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Opinion: The Strategic Impact of Trump’s Executive Orders and Actions

ISIS forces in Iraq

ISIS forces in Iraq

CORRECTION: The following piece was mislabeled as an analysis piece rather than opinion.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order last week that bars citizens from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Syria from entering the United States for 90 days, suspends refugee admission programs for 120 days and indefinitely bans Syrian refugees. Many questions have been raised about this controversial executive action. Since this action is characterized as a national security measure, this analysis will examine two questions: first, will such a policy measurably contribute to U.S. national security interests at home and abroad? And second, why the sudden change in strategy?

The executive order restricting immigration from those countries cannot be analyzed in isolation, since it is just one of many recent orders and proposals presented as new steps for combating radical Islamic terrorism. Other recent policy proposals that, in sum, shift U.S. policy in the Middle East include: the possible return of CIA black interrogation sites, the desired expansion of Guantanamo prison, the creation of safe zones in Syria, the proposed move of the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and the suggestion by President Trump that torture may once again be used by the U.S.

Ostensibly these measures are designed to prevent future ISIS-inspired attacks such of those witnessed in Europe and the U.S. in recent years. It is noteworthy that these actions are not really new (or improved); these measures were, in similar forms, previously employed in the immediate wake of 9/11. The measures were later abandoned because they were either deemed to be illegal, infective or both. The question, then, is why are they being dusted off and placed back on the table of options now?

If these proposals and policies are designed to accelerate the defeat of ISIS, then a fair question is how will our enemies view the ban? Based on past precedents of al Qaeda and ISIS effectively exploiting U.S. blunders and controversial U.S. policies as headlines for their propaganda recruiting efforts, these new policies and actions will amount to a virtual Powerball lottery win for ISIS and al Qaeda. One need only remember the mileage that al Qaeda in Iraq (the forefather of ISIS) gained from the Abu Ghraib prison fiasco in 2003. The anger generated from that incident strengthened the insurgency in Iraq and degraded confidence in U.S. leadership among the wider population. This one incident helped to protract the conflict and thus cost American lives. This incident is one among many that occurred in the fog and friction of the second Iraq War. There are others, but fortunately few recently.

Exploitation of the information domain has always been central to the effectiveness of groups like al Qaeda and other radical Islamic terrorist organizations. Examples of this are evident in the recent “ISIS-inspired attacks” in the U.S. and Europe. Individuals read and watch propaganda, grow angry, build or buy a weapon, and commit violence in their local communities in the name of ISIS. They do this at their own expense without ever spending time in terrorist training camp or being indoctrinated in a Salafi Madrasa.

Barak Mendelsohn’s article “ISIS’ Lone Wolf Strategy” (Foreign Policy, August 2016) described the lone wolf strategy as a cheap and easy way for ISIS to destabilize Western governments. Mendelsohn noted the strategic effect ISIS strives to achieve. He wrote, “A large number of uncoordinated attacks in a short period of time could upset the delicate balance of freedom and security in Western societies and bolster its own [ISIS] political objectives, such as using anti-Islamic sentiment in the West to feed its propaganda machine.”

Mendelsohn goes on to say that ISIS is working to create clear divisions between Muslims and non-Muslims. Adding, “Unfortunately, the xenophobic and Islamophobic declarations of some irresponsible populist leaders—as well as symbolic measures targeting Muslims such as the recent ban, by a number of French towns, of full-body swimwear or ‘burkinis’—is only aiding ISIS’ cause.” Of note, this article was written four months prior to the recent U.S. policy shift, but clearly the warnings are germane.

What ISIS-inspired lone wolf attacks have revealed is that these wolves can come from citizens that were born in the U.S., former members of the U.S. armed services, and even unstable non-Muslim citizens. None of these individuals would have been stopped by a visa ban, but all were “inspired” by ISIS propaganda videos.

With the protests around the world over the weekend and images of detained Muslim families in U.S. airports, the work of the terrorist propagandists has been greatly reduced. Information is ISIS’ and al Qaeda’s primary means to communicate with their audience, and the reinstatement of the most controversial post-9/11 policies will only serve to validate the message that they have been preaching to their audience for years: “the U.S. is fighting a war against Islam. … They want to destroy your religion.”

