Trump’s Security Strategy

Trump’s Muslim and refugee ban is a dangerously guised ‘national security’ endeavor, and by all empirical measures, his actions make us decidedly less safe.

The simple truth is that an anti-Islam stance in the West is fuel for terrorism.

Terrorism’s ultimate goal, not surprisingly, is to incite terror — to make us afraid and act on that fear. The Trump Administration has fully embraced that stance, trading legitimate security policy for a counterproductive strategy that ultimately harms us. After all, refugees have carried out a whopping zero fatal terror attacks here in the United States (and the 9/11 hijackers came from nations not on the their ban-list). The Trump Administration’s policies have left our Muslim-nation allies in the Middle East who are key to taking take the fight to ISIL feeling confused and alienated.

An open society is what makes America strong, and that rings true when it comes to national security. No matter how you slice it, the United States benefits from welcoming all who want to serve — people of all faiths and all backgrounds and yes, refugees.

Cpl. Ali J. Mohammed is a Marine — and a refugee. He currently serves as a translator in support of Iraqi forces in the fight against ISIL. Mohammed grew up in Baghdad. When he was 16 years old, his family fled their home because his sister worked for the U.S. military and was consequently threatened by the same terrorists who we guard against today. His family chose to flee to the United States in order to escape death.

Photo of Cpl. Ali J. Mohammed by Lance Cpl. Kyle McNan

“I had to face a lot of challenges coming to America,” said Mohammed. “Trying to learn English and working to help support my family while going to high school was difficult.”

On November 4, 2014, Mohammed embraced his new home in a way few Americans ever do: he swore his oath of enlistment into the United States Marine Corps.

“America is my home, but Iraq is my homeland,” said Mohammed. “My biggest motivation right now is to help drive these extremist groups out of my homeland, and being able to do that as a United States Marine is the most rewarding thing I could have asked for.”

Mohammed’s story is a story of American strength; it’s a story of how our embrace of an open, accepting society is what give us an edge on the global stage.

Trump’s executive actions follow from his campaign rhetoric that painted large parts of the world and an entire religion as hostile. This perhaps was most apparent when he got away with taunting the mother of a fallen American soldier — twice — because of her Muslim faith.

I’ve worked for the Secretary of Defense and traveled to forward operations. I’ve met the most fearless, capable people on earth — truly the best humanity has to offer and who are of all faiths, backgrounds, and ethnicities. An open society is how America is, and stays, strong. When it comes to the military, that truth is clear: ours is an all-volunteer force. Those who choose to serve show courage rarely found among ordinary people.

Meanwhile, Trump’s thinly veiled embrace of discriminatory ideology threatens the essence of what makes us American. We must deal with an unfortunate truth: the Trump Administration will continue to try to leverage the legitimizing of xenophobia for political power. But their success will depend on our willingness to accommodate it and our ability to adjust our sense of right and wrong to adhere to a man — President or not — who relegates those who’ve served, their families, and the basic tenets of American strength into Twitter tantrums and punchlines for personal and political gain.

An open and welcoming society — and our willingness to defend it — is America’s greatest power and a guiding light to the free and peaceful world. Trump’s islamophobic Muslim and refugee ban and any ensuing policies like it will not make us safer. They will not deter terrorism, but rather, grow it.

It’s incumbent on us to reveal that truth — that’s the real fight for our security.

Kevin Samy served as a speechwriter and policy advisor in the Obama Administration, including at the White House, U.S. EPA, and the Pentagon. He was selected among the 2016 Forbes’ 30 under 30 leaders in Law and Policy and is a Political Partner with the Truman National Security Project. Views expressed are his own.

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