We’re not willing to be wrong on this subject,” White House chief of staff Reince Priebus has said of President Trump’s stated commitment to preventing terrorist attacks in the US, but the reactions to the executive order of Friday suggest that he isn’t quite right. A ban of 120 days on refugees, a permanent ban on Syrian refugees and a 90-day bar on the entry of citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations — including Green Card holders — has sparked off a fresh wave of domestic protests, and Trump appears to be ruling over a populace in permanent revolt. Silicon Valley has denounced the executive order and offered legal protection to immigrant employees, who form the backbone of the IT industry. The taxi aggregator Lyft has committed to donating $ 1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union, which successfully sued to prevent the authorities from deporting travellers, and Starbucks proposes to hire 10,000 refugees.
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Elsewhere, UK opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn insists that Trump must be banned from British shores. A petition seeking a bar on state visits crossed 1 million signatures in 24 hours. The UK parliament must consider for debate all petitions to which at least 1 lakh people sign on. Prime Minister Theresa May faces flak for failing to denounce Trump with sufficient vim. France, Germany and Indonesia (which has the world’s largest Muslim population) have spoken against the policy. Pakistan may also face curbs and if the list grows, there could be a diplomatic backlash from the targeted Muslim-majority nations.
Most damaging is the revelation by presidential aide Rudy Giuliani that Trump had originally proposed a “Muslim ban”, which would have been unconstitutional, but his team refocused to target nations which, ostensibly, posed a danger to the US. Replacing religion with geography may have plugged domestic legal issues, but the war of perceptions internationally has been lost. Diplomacy was perceived to be the least impressive attribute of Trump’s vision. Early on, the new president had riled Beijing by talking freely with Taiwan. In response to the rhetoric about American jobs lost to China and India, Jack Ma warned of commercial issues which could escalate into a full-scale trade war which would harm global markets. Now, President Trump has moved to protect the American people in his own way, which includes the temporary loss of liberty of the citizens of blacklisted nations when they reach US airports. If steps to protect American jobs and companies follow, their impact will be felt even more drastically across the world, as labour and capital quit American shores. The country’s institutions and civil society have proved to be resilient, but it remains to be seen if they can hold firm for the long term.