As noted by many media outlets, the ban overlooks the countries that have actually sent agents to attack the U.S. or our allies. Most notably, the 19 hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001 hailed from Saudi Arabia (15), UAE (2), Egypt (1) and Lebanon (1). None of these countries are on the proposed immigration ban. In fact, the countries listed on the executive order have not been the source of any deadly terrorist incidents since the 1975 (Libya). This oddly selective list of countries suggests that the policy is not based on any empirical evidence that travelers, immigrants and refugees of these seven countries pose a clear danger to the U.S. (no rationale was initially offered by the administration; see here for background information).

A second problem with these new policies is that they also mark a sudden shift in U.S. strategy against ISIS. The shift in strategy by the new administration seems to be based on a conclusion that the strategy and policies of the U.S. and its allies employed for the past 16 years of fighting the post-9/11 wars have been either insufficient or ineffective. The facts do not support this conclusion.

For instance, there is a well-established strategy that is in place. It is a strategy that has evolved over two administrations to meet the changing environment in the multiple complex combat zones where the fight is occurring. For instance, many new weapons have been developed specifically to execute the strategy such as the proliferation of drones, Special Operations forces have been greatly expanded in numbers and capabilities, and trillions of dollars have spent to sustain the effort. Additionally, the entire Department of Defense and multiple U.S. Intelligence organizations have been reorganized and strengthened to specifically address the post 9/11 wars.

The effectiveness of this strategy is playing out today in every corner of the world where ISIS and al Qaeda are found. For instance, on 19 January, President Obama ordered a B-2 bombing raid of an ISIS compound in Libya that reportedly killed more than 100 ISIS fighters. Today the presence of ISIS has nearly been wiped out in Iraq by U.S.-supported Iraqi Army forces and U.S. airpower. The net result of this sustained and relentless effort is that our enemies are far more diminished today than at any point since 9/11.

Will these new policies measurably contribute to U.S. national security interests at home and abroad? In a joint statement issued by Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on 29 January, they clearly do not think so. They stated, “This executive order sends a signal, intended or not, that America does not want Muslims coming into our country,” they said. “That is why we fear this executive order may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security.”

The lessons of history, recent examples, the thoughts of national security experts, and hard-won lessons learned presented here all indicate these measures are more likely to do harm than good. The re-introduction of policies born of over-reaction in the wake of 9/11 represent more of a de-evolution of strategy than a necessary adaptation to meet the changing threat environment. Any amount of strategic coherence in these new policies is at present difficult to identify.

  • cristo52

    Dolan: Here’s the link to the executive order. Read it. Do a word search. The word Muslim isn’t there.

    • jbaustian

      True. There are no additional travel restrictions from countries where over one billion Muslims live.

      The only reference to religion, at all, is an exemption for Christian minorities from places where they are being actively persecuted. Historically, refugees have come from countries where they are a political, ethnic or religious minority. Too often, I think, the term is applied to economic migrants.

      • Marcd30319

        This religious exemption could be extended to include Sunni in Shia-majority societies or visa-versa. In any case, this is not a blanket Muslin ban.

    • Geopolitical analyst

      The article is about perceptions in the Muslim world. The use or not of the word itself in the executive order is a technicality. A few years ago a French general shot himself to death in a cemetery to shame his government for not having welcomed on French soil foreign soldiers who had fought alongside French soldiers in colonial wars, condemning them to certain execution. Looking at how foreign interprets and guides who had helped U.S. soldiers in their missions for years in Iraq and elsewhere are being treated will only create unwillingness on the part of foreign citizens to help the US war and counterterrorism efforts. I have just talked with Indonesians Muslims who are reacting as if this executive order was directed at them. How much we might say they should be happy about not being targeted, it will _not_ change their perception and what is to come!

      • Marcd30319

        I don’t know what you are talking about, but the list of countries is based on legislation signed into law under the Obama administration in 2015. The executive order is a pause, not a ban, of 90 days in the refugee program, with certain exceptions, while the processes are reviewed and revised. The executive order affects ALL nationals from those countries without reference to religion except if the refugee is subject to religious persecution which could include Sunni in Shia-majority societies or visa-versa. It is NOT a Muslin ban. Again this executive order is NOT a ban. Even the pause in the refugee program for Syria is just indefinite, not permanent. Finally, the Obama administration paused the refugee program for Iraqi nations for six months in 2011. This was done in response to the Bowling Green case.

