Trump And A National Policy Based On Ignorance


President Trump, in announcing his immigration and travel ban stated

“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on,”

He added,

“… it is obvious to anybody the hatred [of Muslims toward Americans] is beyond comprehension, …Where this hatred comes from and why we will have to determine. Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life.”

More likely, rather than “we”, it was Mr Trump who had not figured out “what the hell is going on”. Mr Trump was projecting his own ignorance onto the American people and government and also expressing an understanding of Islam which is contrary to the opinion of scholars of Islam and to respected literature on the subject of which there is a considerable volume. Karen Armstrong is one such scholar, but there are others.

Perhaps instead of investigation why Muslims hate American, he should rather investigate whether Muslims hate Americans.

Were Mr Trump a more contemplative man, he might ponder that the word Islam and the Arabic word salem, meaning peace, have the same etymology.

And, what sort of investigation does Mr Trump envision for finding out “what the hell is going on”? An analysis of Islam? They are already been done – many of them. What is necessary is for Mr Trump to acquaint himself with any of those.

Mr Trump has said that he ‘knows more about ISIS than the generals.” This is typical of Mr Trump’s disingenuous and hyperbolic boasts. Mr Trump knows nothing about ISIS. If he did, he would understand that the focus of ISIS’s enmity is not the far enemy of the West or the US, but the near enemy of apostate Arab governments, particularly the government in Baghdad which they regard as Shiite or Persian dominated. A genocide of the Shiite population of the Islamic world has been one of ISIS’s primary goals, although, at this stage they are fighting for their own survival. And they are not winning. Their fighting force numbers now around 15,000, down from about 50,000 or so a year and a half ago. Also, their leadership has been decimated, and the land that they occupy, upon which they depend for tax revenue, has been reduced substantially.

It is very unlikely that Trump was aware that there had been no terrorist attacks in the US perpetuated by immigrants deriving from any of the seven Muslim nations on his ban list though this information was readily available to anyone willing to exert the slightest effort into doing a search. Such a search would reveal, however, that thatinformationis opposite the bombastic messaging from Breitbart, Fox News,InfoWars and other right wing commentators whose xenophobic daily messages is probably the source of Mr Trump’s conceptualization.

It is also unlikely that Mr Trump understood that immigrants to this country, whether legal or illegal, commit less crime on average and have a lower incarceration rate than do American citizens. Thus, the immigrant community has the effect of diluting the crime rate in the US which, over all, has been in decline for the last two and a half decades.

It certainly seems naïve to initiate such a complex and far-reaching travel ban directive just six days after assuming office, before the Attorney General was in place who would potentially have vetted the travel ban for its legal soundness, or before Homeland Security was given time to digest it, much less provide input. It appears to have received no review whatsoever by any relevant agency of the government and was probably the solitary product of Mr Trump and Mr Bannon and maybe a few more aids.

President Trump has now introduced new executive order of a modified travel ban, which has just been temporarily blocked by federal judges in both Hawaii and Maryland.  In the new executive order, Iraq has been eliminated from the ban, no doubt because the American and Iraqi forces are engaged in a joint effort to retake Mosul from ISIS, and generally because of:

the significant presence of United States forces in Iraq, and Iraq’s commitment to combat ISIS, justify different treatment for Iraq.”

There are other tweaks. Syrians are no longer singled out for a permanent or indefinite ban. Refugees who have already gained approval may enter without delay. And there are to be a50,000 limit of immigrants admitted each year, down from 110,000 under Obama

Trump’s reaction to the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court appears to indicate that Mr Trump did not understand the nature of the tripartite American government and that the president does not have unchecked and unconstrained power. It seems a lot like Mr Trump was trying to bully the court. And in referring to the justices of the Ninth Circuit as “so-called” judges, he has displayed his usual extremely unpleasant reaction to anyone who crosses him, whether distinguished judges or anyone else.

