John Walker Lindh, Trump and Abe, and More: The Politics Daily
“Trump … doesn’t seem to buy the argument that animated his Republican and Democratic predecessors: that the defense of U.S. partners is also a defense of U.S. interests in strategically vital regions,” Friedman notes.
Trump is in Japan to discuss North Korea with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and the U.S. president might go to South Korea next month to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Will he call on them to contribute more to their own defense? His demand would reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of America’s alliances. At least for now, it isn’t yet a reality.
🗓 The Week Ahead in National Security
‣ Tuesday, May 28: European Union heads of state attend a dinner in Brussels to discuss the results of the European Parliament elections. (More than ever before, voters faced a stark choice between two competing visions of Europe: that of Italy’s far-right Matteo Salvini and that of France’s pro-EU Emmanuel Macron.)
‣ Thursday, May 30: Pence meets Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa to urge the “swift adoption” of the United States’ new North American trade plan.
‣ Friday, May 31: Walt Whitman, a frequent contributor to The Atlantic, was born two centuries ago. (In advance of Whitman’s 200th birthday, Mark Edmundson explored what Whitman’s poetry can teach us about democracy.)
🚨 Terrorism & security
(Tariq Mahmood / AFP / Getty / The Atlantic)
The “American Taliban” is back in American society. Nearly 20 years ago, John Walker Lindh flew to Afghanistan and joined the Taliban after converting to Islam as a teenager in California. He became the first American to face charges related to the War on Terror for his support of the group. He left prison this week—and in the next five years, the sentences of dozens of others who faced terrorism-related charges will end. Does the United States have any plan to deal with them once they reenter society?
Not really, Kathy Gilsinan reports. There is no federal program that works to deradicalize people who hold extremist views. There is also little evidence that Lindh has abandoned his views.
In a series of letters he sent to Graeme Wood from prison, Lindh revealed an abiding admiration for the Islamic State, which did not exist when Lindh joined the Taliban. Wood found this concerning. “The only way to release him safely would have been to get a time machine,” he noted, “and divert him from jihadism 20 years ago, before he ever became permanently devoted to it.”
Mike Pompeo called Lindh’s release “unconscionable,” and Trump said, “I don’t like it at all.” But Lindh’s lingering sympathy for terrorist groups is no crime, Gilsinan writes: “It’s not illegal to hold certain beliefs—and a prison sentence can’t be extended just because a prisoner hasn’t changed his mind.”