        • Tim Dolan

          That was not how it was implemented, because there was a lack of consultation and guidance on how to implement the 90 BAN. It resulted in a lot of people who should not have been detained for more than a few questions being held for hours and in some cases put on planes heading back out of the USA that should not have been. That is just plain stupid right there and is helping our enemies.

          • Marcd30319

            It is not a ban but a pause of 90 days. Also, President Obama put a 6-month “pause” on refugees from Iraq in 2011. Where was the outrage?

          • Tim Dolan

            Because Obama’s was because of a specific threat discovered by specific information, not a generic we are just afraid of muslims threat. Yeah it is country based, by why the exemption for Christians if it is not really religious? The terrorists could just as easily pose as persecuted Christians and then that “pause” is nothing but propaganda.

            So “pause” is the Minitrue word for “Ban”, thanks got it.

          • Marcd30319

            As oppose to the general threat? Particularly with ISIL? And that religious exemption can include Sunni in Shia-majority societies or visa-versa. And your suggestion about terrorists posing as persecuted Christian is an argument in favor of this 90-day pause, isn’t it?

          • Tim Dolan

            If they were not exempted, but they are exempt, which means they can get around this “pause”. Which makes the “pause” stupid.

          • Marcd30319

            Tom, if the processes were flawed as you suggest, then using the pause to review those processes would be beneficial while not reviewing and correcting flawed processes would be stupid.

          • Duane

            The outrage comes from Trump himself, who ran on a “Muslim ban”, and who called his own executive order a “ban” multiple times in the last week, on video … really, try taking Trump literally as well as seriously. It was only when he got the huge blowback from all over the USA and internationally that he backtracked and said it wasn’t a “Muslim ban”.

          • Don Lincoln

            Mr. Dolan -Please try and be more even handed in your treatment of these important issues- You must admit that there is some difficulty in adequately vetting immigrants from the designated countries- While the executive order was far from perfect- it at least was a step in the right direction.

            Don Lincoln

          • Tim Dolan

            Have you read what the vetting procedures were under the Obama administration? it usually took 4 to 6 months of reviews and about 20 steps to get through the vetting procedures and if they could not find out certain things you did not pass. So the vetting was already pretty good. Most, if not all, of the problematic assholes in the USA have come from other countries not on his list or been born here, so they would not be stopped by Trump’s executive order anyway.

            I have no problem with the concept of the “pause” However, I have a problem with the implementation. Ham-handed would be a polite way of putting it.

        • Geopolitical analyst

          Again, if you read carefully both the article and my comment, it is all about perception. I am not here questioning the validity or background of the executive order per se and I am well aware of what you are saying. However, it is not me or those Americans opposed to Donald Trump you will have to convince but the people who, feeling victimized directly or by proxy, will come to their own conclusions and might join the ranks of the enemies of democracy. The many failures of American diplomacy and strategy have little to do with political decisions but with the incapacity of decision makers to put themselves in the shoes of the enemy and understand the perverse effects of poorly implemented decisions, maybe satisfying for those who expected strong symbolic gestures but not for those affected in the long term, which include Americans abroad, business people, State Department employees and the military.

          • Marcd30319

            If it is about perception, then stop spreading lies or drinking the Kool-Aid.

    • Duane

      Trump ran on a Muslim ban. He directed Giuliani to come up with a Muslim ban that could, on its face, pass legal scrutiny.

      The latter part – passing legal scrutiny – is now well underway.

      But aside from its legality, this was a gold plated gift to the jihadis and the Iranians.

      Remember, one of the seven nations banned is Iraq, who is our ally, and where we have thousands of troops now engaged in fighting ISIS, and the specific people actually effected including Iraqi nationals who have been assisting the USA in our fight against ISIS in Iraq.

      Not a single one of the 7 countries banned has nationals who killed any Americans in any homeland terror attacks in the last two decades, going back to before 9/11/01/

      Yet, miraculously, the countries that actually supplied all of the 9/11/01 hijackers, the Saudis and Egyptians, were spared … and surprise, surprise, surprise, Trump has business interests there … what a coincidence.

