Donald Trump has announced an immigration ban from seven Muslim-majority countries, as well as his intent to reinstitute torture and to potentially steal oil from Iraq or another Middle Eastern state. Trump has said, “We should’ve kept the oil but, okay, maybe we’ll have another chance,” and when asked to elaborate, he told ABC’s David Muir last night, “I told you and I told everybody else that wants to talk when it comes to the military, I don’t wanna discuss things. I wanna let — I wanna let the action take place before the talk takes place.”
What might well turn out over the long run to be the most significant comment in Trump’s rambling, fantastical interview with Muir is his insistence that his policies could not possibly generate a backlash in the Muslim world:
DAVID MUIR: … concerned — are you at all concerned it’s going to cause more anger among Muslims …
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Anger?
DAVID MUIR: … the world?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: There’s plenty of anger right now. How can you have more?
DAVID MUIR: You don’t think it’ll …
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Look, David …
DAVID MUIR: … exacerbate the problem?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: … David, I mean, I know you’re a sophisticated guy. The world is a mess. The world is as angry as it gets. What? You think this is gonna cause a little more anger?
If it were correct that Muslim anger with the United States has reached its maximal threshold, then there would be no danger in further antagonism. But that is not remotely true. About three-quarters of Muslims worldwide, and four-fifths of Muslims in the United States, believe suicide bombing in defense of their religion is never justified. Trump will make Muslims across the world believe that the United States discriminates against them, is torturing people, and (if they take Trump’s own comments seriously, which they might) could already be stealing its oil.
Given its conflict with Islamic radicals, it is inevitable that the United States is going to have some policies that meet with less-than-universal approval in the Muslim world. Even George W. Bush talked a good game about wanting harmony with the Muslim world, which is why he fervently denied the torture program his administration undertook. Whether his policies accomplished this goal is another question — they didn’t — but he understood that minimizing blowback was a goal.
Trump has gone out of his way as a candidate and as a president to depict his policies toward the Muslim world in the most hostile and imperialistic terms, and he literally cannot imagine how this could create problems. ISIS could not have dreamed up a more effective recruiter. The consequences will be horrific.