Jacksonians may want isolation, but risk leading U.S. to war

Monday, February 06, 2017

Jacksonian school of thought is winning today in U.S. The starkest indicator of that is that the President of the U.S. is Donald Trump. As opposed to other three major schools (Wilsonian, Hamiltonian and Jeffersonian) Jacksonians are in the vanguard of American populism and promote isolationism in the global affairs of the U.S. The problem with that lies in the fact that after more than seven decades of U.S. foreign policy shaped by the Wilsonian and Hamiltonian schools of thought, sudden withdrawal to isolationism may bring the undesired result to Jacksonians -- war.

The policy of isolationism for Jacksonians comes from their belief that concentration on the national matters would better serve the American people, rather than expenditure of resources of U.S. to shape the "outside" and invest away from homeland. At the same time Jacksonians are skeptical of elites and federal government and prefer to keep federal interference in domestic affairs as little as possible. Jacksonians enjoy populism and react very strongly to anything they may see as a threat to national security. While not wanting to engage in wars or conflict situation abroad, Jacksonians would greet any perceived threat to the U.S. with readiness to defend their believes and their country. Recent events are very indicative of that. 

Donald Trump have recently assumed his office as the President of the U.S. and have pushed very fast to sign an executive order that have been nicknamed by the media as the "immigration ban". Trump's order was meant to be seen as his swift follow-up on his presidential campaign promise to strengthen borders and keep certain refugees from entering the U.S. This promise was based on the fear of Islamic terrorism trickling into the U.S. with refugees from Middle East running from war there. It appealed to the Jacksonians very well . Jacksonians have seen these refugees as the direct result of the strong engagement of the U.S. in the Middle East, that was (and is) deemed unnecessary by this school of thought. In their opinion the direct result of such engagement is a threat to the U.S. national security in form of influx of refugees that can bring with them terror directly to Jacksonian "homeland". The same popular vote that have brought Donald Trump to presidency is now also very strongly supporting this executive order of his. It is obvious that this support is Jacksonian-based. Populism, fear of national security, preference of isolation, rejection of the "foreign" -- practically all features are there. However, if such policies continue, this may play a very sad and nasty trick on Jacksonians.

Although, President Trump have issued an executive order that halted some groups of refugees and travel for some Muslim-majority countries, the implementation of the order have been very poorly planned and executed. Even "green card" holders have been affected by the order. These are the people, who have built lives quite legally in the U.S. and have participated (and mostly integrated) in both economy and society. In addition to the protests in the U.S. sparked by the problems that have been created by the order, Middle Eastern countries that were affected are deciding or implementing counter-measures.

On one hand President Trump has made a clear statement that he is dedicated to fighting Islamic terrorism, however on the other hand the situation created by his executive order helps in shaping the negative image of the U.S. in the Middle East, making affairs for terrorist organizations much easier in terms of (for example) recruitment. Many narratives of terrorist organizations are based on the negative image of the U.S. being hostile towards Middle East as a whole and generally towards Muslims. By supporting this negative image with the clumsy executive order, Trump's administration may do more damage to the Jacksonian ideals than actually help upholding them. The negative sentiment towards the U.S. in the Middle East will bring more hatred, more recruits to the terrorist groups, more reluctant allies in the fight against terrorism and thus more concentrated front against the U.S. 

Travel restrictions have never been proven as an effective counter-measure against terrorist activity. Today the perpetrator of the act of terrorism can be radicalized through the social media while being already in the country where the attack would be carried out and living there for some time. However, presenting yourself as an opponent of Muslim populations in the Middle East through your direct actions (such as "immigration ban") on the height of struggle against ISIS and similar groups, may lead only towards negative results in the long term. Despite the fact that in the short term such populist measure can ensure you 49% of Jacksonian support.

The direct result of this as with any such "ban" can be that the people who want to "trickle terror" into the U.S. will redouble their efforts, emboldened by newly acquired narratives such as, for example, that the "U.S. is against all Muslims". As more such policies and decisions come, the amount of efforts will pile up and in the end the U.S. will find itself truly besieged by the attempts to import terrorism to its territory, while simultaneously trying to fight radicalization online to prevent homegrown terror cells. Thus, the Jacksonians have a real risk of meeting "war on terror" much closer than they would like to, as a direct result of the actions they now support.

Kamal Makili-Aliyev
Doctor habilitatus of Laws

        Modern Diplomacy

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