      • Marcd30319

        Again, this is a pause on the refugee program, NOT a ban. It is involves those countries identified by the enabling legislation signed into law in 2015 by the Obama administration. You parse your words carefully while ignoring ISIL, Iran, etc. Stop drinking the Kool-Aid.

        • muzzleloader

          Duane is a hard core Trump hater who uses this site to vent. You are wasting your time talking to him.

          • Duane

            Not venting – stating proven facts, dude.

            Please, give me your evidence that disproves what I stated clearly above.

            You cannot, thus you resort to the infantile means of shouting “hater” or “troll” .. which is what 12 year olds do when arguing sports.

  • Marcd30319

    Oh, joy, Commander Dolan is back on the bridge! Where’s the palm tree?

    BTW – Should there not be a statement that says:

    The opinions and commentary expressed by the author does not reflect the official views of the United States Naval Institute or its Board of Directors.

    • Aubrey

      He managed one good story then…*WHAM*…back to clutching his pearls in horror that the world does not work the way Emperor Barack I and Princess Hillary have deemed “appropriate”

      • Jaehaerys Targaryen

        It doesn’t work how the Dear Leader Trump thinks it does either, given that he hasn’t banned people from Saudi Arabia… you know, the country the 9/11 attackers where from, the country that funds radical mosques all over the world, the country Trump does business in…

        • Marcd30319

          The enabling legislation cited in the executive order was signed into law during the Obama administration. Also, lest we forget, Syria continues to be the center of ISIL activity and that is a legitimate security concern. Finally, are you or do you plan to become a member of the United States Naval Institute who blog you are posting?

          • Tim Dolan

            I am a member of the USNI since 1981 and Trump’s Policies and Obama’s are not the same. Obama’s ban on travel was targeted at a specific event after having specific information and against a specific country, Iraq. While the legislation came from congress, Obama merely signed the bill with 4 countries on it and then he later added 3 more, but it was a hey lets vet them even better bill, which I am okay with. The outright ban by Trump is what is bad and especially that it came out with no exceptions, leaving folks trapped in between for no real reason.

            The excuse that they might be able to sneak in under the wire between notification and implementation are false as what Obama had already signed prevented them from just getting on a plane already, It was taking several weeks even in exception priority mode to get an exemption from the full Obama restrictions, so there was no reason other than to sow chaos to make it happen with consultation or that fast.

            I am actually more concerned about Trump’s torture ban lifting. Torture is useless for intelligence purposes, but it is great for propaganda purposes (both sides). I have had classes in interrogation by one of the best in the world before he passed away and he confirmed multiple times in both classes that torture will get them to say what you want, but never what you need and in fact will delay or prevent getting the information you need.

          • Marcd30319

            Tim, I have been a USNI member since 1974, and the executive order is a pause, NOT a ban, of 90 days.

            And we never tortured. Waterboard is not torture, and it was only used on THREE individuals.

          • Tim Dolan

            Waterboarding IS torture and we got squat, according to the CIA report, that we did not already have from those three individuals. One of which almost died if I remember – making it real hard to get more intelligence from him. Also there is some information that it was more than three, but only three were it was repeatedly done.

          • Marcd30319

            Waterboard has NEVER been outlawed by Congress, and former CIA director John Brennan acknowledged the successes of enhanced interrogation.

          • Tim Dolan

            A lot of things have never been outlawed by congress, I am sure drawing and quartering and Iron Maidens are fine with congress also (expect for that cruel and unusual punishment thing in the constitution).

            And that was before the CIA report came out when he was trying to keep himself out of hot water.

          • Marcd30319

            Non sequiturs don’t win arguments, Tom, and Brennan’s statement is still part of the official record. Denzel Washington was water-boarded and he seems to be doing okay. Ditto our aviators and special operators as part of their training. Waterboard is unpleasant but not torture.

          • Tim Dolan

            Waterboarding in training is not the same thing at all and is usually only done once under controlled conditions, not 183 times as a torture technique.

          • Marcd30319

            Waterboarding for enhanced interrogation was also done under controlled condition, and no amount of slamming “torture” and “technique” together into the same sentence is going to change that essential fact.

