist takeover of the GOP is watching him soften the party’s line on gays.) Also, what happens to this policy once a liberal successor inherits it? “Intolerance” might be redefined to include an immigrant who opposes punishment for gays but believes that he himself shouldn’t be forced to cater a gay wedding on religious grounds. There’s a separate question too involving implementation. Questionnaires, interviews, social-media searches and other vetting take time and cost money. Is Trump imagining this sort of scrutiny only for select visitors from terror hot spots or otherwise intolerant cultures or is this going to be part of the standard review for anyone who wants a visa? He’s willing to pay big bucks to tighten the borders. I don’t know how many congressional Democrats or Republicans are.
One other newsy bit from today’s speech: Trump and his team are ready to reorient America’s alliances with a focus on the war on terror. I’ll bet I know which country would benefit most from that.
The United States will “consider any nation that will join the fight against it an ally,” Mr. Miller said on a call with reporters before the speech. The Times was not invited to participate in the call, but was able to listen in…
In his call with reporters, Mr. Miller suggested that a nation’s willingness to help the United States fight against a certain type of terrorism would potentially supersede other interests by which America seeks it allies. He did not say whether such a new form of alliances would preclude traditional foes.
Russia’s cooperation against ISIS in Syria and beyond would give President Trump something to think about if/when Putin decides it’s time to expand Moscow’s sphere of influence a bit further to the west. Think of it as the Cold War in reverse: We made common cause with the mujahedeen against the Soviets 35 years ago, now we’ll be making common cause with the Soviets’ descendants against the mujahedeen. What could go wrong? In fact, depending upon how Trump defines the jihadist enemy — ISIS and Sunni Wahhabism, for instance, rather than Islamic fundamentalism of all stripes — Iran could also be a potential new American “ally” against terrorism. Although, in fairness to him, today’s speech appears to rule that out, at least for now. He specifically mentions partnering with Sunni allies like Egypt and Jordan and emphasizes that the jihadist threat isn’t limited to ISIS but also to Iranian-backed proxies like Hamas and Hezbollah, whom he hopes to starve of funding.
Here’s the full transcript of today’s speech. Exit quotation: “In short, Hillary Clinton wants to be America’s Angela Merkel…”