WASHINGTON:In just his first week in the White House, President Donald 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 wide-ranging battle are not only radical Islamist terrorists but 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.”