Comment: By Rian Whitton.
While the date could perhaps be postponed, the President’s irresponsible and bizarre immigration policy should not get in the way of diplomacy. We are not dealing with a Fascist.
The scene is lit, the banquet is prepped, the state visit for the new President is in full swing, with all its pomp and pageantry. Diplomats quaffing down champagne, aristocrats chortling on salmon puffs, her Majesty enters the gilded hall and a thousand heads turn. Shortly after, a thousand stomachs turn in response to the appearance of our latter-day Caligula. It is an unpleasant experience, and yet there is every reason to accept it.
To be clear, Donald Trump’s travel ban on refugees and individuals from seven Muslim-majority countries is morally dubious. Of perhaps greater importance, it is counter-productive, baffling in its rationale, and unlikely to solve any problems, instead stoking the fires of bigotry among both Islamists and far-right extremists.
The fact that Saudi Arabia, the chief-spreader of Jihadism, has been omitted from the list, just adds to the idiosyncratic nature of the order. Out of these seven countries, not one successful US-based terrorist has been sourced. Iran may be a long-term adversary, but Iraq is an ally.
The fact the ban will be ineffective at securing the US merely adds to the failed logic of withholding citizens, some of whom served the US government in hope of an American life.
We do not have here a blanket ban on Muslims. This is not the return of Fascism and untying ourselves from a clear ally because of it represents a fickle sensationalist moralism that does not stand up to scrutiny.
There seems to be a trend among metropolitans, that they must forever feel they are standing at the gates of history. Trump being likened to Hitler, and the ban being labelled some reassertion of the perverse ‘untermensch‘ concept, are the most current examples of a feeling among commentators that the savagery of the Nazis is being repackaged in a new form.
This was especially prevalent in the recent Commons debate. MP’s, many of them floundering Blairites, invoked melodrama that would make Churchill guffaw. This was earlier illustrated in 2015 when Hillary Benn likened the fight against ISIS to the battle against Fascism in the thirties and fourties. Given Britain’s contribution amounts to twenty aircraft (10 of them Drones), the grandiosity of Benn’s oration did not sit neatly with the modest resources of the RAF. Similarly, the idea that denying the Donald his evening out of principle is grand-standing.
Trump’s ban was a reassertion of an older idea, that nation-states have the right to discriminate who they take in and to control their borders. We can criticise how he came to the choice of banning these seven countries in particular, but this can in no way be considered a ban on Muslims in general. The prioritisation of Christian refugees is arguably discriminatory, but given the persecution being felt by Christian minorities in the Middle-east, and America’s christian tradition, this can at least be argued for.
One argument put forward by the more persevering Remainers is that we are desperate, following our foolish and bigoted decision to secede from the terrifically successful European Union. We are thus clawing to align ourselves with anyone, even this evil blowhard. Just to be clear, Britain, like all countries, has done business with regimes far more deplorable than Trump’s when we could of refused them, as have our European partners.
Despite pioneering civil nuclear engineering, Britain found itself in the embarrassing position of hosting Beijing’s Pluto-Communists in the hope that they would impart some of their newfound expertise on our decaying domestic industry. Keeping one’s ethical compass adaptable has been a fairly continuous theme throughout the history of international relations.
Quite simply, Britain has been tied to the US in one form or another since 1917, fighting the Second world War together and showing solidarity against Communism. We are their single-largest investor, and vice-versa. The counter-argument underpinning the unique outrage at Trump’s impending visit is that we have a ‘special relationship’ with America, and that the shared proselytising of human rights and democracy make this particular demagogue unconscionable. To them, I would simply say the US, our long-term ally and cultural cousin, has had its fair share of corrupt leaders (JFK), roguish G-men (J. Edgar Hoover) and blood-letting Generals (McArthur). This did not dent the utility of the alliance. While it might be hard to conceive of it at this present moment, Trump is not the most dangerous man to accrue power in Washington.