          • muzzleloader

            No Tom, waterboarding is not torture. Just because you declare that it is does not make it so. You say that we did not get squat? Have you ever heard of Khalid Shiek Mohammed? He was waterboarded one time and he sang like a canary. He gave up details about bombing Heathrow air port and other targets in London itself. He gave up the names of operatives. He confessed in detail about beheading wall Street reporter Daniel Pearl. He talked in detail about jihadist recruiting and training. He talked about details that have yet to be disclosed. i have no doubt lives were saved from what was learned. This guy is hard core Islamist. He also gave up others who were equally committed to Jihad.
            Do you really think he would have given this up without enhanced interrogation?
            What matters is American lives being protected from evil monsters who want to kill you and your children Enhanced interrogation is a tool that got results.

          • Tim Dolan

            I don’t know about Tom, but KSM was waterboarded One hundred and eighty three times (183) and it took 3 years to get him to sing like a canary – repeat 3 years. Yeah that was useful – I call that squat as 3 years later is useless. He was captured in 2003 and didn’t start singing until 2006.

            And yes a properly trained interrogator could have started getting information out of him in about 72 hours without the useless torture of waterboarding.

            Most of the one that say it worked are the ones who did it (a bit subjective), but the folks who reviewed the procedures and information derived (thus a bit more objective) said it actually delayed getting useful information out of him.

          • Duane

            By law, today, as of 2009, it is “torture”. You may disagree, but that is the law of the land. By law, the only allowable means of interrogating prisoners is the Army Field Manual, which forbids waterboarding and other so-called “enhanced interrogation methods”.

          • El_Sid

            Torture is useless for intelligence purposes, but it is great for propaganda purposes (both sides)

            Well quite – and I think the worrying thing about the current tendency to shoot from the hip is that there seems to be no consideration of second-order effects like propaganda benefits which in fact can be far greater than the immediate effects. Ultimately this is a war that can only be won in people’s heads, so the main weapons are ideas and propaganda rather than B-2’s and suicide vests.

            Another second-order effect of using torture is that one starts to lose cooperation and information from allies who have tighter rules on using information that may have been acquired through torture. Even if you’re only torturing a few of the worst people, it taints your whole intelligence effort as one that uses torture.

          • James Sweeney

            “The outright ban by Trump” is false. You may be listening to the media hysteria. Repeating it is not proper.

            The Obama Admin identified these 7 country’s as places where there was little information available for vetting purposes. An outright ban on Muslims, which is false anyway, would have included a vast number of Muslim countries. It did not; albeit clumsy implementation is clearly evident.

            BTW it did not come out with “no exceptions.”

          • Duane

            Trump repeatedly called it a ban just in the last week. His consigliere in this, Giuliani, also stated openly in an interview this past week that “Trump asked for a Muslim ban, and how he could do it legally”.

            Gig’s up. In the age of instant video, Trump’s lies cannot hold … just way too much video data to the contrary. But that doesn’t seem to stop his lying … he’s simply trying to gaslight the entire world.

          • Duane

            I agree with your comment in general, but a couple of points:

            1) Obama never instituted any kind of “ban” or halt or pause – it was a list of nations whose nationals deserved extra attention for screening purposes. Huge gulf between that and a ban of any kind.

            2) Trump cannot lift the ban on torture – it is a matter of law settled by Congress back in 2009, and is not subject to change by executive order. The probability of Trump getting Congress to rescind the law ranges somewhere between “zero” and “zero”.

          • Tim Dolan

            Iraqi’s were under additional restrictions then for 6 months under Obama.

            Also apparently Trump has backed off his torture desires at the request of General Mattis, but I will agree that as long as McCain is in the Senate they are not going to change the torture rules in congress.

          • Azcat85

            And the CIA is always open in their practices.

        • old guy

          He ONLY banned people from countries listed by Prez B.O.

      • Jay

        Chump is a lot closer to an Emperor than Obama was — even in the fevered Fox News soaked swamp of your mind. Unfortunately, he’s the Emperor of Alternative Facts and Incompetence — known to those of us with brains as LIES. Obama and Hilllary are history. Own Trump and the ignorance and destruction that accompany that.

