We Should Welcome Syrian Refugees

Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

Related Post Roulette

164 Responses

  1. greginak says:

    Right on. Well said. Rejecting refugees is exactly what ISIS wants. They can tell wavering people in the mid east how much the US and Europe hates them. They can also tell terrified people who want to run away that they have no hope of escape and living under their barbaric regime is the only choice so they better jump on the war train. And that would be the truth.

    In the medium to longer term having thriving refugee communities who freely practice their religion and are living well is a complete kick in the nads to ISIS. That is not what they want and it is most definitely what we should want.Report

  2. Kim says:

    I vote we give them free smartphones, so the government can eavesdrop on them…
    Why should they get civil rights when we don’t?Report

  3. Doctor Jay says:

    Just today, I saw someone refer to Mariel as causing a “20-year crime wave”. Sigh.

    In good news, Jeb! has endorsed taking refugees, “as long as we are careful”. I think lots of them can be approved pretty quickly, because they don’t fit the profile for terrorists, even if they are Muslim. The terrorist profile is a LOT more specific than that.

    But no solution – including banning refugees from Syria – is going to keep us perfectly safe. I think we need to face up to this. A small probability of something like Paris (which is still smaller than the Murrah Building) is probably worth it in terms of A) maintaining a noble tradition of accepting refugees, and B) kicking ISIS in the junk.

    Syria’s population is 22.8 million. There are an estimated 9 million refugees, 3 million of which have actually left the country. That is a very serious drain on resources. It’s got to be hurting them. They established an Islamic State, and nobody came. Too bad for them.

    Making it easier for people to leave Syria and get away from those maniacs is quite materially “fighting ISIS”.

    ISIS just became a much bigger problem than it was. And now we need a bigger response, but I think the French should get the chance to lead it.Report

    • Glyph in reply to Doctor Jay says:

      If the reports are true that that Russian jet was also downed by ISIS (or Daesh), then they have just pissed off the Russians too.

      They are really building quite the coalition against themselves.Report

      • Chris in reply to Glyph says:

        I suppose if you’re leading an apocalyptic cult, pissing off the entire world makes sense.Report

        • Glyph in reply to Chris says:

          Yeah, but you’re doing apocalypse all wrong if you are stacking the world’s most powerful militaries all on the same side of the ledger.

          Dear God, get the US and the French and the Russians all agreeing that you are a problem that needs to be dealt with, and that’s probably going to be a pretty short and one-sided fight. Maybe they should rope the Chinese in too, just to really make it complete.Report

          • Burt Likko in reply to Glyph says:

            Remember, their objective is to found the new Caliphate. Their Immortan Joe styles himself a Caliph.

            This requires that there be conflict with the dar al-Harb. And the more powerful the enemy, the better, because that much greater the need for solidarity amongst the faithful, that much greater the need to follow the leadership of the Caliph, and that much more powerful a demonstration of the power of the True Faith when it ultimately prevails (because the western nations aren’t really ever going to do more than half-ass it, based on ample ample recent experience starting in the 70’s in Afghanistan, then Lebanon, then Iraq, then Afghanistan again then Iraq again, then Yemen, then Libya, etc).

            I’ve got to imagine that’s how Immortan Joe over there is thinking. Fits in reasonably nicely with the mindset Braeme Wood described a few months ago.Report

            • Glyph in reply to Burt Likko says:

              That’s a long article and I am not all the way through it, but a couple things strike me already.

              the caliphate’s supporters have toiled mightily to make their project knowable. We can gather that their state rejects peace as a matter of principle; that it hungers for genocide; that its religious views make it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change, even if that change might ensure its survival; and that it considers itself a harbinger of—and headline player in—the imminent end of the world.

              The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), follows a distinctive variety of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment matter to its strategy, and can help the West know its enemy and predict its behavior. Its rise to power is less like the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (a group whose leaders the Islamic State considers apostates) than like the realization of a dystopian alternate reality in which David Koresh or Jim Jones survived to wield absolute power over not just a few hundred people, but some 8 million.

              (bold by me)

              I have questioned before, when we rush to assure ourselves that “Islam is a religion of peace, and we are not at war with it”, how we would even know that a tipping point has been reached, and that statement can no longer be considered fully-true.

              That is, we know without doubt that an ideology can be (or can become over time) toxic to its followers and others, such as we have seen with Koreshes and Joneses and Aum Shinrikyo (on the explicitly-religious, cultlike end) and many times in political entities (the Nazis being the most notorious go-to example).

              At 10, 100, 1,000, 10,000 followers, such an ideology is maybe a nuisance, or even a severe problem; but it’s not an existential threat, to be treated like one.

              8 million is a lot of people.

              I am fully aware that that number still represents only a fraction of Islam, and we in the West remain not at war with Islam; yet it’s a big fraction.

              Maybe it gets bigger.

              How much of a fraction would it need to be, before we could legitimately-say “We are in fact at war with Islam (or, “with this specific branch of Islam”)?

