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Viewing Trump’s Travel Ban Through the Prism of Pragmatism

By: David Unsworth - @LatinAmerUpdate - Feb 1, 2017, 4:48 pm
Syria's Al-Nusra Front is one of the most powerful groups, battling both the Syrian regime and ISIS (
Syria’s Al-Nusra Front is one of the most powerful groups, battling both the Syrian regime and ISIS (Al Alam).

In 2011 two sets of fingerprints were found on roadside bombs that had been used to attack the US military in Iraq. It was subsequently discovered that the fingerprints matched two Iraqis who had been admitted to the US as refugees, and were living in Kentucky!

Obama subsequently ordered a massive overhaul of our vetting process that slowed the influx of Middle Eastern refugees to a virtual standstill. While Obama did not order an outright ban, the effects of Obama’s actions 6 years ago and Trump‘s now, are similar.

The only difference was that a generation of millennials in 2011 did not head to America’s largest 25 airports to unleash massive protests. It doesn’t matter what Donald Trump does. The social justice warriors are going to protest it. With Obama, it was a free pass. It also doesn’t matter that the so-called “ban” is temporary, that it includes provisions for exemptions (as did Obama’s), or that Trump has already backtracked on allowing entry to current green card holders.

To the American Left this is an outrageous travesty, a miscarriage of justice, an abomination, and an ugly episode of discrimination in our history. They are quick to feel moral outrage, but slow to think and act pragmatically.

The degree to which political correctness has warped the minds of a generation is utterly astounding. If you casually perused social media this past weekend, you would have been led to believe (by the vast majority of the politically inclined posts) that there is not now, has never been, and never will be, a danger posed by refugees from any of these nations included in Trump’s ban.  A phrase I saw repeatedly: “This has nothing to do with keeping us safe.”

It was only two months ago that Somali refugee Abdul Razak Ali Artan drove his car into a crowd at Ohio State University and stabbed thirteen people. Well, he didn’t kill anyone, right, so it really wasn’t a big deal, right?

So to the ridiculous millennials that have been repeating over and over again on Facebook for an entire weekend that this ban is not going to do any good…why don’t you talk to the families of the 13 students who were run over by a car and/or stabbed, and see what they have to say about that?

Trump’s travel ban is not a Muslim ban; rather it is a temporary ban on immigration from nations with a significant presence of terrorism, jihad, political instability, and sharia law.

The American Left scoffs at such concerns, suggesting that is outright paranoia to be concerned about sharia law coming to the United States, where we cherish secularism and separation of church and state. Call me crazy, but yes, I am worried about Somalian or Syrian or Iraqi immigrants contributing to the establishment of sharia law courts, because it is already happening in Britain and Europe.

I believe that the dual perspectives of libertarianism and Constitutionalism lie at the foundation of what makes America great. Yet to these pillars, I would add a third: a healthy dose of pragmatism. It would be wonderful if every refugee from the Middle East could be cared for not merely adequately, but exceptionally. It would be wonderful if the entire world could live in a country like Switzerland, Canada, or New Zealand.

But we have finite resources, decaying inner cities and infrastructure, and 20 trillion in debt. Unless the social justice warriors on social media are independently wealthy and are personally proposing to pay to relocate these refugees, then they are asking others to pay to support their plans and ideology, or they are asking us to go into further debt. And it is fundamentally impractical to suggest that we simply relocate tens of millions of people from the Middle East to stable western democracies.

First dose of pragmatism: Why don’t we commission a comparative cost analysis of relocating a refugee to the United States, versus relocating them within the Middle East (where they already speak the language, and share similar values, customs, religious views, and worldview). It is clearly going to be more economically viable to relocate refugees to Jordan, Oman, UAE, Saudia Arabia, Bahrain, Turkey, or Qatar, than to the United States, considering the cost differentials: education, transportation, housing, food, clothing.

At the very least, you would have to concede that 10, 15, or 20 times as many refugees could be resettled within the Middle East for the same cost. Taking in 10,000 or 20,000 refugees to the United States is a nice gesture, but it makes little practical difference when we are talking about a region of 60 million people that ISIS is directly threatening. Taking in refugees to the US is a great way to make liberals feel good about themselves, but it is a completely impractical, unsustainable, and unrealistic solution.