  • Kenneth17948rt

    I guess the attack on the USS COLE while in Yemen is not considered a terrorist act? Even if considered an act of war it was carried out by Islamic extremists from Yemen was it not? Just curious, COLE seems to be left out of a lot of these articles.

    • Tim Dolan

      In fairness most of the articles are citing post 9/11 terrorists, the Cole was pre 9/11 and technically Sudanese terrorists were responsible, it just happened off Yemen. And why not include Egypt, American tourists have actually been killed in Egypt by terrorists since 9/11. If going pre 9/11 just a bit then you have to add in Saudi Arabia because of several Al Qaeda attacks on oil field personnel. I seem to remember one occurring in Algeria as well.

      • FourWarVet

        You’re correct, there was a horrific attack in Algeria against an oil refinery. Just reading and enjoying your insightful comments here Tim, when are you going to write something for USNI? We need more informed voices to join the conversation.

        • Tim Dolan

          A few catches with me writing articles, although I have thought about it.

          One I tend to be very rambling, good for length not good for understanding.

          Two I am currently taking classes to get a degree in business, I do enough writing for that.

          Three , I am retired USAF, Not USN (and yet I still have been subscribed to USNI since 1981) so my opinion on Navy things is kind of limited, although I could in theory talk national security and intelligence issues.

          Four, If I write anything formally that has actual facts in it that I didn’t get from someone else’s article, I have to send it off to get all security approved and all. I have done that twice for another publication, bit of a hassle.

          Humorous is one of those times they didn’t pay any attention to who wrote it and the security folks came back to me to ask my opinion of the classification in the article of a couple paragraphs (they only had the paragraphs with them). I of course said they were unclassified…But then I pointed out that they should really get an more unbiased source in this case.

      • El_Sid

        Going back to the article saying nothing since 1975, I’d throw in Pan Am 103 in 1988 – a Libyan was convicted for it, and Gadaffi paid compensation. It may have landed in Scotland but it was a US plane heading for a US airport with many USians on board.

        And if we going to ban a whole nation because some of its nationals support terrorism, don’t get me started on US funding for the IRA….

  • FourWarVet

    I haven’t come across any senior defense or security professionals that think this is a good idea. Today Eliott Cohen (GW Bush admin) and GEN Hayden (served under three Presidents) joined Bob Gates and many others in condemned the policy in the harshest terms… these seasoned pros are freaking out, and that freaks me out.

    So, I don’t think the author is off the mark, or out to lunch. If he’s out to lunch then Gates, Hayden, McCain, etc are also out to lunch. I have yet to hear a rational explanation for this policy from a respected non-political source. I would be interested to see an argument for the ban that both doesn’t involve name calling, and is as well researched as this. Anyone?

    • NavySubNuke

      I think the best argument is that this temporary halt to allowing individuals from the 7 designated countries, countries that were originally flagged by the Obama administration as being of particular interest, is to give a chance for State and DHS to take a deep breath and actually look at things.
      When you are caught in the day to day struggle of getting things done it is easy to take your eyes off the ball and fail to really think about what you are doing and if it is the best possible way to do things. Working inside a bureaucracy with stratified roles, stovepipes, and egos only compounds that problem.
      By temporarily stopping entry from these places we can give people 90 days to sit back, take a deep breath, and really consider if what we are doing is right. At the end of 90 days maybe nothing changes – or maybe big changes happen.
      I don’t have a lot of research to back this up but I do have a very concerning anecdote:
      I have a buddy who is an FSO with State and like all new FSOs he is on the visa line evaluating whether or not people should get visas. He talked about his training to me once – they spent a few days going over what forged documents look like but nothing what say a secret service agent goes through to learn about spotting counterfeit currency. He talked specifically about how if it is a really good forgery he and his fellow FSOs, all with at most 3 – 5 years experience in the State Department and many on their first or second post, are unlikely to realize it. He also talked about how the interview process for folks is about 60 minutes. As the reviewing officer you have 60 minutes to talk to this person and determine if they are telling the truth or that they are lying to you. This is just a one on one interview with them – no polygraph or anything like that.
      His first posting by the way was to an embassy that reviewed visa’s from one of the 7 countries included in this temporary ban. Maybe I am just naive but I was pretty shocked by how little they as approving officials are given in terms of time and training to make these kinds of decisions – especially considering the countries involved.
      So all that to say – I really don’t have a problem with this temporary ban. I really would like us to spend a little more time considering if people from places like Yemen or Iran should be allowed to come to this country and go about their business. Lets take the time to make sure we are using all the available data sources to be sure this person is who they say they are, that they are coming to America for the reason they say they are, and that they don’t actually want to kill our people or destroy our way of life.
      Now, on a practical matter – the roll out on this was too quick. I think the order could have been phrased better, coordinated across the government and the world better, and communicated to the world better – but I think the heart of the issue is solid and that is what is truly getting lost in the noise.
      The majority of the media, the brainless Hollywood crowd, and those who are still crying about Hillary losing were never going to support this – but I share your concern when folks I respect like Bob Gates also don’t like it. More should have been done to address what they are saying to start with and to make sure that the order was written and implemented in the best possible way.

