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Soft Power and Muslim Immigration

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The diplomat Jason Lewis-Berry has an op-ed in The Oregonian about why the U.S. is stronger and more secure when it is tolerant and open than when it is militaristic and hateful. It’s about soft power.

The United States has the world’s strongest military. Our “hard” power is unmatched. But American “soft” power, which includes the world’s perception of us, is equally important. I have worked in more than a dozen countries — from Congo to Bangladesh. I’ve seen Moroccan girls learning English so one day they can do business with America. I’ve seen Syrian refugees receive training in democratic governance and then — putting their lives at risk — go back into Syria to set up a city council. I’ve been in remote African villages where kids know that the U.S. elected a president who looks like them — just one more sign for them that anything is possible in America.

This stuff is important. It matters that people around the world are attracted to our values. When a politician disowns those values, the world notices. It makes us less safe. And it makes my job harder.

This stuff is really important. People around the world, for the most part, don’t hate the United States. But they do sometimes hate what the United States does to their people and their nation, whether through bombing, assisting right-wing governments to imprison and torture civilians, destroy their local economies, treating their brothers and sisters and sons and daughters poorly when they go to the United States, etc. When the United States does not do these things and instead engages with the world in constructive ways, the United States is therefore a stronger nation because external threats become fewer. When Donald Trump blasts his rhetoric of white supremacy through the world and demonizes Muslims and immigrants, that makes the United States less safe. Now that Trump is appearing in Al-Shabaab recruitment videos, you make the call who the real threat to American security is. And when the meat corporation Cargill decides to end policies that allow Somali immigrants to pray while on the job and then fires them all for praying, you tell me how a corporation like this is not hurting national security.

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