Dr. Cheryl Benard was program director of the Initiative for Middle Eastern Youth and the Alternative Strategies Initiative within the RAND Corporation’s National Security Research Division. Writing at The National Interest, Dr. Benard examines Donald Trump’s recent foreign policy statement.
I have worked on the issues central to this speech – immigration, integration, youth radicalization, nation-building, political Islam and counterterrorism – for the bulk of my professional life, first with a European think tank and then at the RAND Corporation. At RAND, my research focused on how to distinguish radical and potentially violent segments of the Islamic populace from garden variety religious folks.
Against this background, I have carefully read and evaluated the suggestions made by Mr. Trump.
Today my bottom line has to be: this policy statement is rock solid. It reflects state-of-the-art knowledge on counterterrorism. I can’t, actually, find anything to disagree with.
We need to focus on eliminating radical Islam, which yes, is a totalitarian ideology masquerading as a religion.
We need to avoid any further ill-advised regime-change adventures; it will be challenge enough to ride out the catastrophic fallout from those of recent years, especially Libya. Yes, we have common ground with Russia, a country that deeply understands the danger of radical Islam, having acquired experience in controlling and managing it in Central Asia during the Soviet era, and Russia can be a partner on this.
We need to proceed very, very judiciously in deciding whom to let in, and not fling wide the gates.
He states that in regard to newcomers – immigrants and refugees – we need to know exactly who they are, what they stand for and what intentions they hold, before we admit them to our country.
Western Europe is fast becoming Exhibit A on what happens when you fail to draw such a line.
Trump suggests we get in front of such problems by creating “screening procedures” that will allow us to admit only those individuals who “share our values and respect our people.” Our country had such litmus tests during the Cold War to exclude Communists, he argues. But in the current context, is this even possible?
I think it could be.