By Rabbi Steven Pruzansky
Generally, there are two types of pass defense coverage used in football (read on; this is not about sports). The more common one was man-to-man coverage in which each defender is assigned to a particular offensive player. Over the years, defenses have often shifted into zone coverage, in which defenders are assigned to a specific territory on the field (of course, unknown in advance to the offensive team). In the latter circumstance, the task of the quarterback is to beat the zone by exploiting the “seam” – those areas on the fringes of the coverage, usually between two defenders.
Muslim terrorists have become masters at exploiting the “seam” in the culture, legal system and values of the Western world, and certainly in the United States and Israel. They know how to exploit the immigration system in order to gain entry to their target countries, and they know how to manipulate the social system to receive government benefits as they settle in and plan their attacks. This has become an especially acute problem in Europe. They know exactly how to take advantage of the constitutional protections that are guaranteed to honest and decent citizens to enhance their lives, and they utilize those protections in order to preserve their interests, conceal their plans and execute their terror. This has become an increasingly grave problem in the United States.
They know when to claim the First Amendment privileges of the free exercise of religion to inhibit surveillance of their mosques that preach radical Islam and call for jihad against the infidel, when to assert the freedom of speech to defend their calls for the imposition of Sharia law and the dissemination of the most extreme interpretations of the Koran, and they know when to complain about intrusions on the freedom of association. They know, quite well, how to conceal their communications, and how the American value of individual privacy – taken to an extreme – facilitates their capacity to commit acts of terror. They know how to exploit the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms, and how the Fifth Amendment affords them the right against self-incrimination.
Those who are citizens enjoy an abundance of rights that make early detection of their nefarious schemes very difficult and make pre-emption and effective prosecution almost impossible – even as the sophistication and dedication of law enforcement makes their eventual capture almost a certainty. Israel struggles with this as well; the tools at their disposal to deal with Arabs who are Israeli citizens are much more limited than the tools they can deploy against Arabs who are not citizens.
And here’s the largest “seam” – the opening in the defense coverage that is the easiest to abuse: the recognition that most Americans, and especially the elitist establishment, would rather protect the core values, rights and privileges for all – including terrorists – even if it comes at the expense of innocent Americans, murdered by radical Islamic terrorists. It is easier – and somehow more comforting, I suppose – to mourn, grieve, light candles, pray for the souls of the victims and an end to evil than it is to amend the Constitution, certainly, but even to restrict somewhat the rights of non-citizens. Maintaining those values provides a reassuring sense that the world as we know it can endure, even if that becomes less and less likely. When Obama says that we can fight the war on terror while maintaining our values – and when that sentiment is echoed by his usual liberal acolytes including Jewish groups – he is partly correct but misses the larger point: some things have to change because the constitutional protections afforded our enemies have given them the upper hand. Only the blindest followers of Obama believe that San Bernardino will be the last of the attacks on innocent Americans.
So, too, Israeli leaders often mouth the same platitudes, even if they have fewer restrictions on government conduct, but rather than take the strong action that can change the dynamic and successfully prosecute to victory a war on Arab terror, it is content to indulge 2-4 terrorist attacks per day on its civilian population. That is not to say the government wants it to happen; it is just that the costs of waging such a campaign currently exceed the benefits of waging it.
All of which leads to the Donald Trump phenomenon, even if we can concede that the attacks on him and his plans (and I have my own) serve the political establishment’s need to divert attention from its failure to stem the growth of radical Islamic terror and just change the subject to something it finds, together with the media, much more pleasing: screaming at someone and creating a different bogeyman instead of the obvious one. It is easier to have a public enemy to revile and hate than it is to have to deal with a public enemy that lurks in the shadows and could be your next door neighbor.
Hence the predictable objections to Trump’s plan – if you can call it that – to bar all Muslim non-citizens from the US until the political class “can figure out what’s going on.” True to form, Trump’s plan is brazen, bombastic, lacking in any detail and completely unfeasible. Would he ban IDF Bedouin soldiers from visiting America, for example? How would customs officials ascertain who is a Muslim – ask each person?? (Would they tell the truth?) Does the United States wish to ban visits by Filipino Muslim tourists? Obviously, he doesn’t really mean all Muslims, but there is a segment in the society of the simple that persists in interpreting generalizations as if they were categorical and universal principles. If you haven’t yet noticed, Trump can be a little, say, imprecise, when he talks.
