It’s convenient for Westerners to label Donald Trump as Islamophobic. However, a recent report from Politico illuminated sentiments among America’s Middle Eastern allies, one that decidedly favors the policies of Donald Trump over those of his predecessors.
Is it too simplistic to state that, when it comes to judging a President’s level of concern for a region or people- in this case, Middle Eastern, primarily Arabs – asking the leaders of those people is the most effective gauge one can rely upon?
If not leaders of the majority- in some cases exclusively– Arab states, then who is to determine how effective an American president’s policies are in protecting our Middle Eastern allies?
While it is easy to chalk the “travel ban” up to racism and bigotry, it is far from accurate. As thoughtful proponents of the temporary moratorium on travel from six majority-Muslim countries have pointed out, it is far from a ban on all Muslims entering the United States. In total, there are 22 countries in the Middle East and Africa that are majority Muslim.
While the merits of the ban can be debated, the sentiments of Arab leaders that bemoan the inaction under Barack Obama while noting the opposite has been true under Trump is not to be questioned. Westerners professing to know the realities of Islamic terror have a point, but the residents of the Middle Eastern nations most directly threatened by ISIS know better.
As it turns out, Middle Eastern Arabs aren’t nearly as politically correct as Westerners have become. Barack Obama’s refusal to identify ‘radical Islam’ did not score any points with leadership in the Middle East who would have rather seen him take decisive action in helping to root out terrorism in the region.
Keep in mind that Politico is no bastion of conservatism, far from it in fact. Yet, they went so far as to title the piece comparing the favorability in the Middle East of the past two presidents in these terms:
It is another piece of evidence in the abundantly apparent narrative that modern liberals are clueless when it comes to determining what America’s allies want from the leader of the free world. When it comes to the Arab world, our allies want the same thing that has led to strong Polish support of Trump: support in defending their nations against regional aggressors.
Liberals chastise America for playing the role of ‘world police.' The folly and fruitless bloodshed of the Iraq War has only given more ammo to those who share this sentiment.
What this viewpoint overlooks, however, is the reality that an isolationist, timid America is far more ruinous to our allies than even a hypervigilant, reactionary-to-a-fault America is. If they don’t believe this, they should spend more time listening to Arab leaders instead of telling them how they should feel about the current American president.
In his brief time as president, Donald Trump has shown priority toward America’s Middle Eastern allies. This is not to be mistaken for blind deference for the region, as the move to vet Arabs before they enter the country– instead of Obama’s policy of pretending terrorism breeding is equally as prevalent in Sweden as Pakistan– shows.
This prioritization was typified by Trump’s first foreign policy trip being centered around the region. Arab leaders did not take this decision lightly, rolling out the red carpet for the president in what can be seen as a sign of hope that Trump, unlike Obama, would provide the protection lacking in the past eight years.
Aside from ISIS, current issues pressing to numerous Middle Eastern nations is the support of the Assad regime in Syria, and the unhidden support of the regime by Russia and Iran. Leaders such as Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri see Trump as somebody who can effectively combat Russia’s massive influence in the region, something Obama proved incapable of:
“Much of Hariri’s critique of Obama comes down to naivete — and the big gap between America’s inspirational rhetoric and its actions.”
Hariri also notes that Syria unleashed chemical weapons on its own people, crossing Obama’s “red line” in the process, with complete impunity. He maintains that mistrust of the Syrian regime is essential to those who seek to improve relations in the region, as the Assad regime will often defy their words through their actions.
Through his words, Hariri also implied that both the Bush and Obama administrations were guilty of ignoring the advice of their allies in the region, something he hopes will change under Trump:
“When the war started in Iraq,” Hariri tells me, “all your allies in the region told you not to go there. And when you withdrew, all your allies in the region told you not to withdraw. And all your allies in the region told you to do something about Syria, but you didn’t. So, I believe that talking to your allies, listening to your allies, they’re there. They know better.”
Westerners tend to espouse a fearful sentiment when it comes to the threat of terror first spawned in Middle Eastern nations. They are right to fear the most radical sects, but too often they do not consider the challenges that face leaders who want to see their Middle Eastern nations remain safe from this threat which often penetrates their borders.
When it comes to combating these forces at their source, it is often true that our allies in the region know better. The Obama doctrine was marked by inaction and half-hearted attempts at deference to Islamic leaders. As Hariri points out, this led only to Assad’s increased aggression, heightened Russian and Iranian influences, and the escalation of conflict between Palestinians and Israelis.
Hariri seems to believe that, based on his recent meetings with Trump at the White House, deference to our Middle Eastern allies, paired with strong American action in the region, will help to quell the most pressing conflicts in the Middle East.
For the sake of the West, it is best that Trump– not to mention those crying Islamophobia– do not embrace any notion that they know better than Hariri when it comes to peace in the Middle East.