Unless, of course, we begin to take in 8 or 10 million Middle Eastern refugees a year, give them vast swathes of unoccupied land on the Great Plains, and budget a few trillion dollars a year to do it.

It is funny to me how millennials today are extremely generous and compassionate when it comes to spending other peoples’ money.

How many of these social justice warriors who are so supportive of refugees would be willing and able to pay for the relocation of these refugees themselves? Let’s say a Syrian refugee would need around $18,000 per year for housing. $12,000 per year for food. $5,000 for medical and dental. $5,000 for transportation. And a further $5,000 for other expenses.

It is very very easy to go on social media and tell the world how you are such a compassionate person because you support taking in Syrian refugees. It is quite another to pay for these refugees. I would like to find one outraged millennial posting on Facebook, dripping with hatred for Trump and his policies, who is prepared to pay $45,000 per year to fund a Syrian refugee.

Pragmatism is based on rational thinking and careful consideration of the issues, not on feelings.

Case in point: Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy’s morally outraged and indignant tweet about the cruel cold heartlessness and discrimination of President Trump.

Unfortunately, it turns out that Murphy’s tweet is entirely misleading, and largely incompatible with reality.

It turns out that the boy in the picture and his father, Abdullah and Aylan Kurdi, had relocated from Syria to a safe part of Turkey at the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2012, where the father had found steady and reasonable work on a construction site ($17 a day is not spectacular, but it is far more than the vast majority of the world makes).

Abdullah Kurdi did not take his son across the Mediterranean Sea from Turkey to Greece in order to escape war and violence. Rather, he sought a more comfortable lifestyle in Europe. He was actually charged, in absentia, by the Turkish government, for organizing the voyage to Greece, in rough seas, in an unseaworthy vessel.

So fundamentally, who is to blame for the death of Aylan Kurdi? Not Obama. Not Secretary of State Kerry. Certainly not Donald Trump. The vast share of the blame lies with the boy’s father himself for taking his son along on such a dangerous and ill-advised journey, when they had already found safe haven in Turkey.

The world is flawed and imperfect. Human beings are flawed and imperfect. Unfortunately, there will always be wars and poverty. The unfortunate fact also remains that many so-called refugees are using war as a pretext to escape poverty, and seek a more comfortable lifestyle in another country.

Nations are sovereign and have the right to control their own borders. No one has any inherent right, regardless of the circumstances, to go to any other country without following rules for dealing with refugees and immigrants.

And it is hardly outrageous to question which would be better: Millions of refugees fleeing their own countries to head to nations that cherish democracy, capitalism, civil society, separation of powers, rule of law, and religious pluralism? Or millions of people in North Africa and the Middle East rising up to demand democracy, capitalism, civil society, separation of powers, rule of law, and religious pluralism?

There are no easy answers when it comes to the civil wars raging in the Middle East. I don’t blame the refugees for fleeing. But a pragmatist must concede that those who are fleeing are leaving their friends, families, and neighbors to deal with the violence, political instability, and economic deprivation. There is a time when a human being, a family, a village, a region, and a nation, must work together to rehabilitate their own nation, as opposed to seeking refuge in another.

There is an urgent need for the world’s wealthy nations to come together and discuss a solution to the current refugee crisis in the Middle East. But that does not mean that we should allow our feelings to primarily dictate public policy. Trump’s 90 day ban is hardly fascist or draconian. Trump has stated that the United States needs time to formulate its public policy and evaluate its screening and vetting guidelines. It does not seem fundamentally outrageous to ask for a few months to work things out.

David Unsworth David Unsworth

David Unsworth is a Boston native. He received degrees in History and Political Science from Washington University in St. Louis, and subsequently spent five years working in real estate development in New York City. Currently he resides in Bogota, Colombia, where he is involved in the tourism industry. In his free time he enjoys singing in rock bands, travelling throughout Latin America, and studying Portuguese.