Shortly after his inauguration, President Donald Trump issued an executive order to ban refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and North Africa from entering the United States. The order is designed to prevent both terrorists and refugees from entering the country.
I will argue that Trump's executive order is a consequence of foreign policy making that has developed from the idea that a threat has to be eliminated. I am unpacking why America can be so unilateral in world affairs from a foreign policy perspective, borrowing the terms from G. John Ikenberry in his article titled America's Imperial Ambition.
First, we need to look at how the United States maintains unilateralism in world affairs. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall, communism and its allies were no longer a major threat to the United States in the post-Cold War era. The United States has no peer competitor.
More importantly, the current threats are nontraditional, transnational and multidimensional. Terrorism, migration and refugees are prominent nontraditional threats.
Secondly, the United States has developed a dramatic new analysis of global threats and how to counter them. The major threat to the United States is terrorism, which dates back to before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. However, the 19 hijackers were citizens of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Lebanon – countries not subject to the immigration ban. The United States' global war on terror, mainly involving pre-emptive strikes, has developed into a "with us or against us" argument.
In the case of Indonesia, terrorism developed along four patterns. Firstly, the recruitment process. This took place through indoctrination to create a militant group – which would be the main perpetrator of terrorism – and a sympathetic group – which has a strong willingness to assist in such acts.
Secondly, the target. There were changes to who would be the main targets. In 1960s, the target was the establishment of the Islamic State of Indonesia, because of dissatisfaction with Sukarno's administration. During the 1970s and 1980s, the targets became the authoritarian New Order regime. This changed to bombings and shootings during communal conflicts in Poso, Central Sulawesi, and Ambon, Maluku, in the 1990s, before it moved on to international targets, such as Western symbols. This included the two Bali bombings and Australian Embassy bombing in the 2000s.
However, in the 2010s the focus shifted back to domestic targets such as the presidential palaces, government offices and the police.
Thirdly, the period of bombings. Terrorist activities took place over months and years, mostly in urban areas, where there were economic and government activities.
Lastly, agent infiltration to get closer to the targets. Who would recognize that Ibrahim, or Baim, worked as a florist at the J.W. Marriot Hotel for two years before the 2009 bombing.
Back to the US policy, the country has changed its strategy by combining deterrence, sovereignty and balance of power, which are included in the third crucial element from the United States' perspective. Deterrence, back in the Cold War, was no longer able to attack such threat that it has shifted to a transnational terrorist network that has no home address in the current era.
The United States claims to use pre-emptive or preventive military action as a necessary measure to adjust to an uncertain and shifting threat environment by applying the so-called 4-D strategy: Defeating terrorist by attacking their sanctuaries, leadership structures, command and control centers, communications, material support and finances; Denying terrorist state sponsorship, support and sanctuaries/safe-heavens; Diminishing underlying conditions that terrorist exploit by fostering economic, social and political development, market-based economies, good governance, and the rule of law; as well as defending US citizens and interests at home and abroad.
Anna Cornelia Beyer (2010) supports the above arguments that the United States has been able to drive other states to collaborate against terrorism, but it tends to employ hegemonic power in such collaborations by using the 4-D strategy.
On one hand, the United States has used material powers to drive an agenda setting in world affairs, but on the other hand, the increasing role of the state to eliminate terrorism was not consistent and even weakened by the priority to eradicate poverty in developing countries.
Fourth, the United States was readjusting the term sovereignty to apply its war on terror. If the terrorist group cannot be deterred, then the United States must be prepared to intervene anytime, anywhere to pre-emptively destroy the threat.
The United States' war on terror has created strong international pressure on the Indonesian government to fight against terrorism, with most of the actors being radical Muslims. Former President Megawati Sukarnoputri did not respond until the Bali bombing in 2002 identified radical Muslims as a threat. It was followed by the establishment of the National Police's counterterrorism unit Densus 88 to make use of the United States-funded program on Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) in June 2003.
Densus 88 was designed to eradicate terrorism in Indonesia through a combination of investigation, intelligence gathering, tactical capacity and the release of hostages.
Fifth, US government placed general depreciation of international laws, treaties and security partnerships, with a critical task to eliminate the threats.
After Sept. 11, the United States refused to apply the Geneva Convention to prosecute terrorist suspects as prisoners of war. The United States also denied a request from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to apply a fair legal procedure to the terrorist suspects. Furthermore, the United States did not respond to a request from the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention for information and the legal status of the terrorist suspect detained at Guantanamo Bay.
Sixth, the United States will need to play a direct and unconstrained role in responding to threats. This conviction is partially based on a judgement that no other country or coalition has the force-projection capabilities to respond to terrorist threats around the world. It will also be necessary to upgrade the capacity of the US military.
Upgrading military capacity was also part of the United States' counterterrorism program in Indonesia. The military conducted antiterrorism training, followed by international military education training on human rights and civilian controls over the military, professional military training at the US Military Academy, and English language training.
Seventh, the United States attaches little value to international stability and the main priority is national security. The application of the deterrence principle and maintaining stable relations among the major powers will not ensure American.
Terrorism is an asymmetrical threat that cannot be eliminated by promoting democratic institutions and free trade worldwide. Realizing that national security is the top priority, the United States utilizes unilateral in foreign policy making.
Certainly, these seven dimensions are not shortcuts toward understanding the United States' unilateral ideals in the global war on terror. However, we should all believe that US foreign policy can still be used to understand Indonesia's counterterrorism measures.
Emilia Yustiningrum is a Ph.D. student of the School of Government and International Relations at Griffith University in Australia.