Trump’s Travel Ban Will Prevent a Clash of Civilisations

President Donald Trump’s travel ban has predictably incited a firestorm of controversy. Predictably, the mainstream media lied about Trump’s ban, claiming it bans Muslims from entering the United States. Also, quite predictably, they aren’t going to tell you that the ban will prevent a clash of civilisations in America.

This is the full text of Trump’s executive order. Nowhere it in mentions Muslims or nations by name. What he has done is to suspend the entry of foreign nationals from states defined in a law proposed by former President Barack Obama and passed by a Democrat-controlled legislature for 90 days, to suspend the US Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days, and to direct the relevant agencies to strengthen vetting and screening processes.

87% of the world’s Muslims are not affected by the ban. It is not a Muslim ban; it is a temporary suspension of entry of nationals from states of concern.

These states of concern are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen are failed states, either on the brink of collapse or well past it, and are engulfed in war and terrorism. They cannot guarantee that people leaving the country are not criminals or terrorists. Iran is a known state sponsor of anti-US terrorism, most recently in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, and has recently conducted a ballistic missile test in defiance of a UN resolution. Tehran is not going to tell Washington whether a traveler is an innocent person or a Quds Force operative on an espionage mission. Until the US develops a robust means of screening out undesirables, it only makes sense to temporarily halt entry of persons from these states. The ban applies to all people, not just Muslims.

The media has run plenty of stories about the plight of people who were deported, refused entry or are in a state of limbo due to the ban. I sympathise with their situation, but the sad truth is that government policy must by necessity paint with a broad brush. I suspect Trump is once again using high-pressure tactics, wielding popular reactions to the ban as an instrument to exact concessions from the hard left and the hard right. Scott Adams has more information here. In the coming days and months, I will not be surprised if the Trump Administration or the federal agencies roll out a raft of exemptions and screening recommendations, making Trump appear more reasonable.

But only up to a point. If Trump is going to deliver on his promise to Make America Great Again, there will be much more stringent screening measures in the near future, if not an outright ban on almost all refugees. And this will prevent a clash of civilisations.

Inconvenient Facts about ‘Refugees’

In November 2015, Michael Cernovich of Danger and Play decided to find the ground truth about the Middle Eastern refugee crisis. Traveling to Budapest, he documented his findings here. He discovered that most of the refugees were able-bodied young men, and were taught how to lie and where to go to receive the most benefits.

Why are these male refugees in Europe instead of fighting the Islamic State?

That should tell you something about the refugees. Here are three things the media won’t tell you about them.

  1. Most of the refugees are not refugees.

When you think of ‘refugees’, you tend to think of women, children and elderly fleeing from a war zone. That is not the case here. At least 60% of these refugees are economic migrants. This dovetails well with Cernovich’s findings about refugees being taught to game the system. They are not running from Daesh; they are attempting to take advantage of Europe’s generous welfare states. And ‘activists’ are aiding and abetting them in doing so.

  1. Most of these refugees are functionally illiterate

65% of incoming refugees from Syria are unable to read or write their own language. 70% of trainees in skills training courses for refugees have dropped out. And yet they are settling in a distant land that speaks a different language and embraces different cultural values. Most of these refugees do not have the skills to contribute meaningfully to their host nation; all they can do is simple menial labour.

If these were ‘regular’ refugees, this would not be a problem. They would simply stay in refugee camps until the war is over, then go home. But many of them are economic migrants. Their goal is to stay in their host nation. If they want to stay, they must contribute to society like regular citizens do. But if most of them cannot contribute, why should they be allowed to stay?

  1. Arab refugees are radically different from their host nations

People are not blank slates. Refugees are no different. They come from Arabic-speaking Muslim-majority lands with barely functional and highly corrupt authoritarian formergovernments. They expect despotism and nepotism everywhere, and their societies tend to be organised along tribal lines with strong religious influences. Democracy, civil rights and separation of church and state are unknown to them, and indeed fundamentally incompatible with the cultural values of their homelands.

They will experience massive culture shock in the West, and most of them will be unable to integrate meaningfully into society. They will be unable to communicate with ordinary Westerners. They will not be able to find work. They will have to acclimatise to a different climate. They will be surrounded by people with vastly different political and cultural norms. This is the recipe for a clash of civilisations.

Samuel Huntington argues in The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of World Orderthat the primary source of conflict in the post-Cold War era will centre on religious and cultural identities. Peoples at the borders of distinct civilisations will clash with each other to secure dominance of their own culture and religion. And so far, Europe has proven Huntington right.

Sweden is now the rape capital of the West. Migrant gangs prowl the streets of Europe, enforcing shariah law and committing crimes. Germany has experienced a rash of sex attacks by migrants, and authorities are excusing rape culture. And now, the hard right is mobilising in numbers.