On the other hand, Trump’s plan is unassailable when the M&M Test that someone recently suggested is applied: If you have 100 M&M’s in a bowl, and two (or ten) are poison, would you eat M&M’s from that bowl? I assume most people would not take the risk. In other words, however this matter is approached, and notwithstanding all the sanctimony, phony piety and promises of stringent vetting, isn’t it likely that some – 1%, 10% or some other percentage of new arrivals on these shores – will be radical Muslims dispatched by ISIS to murder innocent people? Of course, especially since that is ISIS’s stated intention. We should at least be willing to concede that even if some Americans would prefer to enact Draconian measures to preclude that eventuality, most do not, and there will be a price paid for that in the real world, not the fantasy world in which blame for the future terror will be ascribed to gun control, climate change, Republicans or something else.
The Trump card has an Israeli parallel as well – the popular slogan “Ain Aravim, Ain pigu’im” (No Arabs, No Terror) – an equation that is true per se but also unworkable and unsustainable. For every person in Israel who would want such a program implemented, there are probably 10-15 who do not, and that is also a conscious choice made by the citizenry.
To propose policies that sound great but have no realistic chance of implementation (“If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor,” or “health care for all that will bring down costs and improve quality”) is sheer demagoguery and many politicians do it. The response to Trump has also been demagogic, and primarily an effort not to encase the responders in the sugary goo of faux morality but to deflect attention from their own failures. To date, the response to the most recent act of radical Islamic terror has been Congressional legislation, enacted on a bi-partisan basis to great fanfare, to tighten a visa waiver program that would have done absolutely nothing to prevent the San Bernardino terrorist attack.
Add to that the claim by several talking heads that a ban on immigration for a certain religion is unconstitutional. Such a claim – “the Constitution bans religious tests!” – is laughable on its face. The Constitution, in Article VI, paragraph 3, states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States,” i.e., there can be no religious test mandated to qualify to held federal elective office. What does that have to do with immigration? Nothing! But don’t spoil the fun for the demagogues on the left. Certainly, at least, restrictions on immigration from certain countries would seem to be common sense.
Demagogues know well how to exploit people’s fears, insecurities and general ignorance. In the United States in recent times, it has been critical to winning elections. Trump’s popularity such as it is (bear in mind that 70% of the Republican electorate does not want him as nominee, according to the ubiquitous polls) owes to his status as the anti-politician, the one whose every word is not poll-tested or focus-grouped in advanced. He sounds real, like a human being with emotions if not always the clearest thoughts. Many modern politicians (Hillary Clinton is at the top of that list) come across as plastic, artificial, scripted and, frankly, utterly boring. Personally, I don’t think that Trump has a chance at becoming the Republican nominee, much less the next president, but I never thought Obama could win one, much less two, elections. All the shibboleths of American politics have been refuted – if the economy is this, if terror is that, if you can’t win Ohio, etc. All these mean nothing because the electorate is so volatile, and relatively few people actually vote.
What I do know is the “seam” of freedom that Muslim terrorists exploit will exacerbate the decline of Western society unless it is reversed. One American value – the reluctance to single out a group or religion by name – has led to the Obama and liberal media tap dance that shuns the use of accurate labels in favor of euphemisms and dissembling. That includes the height of absurdity: calling radical Somali Muslim terrorists living in Minnesota “Minnesotans,” as in “Three Minnesotans Arrested for Terror Plot.” Hey – the problem is not Minnesota, the land of the nice, but people who have come from abroad to take advantage of Minnesota Nice to wreak havoc on America.
Justice Robert Jackson, famed Nuremberg prosecutor, once wrote that “the Constitution is not a suicide pact.” In times of war and danger, there have always been provisions that have been suspended temporarily with the recognition that society would revert to the norms once the dangers passed. The backlash against Trump would seem to indicate that America wishes to gamble the security of its citizenry in order to retain the unity of the Constitution, while the backlash against the backlash means that not everyone is as keen on that compromise as the elites feel the rest of the nation should be.
In the meantime, Trump’s unrealistic suggestions are a diversion from the sad reality that the US has already been infiltrated by radical Muslims, America’s borders remain porous and accessible to all intruders, the seam is still exploited by Muslims who are quick to claim victimhood whenever Muslims attack the innocent and the government hasn’t a coherent plan or even a clue how to avert the next incident, except reliance on luck or Providence.
Good luck with that, G-d bless, and Happy Chanukah.