OPINION: Two-Party Politics Clouds Our Judgement on Refugee Crisis

Given the near non-stop coverage of the Paris attacks, along with the ISIS propaganda videos that followed and a new attack in Mali, we cannot help but experience anxiety. No one is immune. The threat is real, but how we deal with our emotions is a matter of personal choice.

It is unfortunate, that many of us look to those in leadership positions for insight, when opinions are distorted by the prism of partisan politics. Partisan politics is a virus which has spread almost unchecked throughout our nation. It has rent the fabric of our society, corrupted the democratic process, and its terrible effect is in full display.

Preventing anyone determined to kill innocent people, for whatever reason, should be a priority for us all. However, just as we are individually constrained, so we are as a nation.

We fool ourselves by thinking that our military might can cure all the world’s ills, and that it gives us the right to impose our will on others. While we ignore many of the troubled regions in the world, I would suggest that we do so, not in recognition of our limits, but because these other regions are not in our “national interest.”

The hysteria that has resulted in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, as reflected in polls, is now shaping policy across party lines to some extent.
I would further suggest that the definition of our national interest is too often stretched to accommodate rather ambiguous values, but once the case is made, and regardless of the true motives, we appear all too willing to attempt to impose our will on others by force.

We sometimes use force overtly, but often employ it covertly or by the use of proxies.

In the case of Syria, the fluid rules of geopolitical cooperation or opposition pitted us against Russia. The repressive treatment of the internal anti-Assad movement evolved into a civil war with Russia backing Assad and us backing the anti-Assad element. The protracted civil war and the resulting destruction, along with the emergence of ISIS, created a wave of refugees of a magnitude not experienced since World War II.

The logistics of handling such a huge number of humans fleeing their homeland should now be known to all, and it would not be uncommon for the United States to accept a share of the refugees. However, even before the Paris attacks, our willingness to do so was called into question largely along political lines.

The hysteria that has resulted in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, as reflected in polls, is now shaping policy across party lines to some extent.

Given the rigorous requirements to achieve refugee status, one could argue that the vetting process will be relaxed in response to the sheer numbers flooding out of Syria and the decimation of, or inability to access, databases traditionally used in the vetting process.

This is a valid argument, and will possibly be the case, but the chances of a terrorist slipping in as a refugee are no more likely than one coming to this country by other means. The threat is not diminished by turning our backs on those in need of assistance.

Furthermore, those using the excuse that we need to take care of our own before accepting Syrian refugees need to reassess their thinking. We were not taking care of our own before the latest attacks, but still accepted a substantial number of refugees annually from around the world.

Why have these voices calling for taking care of our own not been raised prior to the Syrian refugee crisis? I believe we should be taking care of our own, but why can’t we do both? The answer to that question may be fundamental in electing our future leaders.

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