It seems to me that the Trump Administration has learned from Europe. It is a small miracle there haven’t been any major terrorist attacks in the United States yet, but large numbers of poorly-screened refugees and migrants are fertile grounds for terrorism. The implementation of more robust screening measures would ideally keep out the terrorist- and criminally inclined. An outright ban on most or all future refugees would eliminate the chance of a clash of civilisations, either now or in the future.

Muslim Refugees are not (European) Jewish Refugees

Inevitably someone will compare the Muslim refugees to Jewish refugees during World War II. This is a false comparison.

The Jewish refugees were European Jews. They were raised in modern states with modern education systems. They share the same cultural norms as the rest of the West, such as democracy, secularism and civil liberties. While they might have linguistic difficulties, they had valuable skills and had an innate understanding of public norms and codes of conduct in their new lands. Most importantly, the Jews did not remain refugees. After the war, they tended to do one of three things. They legally immigrated into their new countries, returned to their homelands, or emigrated to Israel.

Refugee status is not a permanent status. Once the crisis is over, they either assimilate or return home. On the other hand, many of the refugees flooding Europe have no intention of assimilating or returning.

However, there is one similarity between the Jews and the Arab refugees. The Jewish refugee crisis was solved by the destruction of the Third Reich. Similarly, the Arab refugee crisis can be solved through a similar way.

Strike the Root

The solution to the Arab refugee crisis is not to invite even more refugees and trigger a clash of civilisations. It is to strike the root of evil.

To be sure, genuine refugees do need help. Nobody should have to live at the mercy of Daesh, warlords or terrorists. But transporting them across the sea to a faraway land with vastly incompatible languages and norms is not the answer. Not when nearby countries with similar norms and languages can help. Saudi Arabia, for instance, has enough tents to house 3 million refugees. Similarly, these countries have functional governments with militaries capable of fending off terrorist incursions. Moving refugees to safe zones in neighbouring nations is cheaper, safer and faster than moving them to the West, and will not provoke an inter-civilisational conflict. Indeed, Donald Trump has secured an agreement from Saudi Arabia and Dubai to establish safe zones. I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump implements a permanent travel ban alongside deportations to these safe zones.

With refugees secure, the nations of the world can focus their attention on destroying Daesh and other armed groups causing havoc in the region, and restoring law and order to these lands. And this is not something the West can take a lead in.

While America can supply the firepower needed to destroy the Islamic State in the field, this is not enough to win the peace. Eventually the power brokers must sit down and hash out long-term arrangements for a stable and peaceful society. The West must not take the leading role in such negotiations and state-building measures. This will be seen as imperialism and an attempt to impose their will. Instead, states from within the Islamic civilisation, such as Saudi Arabia and Dubai, will have to take charge. Their shared culture and religion will improve the chances of successful negotiations and long-term outcomes. What the West can do is play the role of honest broker, ensure all sides play fair, and pressure the key players to keep returning to the negotiating table until they find a win-win solution.

Donald Trump’s travel ban is not necessarily the best solution, but it might well be the least bad policy — for now. Trump must avoid inciting a clash of civilisations in America, and that means keeping out the people most likely to foment such a clash. Going forward, I expect Trump to roll back the ban and incorporate new screening measures and exemptions. But to properly solve the refugee crisis once and for all, Daesh and other warlords must be destroyed and replaced with stable states — and that is something the West should not play a leading role in.

Media credits:

  2. Mike Cernovich, Danger and Play, 2015
  3. Uri Dan, To the Promised Land, 1987 (Public Domain)

Singapore's hybrid warfare strategy is lacking

The media reported that the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is adapting to new threats posed by hybrid warfare, defending against conventional and unconventional threats from state and non-state actors. Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Han described hybrid warfare as the “exact antagonist” of Singapore’s total defence strategy, seeking to undermine the target’s defences in civil, economic, social, psychological and military spheres.  To meet this threat, the Navy will replace its Patrol Vessels with Littoral Mission Vessels, while the Army will phase out its fleet of V-200 armoured cars with new Protected Response Vehicles. The SAF will also raise new units for cyber defence, and explore other technologies.

This round of upgrades would likely enable the SAF to keep pace with military developments. It is also unlikely to matter in the event of hybrid warfare.

Dr Ng’s description of hybrid warfare is not wrong. He was framing it in terms relevant to Singapore’s Total Defence strategy. However, hybrid warfare isn’t solely, or even predominantly, military. Hybrid warfare is fought predominantly in non-military spheres.

