UPDATED: The President is right to protect the homeland from Radical Islam. But this Executive Order was poorly drafted and mishandled. It can & should be fixed. Then Trump should work closely with our moderate Muslim allies and seek the counsel of their leaders.

trump-executiveorderUPDATED: President Trump triggered a firestorm of domestic and global confusion and protest over his new Executive Order issued on Friday. [To read the full text, click here.]

First let me say that I am grateful for an American Commander-in-Chief who finally recognizes the threat posed by followers of Radical Islam and is willing to take bold and decisive action to protect the American people.

There is a real and serious threat that ISIS or groups like it will try to launch massive terror attacks inside the territory of the United States. There are FBI investigations of ISIS in all 50 states, and the ISIS ideology is metastasizing like cancer, recruiting and radicalizing new ISIS loyalists and future terrorists inside the U.S.

FLASHBACK: “Exclusive: US May Have Let ‘Dozens’ of Terrorists Into Country As Refugees” — ABC News headline, November 20, 2013

If such threats are not taken seriously, and dealt with firmly and effectively, Americans could be attacked without warning.

That said, we must be honest: this Executive Order has been mishandled by the new administration.

It is not a “Muslim Ban,” as it is being portrayed by its critics. But it feels like one.

  • It does not ban Muslims from the largest Islamic nations like Indonesia or India.
  • It does not ban Muslims from our trusted Sunni Arab allies like Jordan and Egypt.
  • It does not ban only Muslims — Christians, Zoroastrians, and other religious groups in these countries are also affected.

The fact is, this Executive Order merely requires a temporary, several month delay of visitors to the United States — Muslim, Christian, or otherwise — from seven countries where Radical Islam and jihadi activity have been very serious. It also temporarily suspends the ability of refugees from such high-risk countries to enter the U.S. until the administration has more time to improve our vetting procedures. These are laudable goals.

The problem is that this presidential directive was poorly drafted. It is being poorly executed. And it is being even more poorly communicated.

As a result, damage is being done to America’s reputation. In pursuit of defending America from Radical Islam, the administration has inadvertently handed the jihadists a talking point they can use to recruit and radicalize more people, that America is at war with all of Islam. This is not true, but to many in the Islamic world it feels true. This is dangerous.

Changes to the Executive Order need to be made immediately. Changes to the White House’s communications strategy need to be made as well.

The last thing we should do in a hot war with the Islamic State and other jihadist forces is to alienate our moderate Muslim allies. But that’s what is happening.

What we should be doing is strengthening our alliances with friends like Jordan, Egypt, the Gulf States, Indonesia, and other Muslim countries who want to work with America. We should be listening to their leaders, getting their counsel, and finding ways to work together to confront and defeat a common enemy.

The President has a strong national security and legal team around him. He can fix this. And he should. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. The President and his team would be wise admit they’ve made some mistakes here while defending their goals and objectives. Humility will go a long way in building trust with the American people and our allies.
  2. The administration can and should work hard to fix the document.
  3. The administration should seek wise counsel and advice from a range of experts in and out of government to achieve the desired end: the protection of the American people and homeland. Hastiness isn’t helpful.
  4. The President would be wise to consider addressing the nation on television from the Oval Office. He could use the address to explain very carefully and thoroughly what the threat to the homeland is, and how best to deal with the problem. He could also use the address to answer people’s questions and calm people’s fears.
  5. The President needs to explain to the nation clearly and often that while the followers of Radical Islam do pose a grave threat to the American people and our allies, this does not mean that all Muslims are a threat, or that Islam itself is the threat. As I have explained before, the data indicate that upwards of 90% of Muslims do not hold violent views or seek to attack us. However, between 7% and 10% of Muslims tell pollsters that they do support suicide bombings and other forms of violence against “infidels.” It is critical that our leaders make these distinctions and educate the public about the nature of the threat. We want the broader moderate Muslim world to be partners in defeating the dangerous actors in their midst.

Yes, Mr. Trump called for such a ban during the campaign, and he was highly criticized for it by many people (myself included), and rightly so. Banning people from entering the U.S. based on their religious views would be both unconstitutional and morally repugnant. To be fair, it should be noted that Mr. Trump backed down and sought advice on how best to protect the country from the threats of violent jihadists trying to enter the homeland.

Protecting the American people from all threats, foreign and domestic, is absolutely the most important job of the President of the United States. So is abiding by the American legal tradition of commonsense and fair play.

The new President and his team need to remember that this is not just a “kinetic war,” one fought with bullets and bombs. This is also a “war of ideas,” an ideological battle fought for hearts and minds.

We have seen some unforced errors on a matter of high national importance. They can and should be corrected and lessons should be learned. Winning the fight against Radical Islam will be a long and difficult mission. But with wise, humble and dedicated leadership — in Washington and around the world — we can prevail.

SOME USEFUL ARTICLES TO BETTER UNDERSTAND THE ISSUE:

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[This column is based on my personal beliefs and opinions. I share them in my personal capacity as a dual US-Israeli citizen and an author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of The Joshua Fund, which is a non-profit organization and takes no political or legislative positions.]

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