This should not be interpreted as a wider critique of America. For a country of such innate power and troubled history, it has not surrendered to the impulse of conquering other nations, and has managed to balance its self-interest with defending most of the world’s constitutional democracies, fostering an unprecedented increase in the global standard of living. Given Empires have existed in virtually any historical context, America’s is comparatively civilised, exceptions and brutalities acknowledged. When the drip of power to Beijing and New Delhi becomes a deluge, I have a sneaky feeling those Europeans who sneer at Americans now will wax nostalgic about the days when the rules were set from across the Atlantic.
Clearly, the most important thing for Theresa May to do was secure the President’s assurances that America remains committed to Nato. The President is at odds with even the Republican party on his realignment with Putin’s Russia, and the most critical item for European leaders is to alleviate the quite reasonable anxieties of the Baltic states.
In this respect at least, she was being far more conscious of Europe’s needs than any continental leader. It was of course very right-on that Angela Merkel lecture Trump with the Geneva accords, But this grandstanding is hamstrung by the fact the US accounts for 70% of Nato’s collective defence expenditure, while German troops practice manoeuvres with broomsticks. Given this imbalance, A revamping of continental defence architecture may be in order before Merkel relieves herself of diplomatic grace. European elites can pontificate if they wish, but by the end of 2017, they may be ousted by Trump’s European contemporaries.
As Peter Hitchens points out, Her Majesty has had to endure the company of tyrants and crummy dictators more egregious than mister Trump. In 2015, we hosted Xi Jinping, and his cadre of grey-faced automatons who run China. To be clear, this is a state ruled by one party, with no democratic franchise, that has forced women to have abortions, pursues a revanchist foreign policy and, since its inception, has been responsible for countless deaths among its own citizenry.
Trump’s ban is discriminatory towards a primarily Muslim populace, yet when we talk of religious persecution, for Beijing this is nothing. Before occupation in 1959, Tibet had 2,500 monasteries. Within 2 years that number had fallen to 70. Fast forward to modern times and Falun Gong, a peaceable spiritualist movement of no discernible threat to the Chinese state, suffers extraordinary persecution, with reports that members have involuntarily had their organs harvested. And yes, the Muslim populace on the Western Chinese steppe is subjected to ‘severe religious persecution.’
This did not stop John Bercow fawning over Xi Jinping at the royal gallery. This event is slightly different to Trump making a speech at parliament, but the charge of hypocrisy stands. Even Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, has been affiliated with Hindu nationalist groups (the Rashtriyah Swayamsevak Sangh) that have harassed Muslim communities since independence. This did not stop him attending.
It should be said there were protestors to Modi’s visit. 40 Indian writers signed a petition while 40 MP’s called for David Cameron to address human rights issues to Modi. Until his ascension to the premiership in 2012, Modi was actually banned from entering the UK due to his involvement in the Gujarat riots of 2002. But for whatever reason, whether it be pragmatism or just a lack of interest in what the protestors had to say, parliament entertained this man.
This is the nature of power. We are a country that does not afford itself the luxury of being picky with international partners. If we were to do so, I cannot see how America should be the first ally to snub.
Responding to this clear sign of double-standards, those protesting Trump’s visit have become defensive, suggesting that while we cannot protest everything, we should boycott and resist this man in particular, lest we succumb to moral surrender. But the truth is that this administration is not simply no worse than others, but is categorically less contemptible than people we have hosted.
On a final note, some manifestations of the anti-Tump surge are beginning to verge on the preposterous. Increasingly, we are told that silence is compliance. Apparently there is something heroic and noble about shouting naff song parodies in public. At Berkeley, a female Trump supporter was pepper-sprayed by a protestor.
Increasingly, the far Left is exhibiting a tendency to political violence, something we grew up believing (erroneously) was exclusive to the far-right. Even Nesrine Malik, a Guardian staple, openly admits the catharsis felt by embattled progressives when Nazi windbag Richard Spencer was (unjustly) assaulted, and refused to condemn such action. if this continues, public debate will deteriorate further, and not to the Left’s advantage.
If we can tolerate the visit of Chinese dictators for the sake of our decaying national infrastructure, we can tolerate a man who represents our strongest military ally. We are dealing with a debauched character, but not a Fascist.
Rian holds both a Masters degree in science and security from King’s College London and a bachelor’s degree in history and politics from the University of Sheffield. He is a digital writer, focusing on issues relating to technological innovation, security and international relations.