The terrorists of the world have pointed the way. Palestinian terrorist groups made their mark by choosing strategies to provoke Israel into repeated overreaction, making the latter appear to be the oppressor in the conflict. Insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan fight from villages and cities, forcing Western forces to choose between mass collateral damage or dramatically reduced fire support. Islamist propaganda consistently paints the West as the Dar al-Harb, the House of War, by playing up immoral Western activities and portraying them as aggressors. Terrorists and their sympathisers use social media to amplify these actions, portraying their cause as just.

And yet, what is clear is that state actors have consistently been playing to the tune of non-state actors. Islamist terrorist groups want Israel to engage in widespread destruction; the Israelis obliged through collective punishments, bombing terrorists in dense urban areas, and further isolating Palestine. The Americans continue their policy of launching Hellfires at terrorists from UAVs, blowing up more civilians than combatants in the process. They have done everything to make themselves look like the bad guys, and every little to correct that perception.

When state actors embrace the tools of subversion, their access to greater resources and population bases leave them more tools. The Russians in the Ukraine began their campaign by infiltrating large numbers of masked, deniable gunmen into the Crimea, paving the way for the main forces. In the early days of the conflict, the Ukrainian military failed to respond decisively to the militia in their midst, and the Western European powers had no strategic impetus to intervene. This made it extremely difficult to eject the Russians when they came in force.

But the principal tool here is not military power. The first wave of irregulars were largely unopposed. That was because the Russians had succeeded in swaying the Russian-ethnic majority of the Crimea to their side. Moscow painted the Ukrainian government as Western puppets, and appealed to their shared cultural history to win their support. The people of the Crimea elected their own pro-Russian government, repudiated the state of Ukraine and acceded to the Russians. Because of this popular support, the Russians secured their campaign objectives with minimal bloodshed and without triggering World War III.

The Chinese Assassin’s Mace concept took hybrid warfare several steps further, discussing the use of economic warfare, propaganda, and asymmetric warfare. For instance, suppose the Chinese decide to invade Taiwan. The United States threatens to intervene. In response, Chinese hackers black out the West Coast and inserts a virus that knocks out the New York Stock Exchange. If the US makes a move, the Chinese promise to cut power to the rest of the nation. A blackout is not, strictly speaking, an act of war, nor is crashing a stock exchange, but these moves would undercut any appetite for intervention without firing a shot. If the Chinese wish to fight at the moral level, they would precede the invasion by engineering a crisis in Taiwan, perhaps a false flag operation that paints the mainland Chinese community at risk of deportation or oppression by an aggressively nationalist government.

Singapore’s hybrid warfare strategy focuses on countering military threats, and in the future cyberwarfare threats. While periodic modernisation upgrades are almost always useful, Singapore’s obsession with technology mirrors that of the Americans — and despite American technological supremacy they have not won the peace in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Military strategist William S. Lind repeatedly pointed out that fourth generation warfare, the open source warfare embraced by non-state actors, is fought principally on the moral level. The opening moves are designed to secure the moral high ground, and follow-up moves to keep the target from wresting that position away. In doing so, the target loses the support of the people and the world, and eventually loses the will to fight. This is seen in the battlefields of Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan. Hybrid warfare, as embodied by the Russians, began and continued the same way, with the Russians communicating the same consistent message undermining the legitimacy of the Ukrainian government and affirming their common ground with the Crimea. While there will nevertheless be military operations at the physical level, these operations are subordinate to, and superceded by, combat at the moral level. Case in point, the US military won nearly every battle in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, but by failing to win the hearts and minds of the people they failed to win the wars.

With hybrid warfare fought at the moral level, what is the SAF’s response?

Trick question. The SAF is optimised for military conflicts. Hybrid warfare is a moral confrontation. The SAF does not have much of a role to play in fields that do not concern external aggression, disaster/terrorist response, foreign aid, or incidents that require military deployment.

The real question is: what is the government’s response?

Hybrid warfare attacks the foundations of the state. The state’s first move must be to shore up its foundations and occupy the moral high ground before the threat approaches. The state must show that it represents the will of the people, that has the good of the people at heart, that its power is legitimate and non-state actors simply wish to destroy everything the state stands for.

Now consider this: Alex Au was fined $8000 for contempt of court. Lawyer M Ravi, famous for being of the few (or only) lawyers who will take on political and human rights cases, was suspended from the bar while he was representing politically-charged cases in court. The government continues to sue people for defamation, with Roy Ngerng the latest. The PAP Internet Brigade is still active. The White Paper on Population became policy even in the face of mass opposition. Thaipusam celebrations were slammed for being “too noisy”, and Parliament recently passed a bill prohibiting alcohol consumption in public without public consultation. As for the mainstream media, regardless of its failings it is safe to say that it will always publish the government’s point of view.

With its penchant for dropping the hammer on dissidents and bloggers, passing laws without warning or public consultation, and a sympathetic ‘nation-building’ press, can the government say it has the moral high ground?