      • FourWarVet

        Thanks Navy Nuke. That helps. Agree the roll out was a hot mess. One would expect every new admin to reassess policy and strategy. A review of the vetting process for the seven unstable regions would be something that the admin should be paying attention to. But being an experienced operational planner, I can say that nothing with this EO resembles a careful reassessment based on empirical data and fact finding. Rather, it was a very amateur effort.

        Finally, whatever extra screening steps Obama had in place (that this ban supposedly adds to) clearly worked because no one from any of these countries attacked the US while he was president. Or for that matter, ever. So why did it need to be fixed?

        As the author asks in his thesis, did this do more harm than good? Looking at the *%$# storm here in the US and across the world caused by this, I’d agree with Dolan, Gates, Cohen, McCain, Hayden, etc… If the Trump admin had listened to you and better explained it first, and offered the “cause” for the “action,” the reaction would have probably been reduced.

        • NavySubNuke

          “If the Trump admin had listened to you and better explained it first, and offered the “cause” for the “action,” the reaction would have probably been reduced.”
          Hard to say for sure — there is so much manufactured hysteria being pushed by the media every time Trump does anything it is hard to imagine the reaction ever being really reduced – but I suppose anything is possible. I mean Trump made it through his supreme court nominee roll out without anything too crazy so who knows what tomorrow will bring….

          • old guy

            His success is our success. We have to support him.

        • old guy

          With due respect for your and NavySubNuke’s excellent assessments, I would like to cite the 2025 “Naval Perspective”
          report (1974) prepared for ADM ZUMWALT (my boss). * of us were holed up in JAX for 5 days. I guess it is still classified, but I can tell you that it was remarkably closer to the current needs and opponent listing (one of our group was a former Naval Attache to Iran.). It was scrapped when ADM Holloway became CNO.

  • James Sweeney

    Muddled thinking at best. Propaganda at worst.

  • Donn Dears

    Very short sighted article by Dolan. He uses a lot of words, but ignores the purpose of the recent executive order to ban people from countries where there are known terrorists. It’s not intended to have a role in defeating ISIS in the Mideast. And it’s not a ban on Muslims, since countries such as Indonesia, which has the largest population of Muslims, are not included. It’s unfortunate that USNI news published story, since it reflects badly on the USNI.

    • Duane

      Here, I’ll make it short and easy for you to understand:

      Trump and his advisors are dumber’n a box of rocks, and issued their thinly-veiled Muslim ban as a political sop to their boneheaded supporters, and did not bother to consult on this with any of the affected members of his cabinet including his Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, and State. It was drafted by a former congressional staffer, Miller, and his neo-Nazi political advisor Bannon, in total isolation and disregard of anything but politics.

      This piece by the author is a credit to USNI – they are not drinking the Trump-Bannon-Miller kool aid.

      • Marcd30319

        If it is about perception, then stop spreading lies or drinking the Kool-Aid.

  • Eagle115

    CDR Dolan, and others in the media, keep bringing up the false caution that our actions (on any topic) aid in ISIS’s recruitment efforts. ISIS is able to recruit fighters because we exist, not because of what we do. ISIS hates everything we stand for and for us to fear that our actions will aid in their recruiting is foolish. Additionally, he doesn’t have the benefit of knowing the current threat to us from those countries, so saying that the list is “oddly selected” has no merit.

