In one week, Trump broadly re­casts the en­emy

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BY GREG JAFFE greg.jaffe@wash­

In just his first week in the White House, Pres­i­dent Trump has sought to re­de­fine Amer­ica’s most lethal en­emy in terms far broader than his post-9/11 pre­de­ces­sors.

The net re­sult of Trump’s new ap­proach — out­lined in speeches, in­ter­views and ex­ec­u­tive or­ders — is a vast de­par­ture for a coun­try that has of­ten strug­gled over the past 15 years to say whether it is at war and pre­cisely who it is fight­ing.

With a few sweep­ing moves, Trump has an­swered those ques­tions with a clar­ity that is re­fresh­ing to his sup­port­ers and alarm­ing to some U.S. coun­tert­er­ror­ism of­fi­cials as well as most of the Mus­lim world.

For Trump and his se­nior pol­icy ad­vis­ers, Amer­ica is locked in a world war for its very sur­vival, and the en­e­mies in this widerang­ing bat­tle are not only rad­i­cal Is­lamist ter­ror­ists but also a chaotic, vi­o­lent and an­gry Mus­lim world.

“The world is as an­gry as it gets,” Trump said last week from the White House. “Take a look at what’s hap­pen­ing with Aleppo. Take a look at what’s hap­pen­ing in Mo­sul. Take a look at what’s go­ing on in the Mid­dle East . . . . The world is a mess.”

One day later, in an ap­pear­ance at the Pen­tagon and in sign­ing an ex­ec­u­tive order — “Pro­tect­ing the Na­tion From For­eign Ter­ror­ist En­try Into the United States” — Trump laid out his plan to deal with what he had de­scribed as a vast and press­ing threat. He closed Amer­ica’s bor­ders to all refugees tem­po­rar­ily and ad­di­tion­ally sus­pended the en­try of any­one from Iraq, Syria and five other pre­dom­i­nantly Mus­lim coun­tries.

“The op­tic of this is re­ally aw­ful,” said Nada Bakos, a for­mer CIA an­a­lyst, of the refugee ban. “What they’ve done goes too far. All it does is help [Is­lamic State] re­cruit­ing.”

Trump also vowed new “ex­treme vet­ting mea­sures” to per­ma­nently keep rad­i­cal Is­lamist ter­ror­ists out of the United States and promised to give Chris­tians from the Mid­dle East and other mi­nor­ity re­li­gions in the re­gion pri­or­ity over Mus­lim refugees.

Fi­nally, he promised to pump new money into Amer­ica’s mil­i­tary, what he called “a great re­build­ing of the armed ser­vices of the United States.”

Both for­mer pres­i­dents Ge­orge W. Bush and Barack Obama had de­fined the en­emy in sig­nif­i­cantly nar­rower terms while in of­fice, ea­ger to avoid any moves that might make it ap­pear as if the United States was at war with Is­lam.

For Bush, the en­emy was alQaeda and state spon­sors of ter­ror­ism to in­clude for­mer Iraqi leader Sad­dam Hus­sein, Iran and the Tal­iban. Obama in­sisted that Bush’s def­i­ni­tion was a recipe for “end­less war” and sin­gled out an even smaller group. To him, the en­emy was a se­ries of ter­ror­ist death cults that he said were the peace­ful re­li­gion of Is­lam.

The ex­ec­u­tive order on im­mi­gra­tion and refugees was pro­duced at a “fre­netic pace” that in­cluded none of the in­ter­a­gency re­views that char­ac­ter­ized sim­i­lar or­ders in the Bush and Obama ad­min­is­tra­tions, a se­nior U.S. coun­tert­er­ror­ism of­fi­cial said.

“The process was re­mark­able,” said the of­fi­cial, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss sen­si­tive in­ter­nal de­lib­er­a­tions. “No­body in the coun­tert­er­ror­ism com­mu­nity pushed for this. None of us ever asked for it.”

