Trump, Islam, and U.S. National Security
Donald Trumps’ rhetoric on Islam will greatly harm U.S. national security if he were to become the Republican presidential nominee, and will have catastrophic consequences if he were to become president. Trump has said: “I think Islam hates us,” and “There’s a tremendous hatred.” Earlier he had said that he would temporarily ban entry of Muslims to the U.S. He has also said that he would target families of terrorists and that he would bring back waterboarding and that the U.S. “should go a lot further than waterboarding.”
There is no doubt that we have been at war with Islamic fundamentalist terrorists (e.g., fundamentalist regime ruling Iran, Lebanese Hezbollah, al Qaeda, and ISIS). However, we have not been at war with the overwhelming majority of Muslims. There are 57 states that are members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the main organization encompassing all the Islamic states. Islamic fundamentalists have captured states in only three countries: Shia fundamentalists in Iran; Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and ISIS in parts of Iraq and Syria. Islamic fundamentalists have partial control in Lebanon, Iraq, and Turkey. With assistance from outside powers, anti-fundamentalist forces have the upper-hand in three more: Afghanistan, Yemen, and Libya. Anti-fundamentalists control the state in 48 countries.
Islamic fundamentalists frame their jihad as the latest assertion of the 1,400-year-long war between the Christian world and Islam. The local forces that oppose fundamentalists, instead, frame the Islamic fundamentalists as reactionary, misogynist, tyrannical threats to peace, security, and welfare of the peoples in the region. Many academics consider Islamic fundamentalists to be the Islamic world’s equivalent to European fascism. This is particularly the case for many Iranian pro-democracy and progressive intellectuals and political parties. The fundamentalist and anti-fundamentalist forces in the Islamic world have been struggling for the hearts and minds of the people in the region.
Trumps’ rhetoric and framing will ensure that the fundamentalists will represent the face of Islam, and the anti-fundamentalists will be sidelined for the foreseeable future. At least one top security official in the Islamic world has already sounded the alarm. A conflict between the U.S. and Islam is not in the interests of the U.S. There are about 1.6 billion Muslims in the world (including about 3.3 million in the U.S.). There are only 322 million of us (well, minus 12 million if Trump becomes president and deports 12 million “illegal immigrants”). As the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have demonstrated, we did not succeed in achieving our goals despite spending a great deal of blood and treasure. Since 9/11, we have had fewer than 100 Muslim Americans commit domestic terrorism. Even if one percent of Muslim Americans were to join jihad domestically due to the rhetoric and policies of a Trump presidency, we will have about 33,000 domestic Muslim American terrorists.
To succeed in conflict, wise leaders try to sow divisions among enemy ranks, and create unity among one’s own. Trump is doing the exact opposite. Today, Shia fundamentalists are at war with Sunni fundamentalists in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain. Moreover, Shia fundamentalists are at war with anti-fundamentalist Sunni states and groups in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Lebanon. A war between the U.S. and Islam will cause these groups to stop fighting each other and instead target Americans. The Shia fundamentalists who rule Iran and the Sunni fundamentalists of al Qaeda hate each other. As the bin Laden documents captured by the U.S. from the bin Laden compound and recently declassified by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence illustrate, the Shia regime has provided a great deal of assistance to al Qaeda including safe passage of funds, operatives, and weapons.
Muslims do not hate the U.S., Islamic fundamentalists do. In actual fact, in large parts of the Islamic world, American troops work closely with their Muslim counterparts on a daily basis. From Afghanistan to Iraq, from Jordan to Kuwait, local Muslims and Americans work together to defeat various Islamic fundamentalist terrorists. The Middle East has been going through violent upheavals. Much of the blame rests with the pathologies of the Middle East, but a part is due to the role of European colonialism and the U.S. and USSR policies during the Cold War. Honest (and painful) discussions are necessary to discover the roots of and solutions to these problems. Trump’s rhetoric not only does not help the discovery process, it will certainly cause catastrophic harm to American national security.