    • Tim Dolan

      While true that ISIS can recruit some fighters just because we exist, they can recruit far more thanks to our own stupidity. We can use counter propaganda, such as the percentage of them that get killed and how once there they frequently can’t leave freely to lower the number of recruits, but only if we are not creating a counter to the counter ourselves. The object is to lower their recruiting below the number we can kill with airstrikes, so we can eventually wipe them out. The object should not be to create even more recruits for them.

      • Marcd30319

        Islamists have declared war on us since bin-Laden’s so-called fawta in 1998. Our existence is sufficient for them to hate us.

        • Tim Dolan

          Fully acknowledged, but we don’t have to help them in their cause.

          • Marcd30319

            We are not, Tim, and that is the point. What we do or do not do make no difference to islamists; they still want to kill us. If taking 90 days to pause and assess our process helps to protect us, let’s do it and get on with the real deal of defeating islamists.

  • Stephen Smith

    Did I miss the fact that Obama did this exact same thing but against only Iraq? His ban was for 6 months, after which nothing changed. Trump’s is only 3 months with definite goals of dong better screening of those who come to this country. It is not a religious action against Muslims but all citizens. Obama turned a whole group of Christians from Iraq who came into the US via Mexico then turned themselves in saying they were seeking political asylum. Since they were not Muslims, Obama sent them back to Iraq where Christians were being killed. Where were the demonstrations and Schumer’s tears over all of this?

    This whole thing should not be a surprise to anyone as Trump said in his campaign speeches that he was going to do this if elected. People are not use to someone doing what they say they are going to do if elected President.

    Trump’s only real problem with this whole mess is they did not put enough thought into what to do about those on their way to the US nor those holding green cards who are overseas.

    Just as a matter of point, Dolan said “families” were detained at the airports. Most if not all were individuals, not families.

    • Tim Dolan

      It was not the same exact thing, Obama acted on specific intelligence after a specific event involving Iraqi’s in the USA and the ones banned were Iraqi’s. While Trumps is against a general maybe threat against countries who have so far caused no harm to US citizens in the USA and he left off the ones that have cause harm to US citizens in the USA.

      Meanwhile I must say that if this had been done right instead of poorly, I would have had no real problem with it. If say it had guidance that folks already in transit would be reviewed quickly (as in a couple hours at most, not half a day or more), but otherwise allowed to proceed as before. But no without any credible threat they just stopped people, in some cases turned them around and shipped them back and only after the fact fixing the rules to make more sense.

      Very thoughtless. Given supposedly today Minitrue says they had this in the works for several weeks and had coordinated it ahead of time. Sure they did.

      • Stephen Smith

        Tim, I agree with you on how they implemented the whole thing. They did not think it through. I’ll bet they learned from their mistake. Let’s hope so anyhow.

        You know too that the ones on the list was the list that Obama’s people put together. It did not make sense then they released it for the reasons you stated. So why did Trump’s people use it? Let’s just hope they learned another lesson. Haste Makes Waste.

        • Tim Dolan

          I have since learned that Obama’s list was ones that had not yet been put on the special watch list (something to that effect anyway) and some of the ones not on the new “pause” were already on the special watch list, although some are still not that maybe should be, but too many interests in our government favor Saudi Arabia. In fairness they do seem to support us frequently when some others might not, so I am overall good with that particular one.

          I suspect Trump’s folks used because it was already available.

          • Stephen Smith

            Tim,
            They did say they used Obama’s list because it was already done.

        • Tim Dolan

          I do hope that they did and do learn from their mistakes, there is at least some small evidence of that, but I skeptical at this point.

  • Cato

    The fundamental issues regarding the order were compounded by the willful incompetence associated with its implementation. The treatment of green card holders, the treatment of those previously vetted as US government interpreters and contractors, the selective list of countries involved, and the chaotic implementation were all entirely avoidable mistakes. Any staff officer associated with this kind of performance would be in very serious trouble; I suspect the opening of a Trump hotel is more carefully thought through. But this was of course an action driven by politics, not policy, and by Bannon , not experienced professionals. The country will suffer as result.