Rather than asking the Department of Homeland Security, or any of the investigative agencies, for a review or vetting of the travel ban directive before attempting to implement it, he requested a review only after the executive order failed primarily with the intent of reinstituting it, and evidently in the expectation that DHS would produce a report favorable to that order.

That review was undertaken by DHS, but, however reached a conclusion quite different from the justification which Mr Trump sought. Its central conclusion was that the country of origin is a poor indicator of who is likely to engage in a terrorist attack.

This report, by DHS, also contradicts Mr Trump’s claim during the political campaign that Mexican entering the US were, “bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And”, in a reluctant concession to reality,“some, I assume, are good people.”

But the belief otherwise is the constant message blared from the xenophobic, Islamophobic right wing TV, radio, and online sources which Trump prefers to competent intelligence reports by US government agencies. He appears to be unaware of the considerable expertise of the career professions inside the State Department and other agencies who could competently inform him of the background circumstances relating to any of his proposed initiatives.

That factual verification ought to be the basis for trustworthy belief is an ideal to which Mr Trump certainly has no allegiance and has demonstrated such a lack of allegiance many times in his short presidential tenure.

Mr Trump happens to be an uninformed, not well-read, and a man largely untutored in either foreign policy or the domestic workings of government. He seems to know less about American government than a high school student who is in the midst of taking a civics class. As for any knowledge of the sciences, the study of which would have imposed on him a disciplined disposition to regard verification and evidence as the arbiter of truth and the only route to trustworthy belief, Mr Trump is a totally in the dark.He has mocked the scientific consensus on global warming by claiming it is a conspiracy invented by the Chinese for the purpose of undermining American capitalism – a childish idea expressed by a grown man.

According to the New York Times (Mar 30, 2017):

Mr. Trump’s first budget proposes slashing $5.8 billion, or 18 percent, from the National Institutes of Health and $900 million, or about 20 percent, from the Energy Department’s Office of Science, which runs basic research at the national laboratories. The Environmental Protection Agency would be cut by 31 percent.

Those actions have been taken without advice or guidance from scientists and engineers inside the White House. The few remaining policy advisers have ceased distributing daily memos on policy issues like climate change, machine-learning regulation, or the ethics of big data collection.

He has plans to gut the Environmental Protection Agency budget, by 31%, and has appointed as its head a man who has been its constant opponent and who does not even believe it should exist.

He lacks the intellectual or academically trained, or otherwise trained, discipline to be able to distinguish reliable sources of information from those that are not. His accusation during her Republican primaries that Ted Cruz’s father joined Lee Harvey Oswald sometime before the  latter has assassinated President Kennedy evidently came from an article in the National Inquirer.

All indications are that he reads very little and multiple sources tell us that he spends much of his time watching television news. Television news, Fox in particular, is his primary source of news, apparently, along with right wing radio and websites, such as Breitbart, Alex Jones, Mark Levin. His claim that President Obama had had him wiretapped evidently derived from an editorial on Fox News which Mr Trump had heard the evening before his tweet to that effect.

Mr Trump has his virtues, otherwise he would not be the President of the United States. His self- assurance and determination and feistiness have taken him to where he is. And this is often true on those who have had an effect on the course of history.

Still, one wonders how deep this self assurance runs since so many of his boast are hollow as well as false.

However that may be, Trump lacks the character qualities of sobriety and wisdom and self-disciplineand respect for knowledge which are essential qualities in leading the American nation..

Mr Trump is unable to distinguish trustworthy belief supported by evidence from fantasy.

All told, Donald Trump, an unrepentant ignorant uninformed man, is a greater danger to the US than any immigrant from a Muslim country. And policy determined by ignorance and prejudice will divert the skill and energy of the American people toward dealing with Donald Trump’s childish behavior and proposals and away from constructive pursuits.

William James Martin is at Department of Mathematics, Louisiana State University. He can be reached at [email protected]  

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