Consider the Order first. I accept although I may not like the Administration's focus on being seen to deliver on campaign promises. Accept because they were campaign promises, dislike because I thought that some of them were very silly indeed. However, the way that the Order was drafted and then "implemented" was ham handed and confused. It seems that the need for immediate political atmospherics overrode common sense and practical administration.
From an administrative perspective, there were three problems with the Order: it was poorly drafted, containing ambiguities that meant that its scope was not properly recognised; partially as a consequence of this, there were potential legal uncertainties about its validity; and it was put in place without the necessary administrative underpinnings required for effective delivery. All this led to confusion, collateral damage to individuals and the US reputation and subsequent backtracking.
You can get a feel for the degree of confusion and backtracking if you compare the Order and its initial implementation with this formal statement on the scope of the Order issued by the UK Foreign Office following discussions between Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and the US Government. To my mind, this statement provides a gloss not supported by the original Order, initial US actions or statements from the President and his team.
Even then, there are ambiguities in the British statement best captured in this paragraph, one that appears to conflict directly with the earlier parts of the statement. "The only dual nationals who might have extra checks are those coming from one of the seven countries themselves – for example a UK-Libya dual national coming from Libya to the US". Now compare this with the earlier parts of the statement:
The Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has today held conversations with the US Government and as a result we can clarify that:The first part of the UK statement appears in direct conflict with the Order, while the last paragraph would appear to be in conflict with the earlier paragraphs.I note, by the way, that while both the Canadian and UK Governments have responded on behalf of their residents to the US Order, the Australian Government appears to have been silent on the issue, preferring to focus instead on the deal with the US on refugee resettlement. I may be wrong here, but I checked both the PM's and Foreign Minister's websites.
- The Presidential executive order only applies to individuals travelling from one of the seven named countries.
- If you are travelling to the US from anywhere other than one of those countries (for instance, the UK) the executive order does not apply to you and you will experience no extra checks regardless of your nationality or your place of birth.
- If you are a UK national who happens to be travelling from one of those countries to the US, then the order does not apply to you – even if you were born in one of those countries.
- If you are a dual citizen of one of those countries travelling to the US from OUTSIDE those countries then the order does not apply to you.
I siad that administrative incompetence may be becoming a feature of the new US Administration. The terrorism/migration Order is not the only example. President Trump may be suffering from the delusion that signing an Order is equivalent to making something happen.
Consider, example, the Order calling for a 30 day review on the Best way of defeating ISIS. I have no especial problem with this.Indeed, quick, sharp, reviews on particular issues can be important in allowing a new Administration to refine its views and set new directions. However, the volume of Orders as well as some of the more contentious content does raise questions about the capacity of the Administration to even consider let alone implement consequent recommendations. We have seen from a number of recent Australian Governments what happens when the desire to do, to be seen as active, outruns the capacity of supporting systems to deliver.
In writing this post, I have chosen to focus on the question of administrative competence. Obviously, many other issues are involved. However, the question of policy and administrative competence is central to what actually happens.
I am treating this post as the Monday Forum post. As always, feel free to go in whatever direction you want.
The polarising effects of Mr Trump's Order are remarkable, building on existing divisions. Most of the people I know including my own family have strong reactions against the Order, building on existing attitudes to President Trump.On the other side of the ledger, there has been an uptick in nationalistic anti-immigration feeds. Open your mouth to express contrary views to either side and you will get your head bitten off.
I was interested in the attitudes adopted by the Westminster democracies. Canada is on one side of the ledger, directly attacking the Order, even using it as a device to promote Canada's open door inclusive approach. Canada also seems to have acted very quickly to clarify elements of the order, including the position of dual nationals.
On the other side we have Australia. This press statement from yesterday (Monday 30 January) captures the Australian position, reflecting lock-ins from existing policies. :
JOURNALIST:Both the UK and New Zealand came out in direct opposition to the Order, if with a degree of kicking and screaming on the UK side where the Government seems to have temporised initially. The New Zealand position is far more nuanced, if this news reporting is any guide. I think New Zealand, like other countries was blindsided by the nature of the Order, leading to a lagged response. In responding, Mr English:
Prime Minister, will you be undertaking an assessment of the Trump Executive Order, particularly in regard to Australians who are dual nationals, going to the US for business or for tourism, or students? Is there a need for an assessment of how that policy may impact on Australians?
Well, as the Foreign Minister's spokesman said this morning, our Embassy is engaging with US officials on this subject but at this stage, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has not received any requests for consular assistance from Australians unable to board transport to the United States.
Do you agree with the terms of that Executive Order? As it affects dual citizens?
Well, Michelle, as I said, we have not seen any cases of it so doing. If cases do arise, then we will take them up with the government. The Foreign Minister's spokesman has said that already.
Can I just say to you though, it is not my job, as Prime Minister of Australia, to run a commentary on the domestic policies of other countries.
We have, here, in Australia, border security arrangements which are the envy of the world. I know this from when I was at the UN in September. I can tell you, leader after leader spoke to me about how much they admired the security, the intelligence-based security systems we have on our border to keep Australians safe and to keep terrorists out of Australia.
We've got very strong systems. That is a fact. So we're proud of those and we'll maintain them, and where we can, we will enhance them. If others wish to emulate what we're doing, they're welcome to do so but I am not about to run a commentary on other countries’ practices.
Mr Turnbull, other leaders, western leaders, have taken issue with the Executive Order. You don't find it discriminatory? Secondly, in your conversation with President Trump, did you mention the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Our rules, our laws, our values are very well known. Our commitment to multiculturalism, our commitment to a non-discriminatory immigration program is well known. I spoke about it at some length just last week on Australia Day. So that's where we stand. That's our policy. But our borders are secure. That is the bottom line. Our borders are secure. We are not complacent. Peter Dutton is constantly looking at how we can enhance our security. We recognise there are real threats and we are determined to keep Australians safe.
- States that while he does not see the Order as anti-Muslim, New Zealand is opposed to the ban. In stating this, Mr English is quite careful not to be drawn into commentary on US domestic politics
- Focuses on reassuring New Zealanders that the NZ Government will not apply the same approach, that New Zealand remains an open welcoming country
- States that New Zealand is seeking clarification, especially on the position of dual nationals.
I suspect the new POTUS would perceive administrative confusion as a plus if it got more "liberals" on the streets protesting. Many of his supporters will assume that he must be doing the right thing if he upsets the "liberals".Winton may well be right. There are fault lines, divisions, that I am seeking to understand. In this context, Winton also pointed me to this article from Time, Donald Trump, Stephen Bannon and the Coming Crisis in American National Life. As an historian, I do use history to inform my writing, but am very cautious about "grand theories", including those set out here. However, the piece is interesting in providing possible clues to some of the thought influences within the US Administration.
My focus in the post was on what the Order and other decisions of the Trump Administration might say about the administrative competence of the Trump Administration. That will be tested by time. For the moment, this is a short term Order, one designed to give the Trump Administration time to put new approaches in place, including "extreme vetting".
The ambiguities in the order as well as immediate problems in its enforcement have already forced a range of clarifications. It remain the case, however. that no one is really sure what it actually means when it comes to specific cases. The clarifications have clarified some things, added further confusions in other cases.