William Cohen, who was secretary of defense under President Bill Clinton, warned Monday that President Trump’s new executive order barring admission to the United States to citizens from six Middle Eastern countries is “counterproductive.”
The ban, Cohen said, “may end up radicalizing those in this country.”
After his original travel ban was stymied in federal court in January, Trump signed a scaled-back version Monday. The new executive order no longer bans citizens of Iraq from entering the country and does not include the original language favoring “religious minorities” from the Middle Eastern countries.
Speaking to Yahoo News Global Anchor Katie Couric, Cohen, a former Republican representative and senator from Maine, contended that it is more likely for second- or third-generation Muslim American citizens to become radicalized in the United States than it is for a radicalized Muslim immigrant to enter the country.
Immigrants who “been discriminated against, been left out or alienated” are more likely to become radicalized, Cohen said, in reference to the recent rash of hate crimes.
Responding to the Trump administration’s stated claim that the ban is an attempt to implement “extreme vetting,” Cohen said, “Every procedure can be improved, but I think the kind of wholesale policy which is going to be adopted for these countries now may just be counterproductive.”
Cohen also made note of the confusion that seems to surround various Trump policies, owing primarily to conflicting messages from different members of the administration. “It’s unclear in terms of who is really the person in charge.”
That impression of chaos, Cohen said, contributes to an image of the United States as being in “a state of dysfunctionality.”
“Our allies are looking at us with great apprehension and anxiety,” Cohen said. “Saying, ‘What we need is clarity, what we need is continuity, what we need is consistency.’ And they don’t see any of that.”