Throughout the recent election campaign, one of the reasons I would use to try and convince family and friends not to vote for their beloved savior, Trump, was that it makes my job much more dangerous. Seeing how they are already fearful when I travel, I thought this line of reasoning might work better than some other arguments. I have since learned that no line of reasoning works here, but that’s a story for yet another day. Here are 3 ways in which Donald Trump as the “Leader of the Free World” makes my job more dangerous or more difficult.
#1: Internationally, Americans are often viewed as a stereotypical representation of what they see in the media.
Currently, international media on BBC, CNN, and others are dominated by American politics. I have been asked in the middle of nowhere Tanzania if we are all as stupid as our President. I get bombarded with questions I cannot answer in a very threatening manner, like what will happen with all the foreign aid money and food assistance we’re relying on to make sure people don’t die of starvation and can access health services? What is Trump’s position on Chad and will we be abandoned in our efforts against Boko Haram? How can you help countries to improve their democracy when yours is so obviously flawed?
When Obama was President, the most scathing questions I got were those asking when Obama would visit their countries as they’re very excited to welcome him. And why I don’t have the same accent as all the other cowboys and wild west Americans they see on TV.
#2: Now with the series of travel bans trying to make their way into law, travelling to banned countries or recruiting consultants to do so is increasingly dangerous and difficult.
When we hire experts for various activities in countries, we like to hire ones that know the country context, know the language, can relate to the people. If I have a project running in Yemen (one of the proposed banned countries), I want to hire an Arabic speaker at the very least and would prefer an actual person from or originally from Yemen. Do we have a consultant pool that includes Yemenite-Americans with expertise I’m looking for? YES! Does that person want to leave the US right now to go to a potentially banned country and risk not being able to get back in, even though they possess a US passport or green card? HELL NO!
And as for going myself… do you suppose it’s now a bit more dangerous or difficult for any American to be trying to work with governments of these countries on behalf of my own government who has banned their citizens from even visiting? YES. Do you suppose people might be angry that they waited in line for 2 years, went through all the paperwork and hassle to be extreme vetted, and then after they were finally approved were then unapproved because of Trump’s executive orders? YOU BET! Do you think angry people like to riot or protest more? YES INDEED!
#3: Americans make great terrorism targets when US politicians continue to give terrorists ammunition to increase their hatred and justification for doing so.
This is even an argument the likes of John McCain and Lindsey Graham have warned about. By not giving people a chance for a safer and better life, through decent immigration or refugee policies, through our foreign assistance in development and emergency contexts, and through good diplomacy with countries and their leaders, we take away hope for people living on the brink of poverty and security. This gives credence to the propaganda from ISIS and other terrorist groups claiming that the West is evil and doesn’t care about them. This leads to people making the only choice they feel they have, which is to join with these forces for their survival and that of their children. The end result is greater numbers of terrorists and greater chances of them feeling like they should target the white person who is probably in their country to make things worse, because we can’t possibly be there for any good reasons. To be fair, we don’t have the cleanest record either, even when saying we’re being helpful.