Trump de­scribed the order as a key cog in an ef­fort to pre­vent ter­ror­ists from en­ter­ing the United States, but the pol­icy does not af­fect coun­tries such as Saudi Ara­bia, Pak­istan or Egypt, whose cit­i­zens have launched ter­ror­ist at­tacks in­side the United States. Not one of the 19 hi­jack­ers who struck on 9/11 came from a coun­try tar­geted by the order.

The mea­sure drew neg­a­tive re­sponses across the world, some of which was heard by U.S. forces on the ground in the Mid­dle East.

U.S. com­man­ders ad­vis­ing Iraqi forces re­ported back that their part­ners were mys­ti­fied by the order. “It’s al­ready flow­ing back,” said the se­nior coun­tert­er­ror­ism of­fi­cial. “They are ask­ing, ‘What do you think of us? Do you see us as the threat?’ ”

Some Iraqi law­mak­ers pro­posed ban­ning U.S. troops and civil­ians from en­ter­ing Iraq — an ac­tion, if fol­lowed through, that could lead the au­thor­i­ties in Bagh­dad to turn to Rus­sia and seek more sup­port from Iran.

Ira­nian For­eign Min­is­ter Mop­er­vert­ing ham­mad Javad Zarif tweeted that the ban would be “recorded in his­tory as a great gift to ex­trem­ists and their sup­port­ers.”

Trump on Saturday de­scribed the move as sen­si­ble and not aimed at any par­tic­u­lar re­li­gious group.

“It’s not a Mus­lim ban, but we were to­tally pre­pared,” he told re­porters in the Oval Of­fice. “It’s work­ing out very nicely, you see it at the air­ports, you see it all over . . . and we’re go­ing to have a very, very strict ban and we’re go­ing to have ex­treme vet­ting, which we should have had in this coun­try for many years.”

The stark de­par­ture from Amer­i­can pol­icy over the past 15 years is a re­flec­tion not only of Trump but the some­what dystopian vi­sion of his clos­est ad­vis­ers.

“We’re at the very be­gin­ning stages of a very bru­tal and bloody con­flict,” said Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s chief strate­gist, in a 2014 speech to a Vat­i­can con­fer­ence. “We are in an out­right war against ji­hadist Is­lamic fas­cism and this war is . . . metas­ta­siz­ing far quicker than gov­ern­ments can han­dle it.”

Michael Flynn, Trump’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, sim­i­larly de­scribes the fight against alQaeda and the Is­lamic State as a “world war.”

“We could lose,” he wrote in his re­cent book, “The Field of Fight.” “In fact, right now we’re los­ing.”

Those sorts of analy­ses rep­re­sent a rad­i­cal de­par­ture from Obama, who be­lieved that the United States had suc­cumbed to a “sea­son of fear” fol­low­ing the 9/11 at­tacks that pro­duced a dis­as­trous war in Iraq and a be­trayal of Amer­ica’s core val­ues. As com­man­der in chief, he banned tor­ture — a pol­icy Trump has sug­gested he might re­visit — and sought un­suc­cess­fully to close the U.S. de­ten­tion fa­cil­ity at Guan­tanamo Bay, Cuba.

“Shame­ful” was the word that Obama used to de­scribe calls from Trump and other pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates to im­pose re­li­gious tests on refugees or im­mi­grants.

Obama was con­vinced that groups like al-Qaeda and the Is­lamic State did not pose an ex­is­ten­tial threat to the coun­try. Rather, he sug­gested that the big­gest threat came from an over­re­ac­tion to the at­tacks that would cause the United States to turn away from the world.

His ap­proach stressed Amer­ica’s fear­less­ness in the face of at­tacks. “That’s who the Amer­i­can peo­ple are — de­ter­mined and not to be messed with,” Obama said in de­scrib­ing his coun­tert­er­ror­ism strat­egy in 2013. “Now we need a strat­egy and a pol­i­tics that re­flects this re­silient spirit.”

Trump, mean­while, has cho­sen a dif­fer­ent route.


A woman, cen­ter, reacts at Dal­las-Fort Worth In­ter­na­tional Air­port af­ter hear­ing that her mother might not be re­leased by im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cers be­cause of Pres­i­dent Trump’s ex­ec­u­tive order.

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