Home/Daniel Larison/The Return of the Stupid and Unnecessary Travel Ban

The Return of the Stupid and Unnecessary Travel Ban

Trump’s ridiculous piece of security theater, the travel ban, is back in a revised form:

Three nations were added to the list of countries whose citizens will face the restrictions: Chad, North Korea and Venezuela — although the restrictions on Venezuela are narrowly crafted, targeting that country’s leadership and their family members.

One country, Sudan, fell off the travel ban list issued at the beginning of the year. Senior administration officials said a review of Sudan’s cooperation with the U.S. government on national security and information-sharing showed it was appropriate to remove it from the list.

Five of the original seven majority-Muslim countries remain on the list: Somalia, Yemen, Iran, Syria, and Libya. Just as it was before, the inclusion of Iran on the list is particularly vindictive. Iranians coming to visit the U.S. don’t pose a security threat, no Iranians have been engaged in terrorist attacks in the West, and the now-indefinite ban on almost all kinds of travel from Iran is a pointless slap in the face of one of the most pro-American peoples in the world. Iranians continue to be punished for things their government has done elsewhere over which they have no real control. It’s a travesty, and it shows that these countries are targeted for reasons that have nothing to do with real security concerns. The entire policy is stupid and unnecessary, and the ban on Iranians helps illustrate why.

The restrictions on Venezuela are fairly limited, and they are obviously aimed at penalizing the Venezuelan government and have nothing to do with U.S. security. The ban on some Venezuelans and all North Koreans reflects the administration’s desire to include some country–any country–that avoids the stigma of the “Muslim ban” label, but as a security measure they are pointless. Very few North Koreans come to the U.S., but supposing that any wanted to come here and try to escape their government they are now barred from doing so. This tends to confirm the impression that most of the banned countries are targeted because they are viewed with displeasure in Washington or are too weak to do anything in response.

The inclusion of Chad and the removal of Sudan drive home how arbitrary the list of countries has always been. Chad has been a security partner with the U.S. for many years, and adding them to the list is a gratuitous insult to a government that has been very cooperative with Washington in the past:

Meanwhile, taking Sudan off the list may have had more to do with lobbying by other client regimes than it did with any improvements in Sudan’s security procedures:

These indefinite blanket travel bans based on nationality don’t make the U.S. any more secure, and they needlessly antagonize other nations for the sake of security theater.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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