Trump's Travel Ban Is Un-American and Unwise

How to make America great.

Photographer: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

Leave aside the moral, legal, economic, political and practical objections -- and it's quite a list -- and instead consider just the security implications of the executive order President Donald Trump issued late Friday: Will temporarily banning the entry of all refugees and nationals from seven countries make the U.S. safer?

Regrettably and emphatically, the answer is no. First, if the goal is "Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States," as the order is titled, then it would make sense to focus on countries from which terrorist attackers have entered. Of the seven countries on the administration’s list (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen), only one (Somalia) comes close to fitting that bill. Meanwhile, several countries that do (Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia) don’t make the list.

Nor does the order convey any acknowledgment that refugees are the most vetted group of travelers to the U.S. That is even more true after they apply for their green cards and undergo another round of biometric screening.

Trump's directive will also make it more difficult for any government official -- federal or otherwise, at home or abroad -- to work closely with those in a position to help stop terrorists. Consider the case of an Iraqi citizen who has risked his life providing intelligence or even translation to the U.S. military, or one of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi green-card holders in the U.S. After this order, will they be more willing to cooperate with military or law-enforcement officials?

Finally, there is the effect on international cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Allies such as Canada, France, Germany and the U.K. are not pleased with this order. And their exemption from the policy will not make it any easier for Saudi or Egyptian leaders to justify their assistance to the U.S.

There are, of course, more profound reasons to oppose this order. It degrades U.S. moral authority. It offends U.S. values. On a human level, it plays to people's worst instincts while also being unreasonably cruel to tens of thousands of the world's most vulnerable people.

Trump insists it is "not a Muslim ban,” even as defenders of the order point out that he campaigned on just such a promise. Regardless, it is now up to the other branches of the U.S. government -- and America's civic institutions more broadly -- to defend against the White House's reckless incompetence. Two federal judges have already issued stays on the deportation of those trapped at U.S. airports by its provisions, and many business leaders have spoken out against it. Among congressional Republicans, who are in the best position to act as an immediate check on the administration's worst impulses, the response has been disappointingly muted.

They need to do more. President Trump needs to know that this policy is as unwise as it is un-American.

To contact the senior editor responsible for Bloomberg View’s editorials: David Shipley at davidshipley@bloomberg.net.