The Syrian Refugee Crisis and the Comfort of Outrage.
Donald Trump’s latest executive order banning refugees and suspending current visas is very stupid. It is yet another example of Trump shamelessly appealing to his political base by doing something that is not very well thought out and does little to address any of the issues it portends to handle. We have yet to fully experience the utter bureaucratic nightmare this will arbitrarily wrought upon foreign nationals trying to legally enter the US as well as people who are already legally in our country, including citizens and permanent residents.
That said, the volume of outrage over this particular decision, especially the halting of Syrian refugees, is somewhat perplexing given our otherwise complete lack of interest in that region of the world. One would almost think this only recently became an issue in the past couple weeks rather than being only the latest in a six year episode of disengagement with the Middle East and its problems. We had no issue with allowing the Syrian Civil War to unfold on its own despite our knowledge of the displacement of millions of Syrians, destruction of historical artifacts, and multitudes of atrocities committed on all sides. We have had no qualms with allowing Libya to devolve into a anarchic failed state after we de facto deposed Qaddafi via a no-fly zone. We sat by idly while we watched the entire region rise up against its authoritarian leaders and demand democracy only to be eventually subdued. Prior to the ban, the United States admitted less than 20,000 refugees out of the millions fleeing the Middle East. The fact is that we have never taken this issue seriously. We have not taken any of the problems in that region seriously. The same people who today decry our refusal to admit refugees were likely were the same people forcing politicians to promise to never support “boots on the ground” in the Middle East for the past eight years regardless of the circumstances.
As people continue to make analogies with the Holocaust and the allied refusal to admit Jewish refugees from Germany, they would do well to remember the ultimate lesson of World War II rather than cherry pick one that fits their outrage. World War II taught us that powerful countries cannot ignore world events or wish away conflicts just because they would rather not think about them. In 1933, Hitler was a fringe politician who had just been elected to lead one of the weakest states in Europe. Eight years later, when the United States finally went to war with Germany, Hitler ruled over almost the entirety of Europe and commanded the most powerful fighting forces on the globe. Despite a decade of pacifism, isolationism, and residual war weariness, conflict came anyway. If France and Britain had stopped Hitler with their vastly superior forces in 1935 after he began violating the Treaty of Versailles, tens of millions would not have had to die in a second world war only four years later. Refugee crisis’ are not a disease in of themselves so much as a symptom of larger issues that typically are being neglected by the powers at be. The mistake of the past being repeated today is not the refusal to admit refugees so much as our collective reluctance to meaningfully engage unwelcome realities. Unfortunately, the problems in the Middle East were left to fester all this time and are now much more complicated and dire. Our ‘1935’ has long since passed.
I’m not endorsing the idea that we try Iraq round three, its much too late for that. However, we should be honest with ourselves and admit that our backs were turned on the refugees fleeing Syria long before this executive order. If you wish to be outraged then be outraged over the fact that for the past six years we and the entire world were content to do nothing.