              And please understand that though I frame my question using fundamentalist Islam as the example for obvious reasons, the same question could as easily be asked of any other ideology or religion with a large number of followers and massive power. Ask a Richard Dawkins or Bill Maher or Christopher Hitchens (well, if you could), and they’d probably tell you that the tipping point was reached long ago by Christianity and more harm than good comes from it.

              IOW, my question is not about Islam, per se; it’s about “how do you recognize if/when an existential fight has begun?”

              The Islamic State supporters I spoke with still refer to Osama bin Laden as “Sheikh Osama,” a title of honor. But jihadism has evolved since al-Qaeda’s heyday, from about 1998 to 2003, and many jihadists disdain the group’s priorities and current leadership.

              Bin Laden viewed his terrorism as a prologue to a caliphate he did not expect to see in his lifetime. His organization was flexible, operating as a geographically diffuse network of autonomous cells. The Islamic State, by contrast, requires territory to remain legitimate, and a top-down structure to rule it. (Its bureaucracy is divided into civil and military arms, and its territory into provinces.)

              So Bin Laden was John the Baptist, in their view?

              The Islamic State awaits the army of “Rome,” whose defeat at Dabiq, Syria, will initiate the countdown to the apocalypse.

              I haven’t seen anything specific on this and it could well just be a coincidence (esp. as the Germany-France football match was the big spectator event that night), but fundamentalists usually like their symbolism, and it certainly struck me that the Parisian concert hall attacked was hosting the Eagles of Death Metal.

              Sure, they are an American band, and the words “death” and “metal” sound suitably decadent-Western; but eagles are of course not only an American symbol, they are a Roman one.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:


                We can’t really fight an ideology. Or wage war against it. Not with armies and guns and drones. When we fought the Nazis, we didn’t fight anti-Semitism… we fought the Nazis: an identifiable group with a shared worldview that included anti-Semitism. We could fight a billion Muslims and I still don’t think that’d make us at war with Islam. It’d make us at war with a whole shitload of Muslims. But we’d be fighting them… not Islam (radicalized or otherwise).

                This doesn’t mean we can’t “fight” ideologies in a figurative way. But I think that is done via things like education and building allies and the like. The only way to “kill” an ideology with weapons is to kill all its practitioners or enough to make everyone stop following it and never follow it again. And that seems next to impossible.Report

              • Don Zeko in reply to Kazzy says:

                Plus, even if we were at war with Islam (whatever exactly we mean by that), what’s to be gained by describing the conflict in those terms?Report

              • Glyph in reply to Don Zeko says:

                If (and this is an if) true, clarity in terminology and aims – in the same way that we were at war with “Nazis”, but A-OK with “Germans”, it seems to me to be eminently possible to be at war with “fundamentalist Islamists”, whilst being A-OK with “Arabs”.

                As long as Germany remained sufficiently non-Nazi, it was still Germany, and we still had other available tools to deal with it. Once it tipped into another category – once it became “Nazi-Germany” – the appropriate tools were made of steel and incendiaries; once it was de-Nazified, it was Germany again, and is today once more a civilized nation.

                Now, if we no longer have the stomach for that kind of total war, that’s one thing (and maybe a good thing?) If we do not realistically have the ability to fight a similar war here (due to the territory’s remoteness or ruggedness or realpolitik considerations), that’s another – again, maybe a good thing, depending on the givens.

                And in no way am I advocating for war – what I am asking is, how would one know when it IS time to do so?

                I think that some of this feel-good stuff we tell ourselves feels a little like whistling past the graveyard; “oh, they just are a small handful of savage warlords in some hilly godforsaken hinterland; they can’t do any real damage.”

                So was Genghis Khan: and that guy got a lot done.

                (And yes, I did word my original question badly. I will post a longish clarification reply to Kazzy momentarily).Report

              • Don Zeko in reply to Glyph says:

                Well ok, but in what possible set of circumstances is it productive to define our conflict as with Islam writ large? There will always be Muslims that aren’t on board with an apocalyptic death cult, but do consider their faith an important part of their identity (quite a few of them, I would think), and those people will be absolutely critical for creating more governments in the Middle East and North Africa that fight against this sort of thing.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Kazzy says:

                @kazzy – That’s a useful distinction between an ideology and its followers and one I elided unintentionally, thanks. I’d quibble slightly with this – The only way to “kill” an ideology with weapons is to kill all its practitioners or enough to make everyone stop following it and never follow it again. And that seems next to impossible – technically-speaking, we probably have this capability; it’s not next-to-impossible.

                Of course, we don’t WANT to do that, because it’d be morally-monstrous. But throughout history, it’s something other empires did. There are entire ideologies and sects and religions that no longer exist in any meaningful way, because someone else slaughtered most or all of their followers.

                That pedantic unpleasant distinction aside –

                I really meant to ask another question, and I worded it badly.

                I’m asking, in essence, a version of a Sorites Paradox question (or maybe a type of “true rejection” question), with regard to our state of war/not-war.

                When 9/11 happened, we treated it like a Pearl Harbor, an Act of War; it knocked us absolutely sideways, like I’m sure France feels right about now. All US civilian air traffic was stopped for two days; the NYSE closed for four, the longest closure since 1933. $40 Billion in insurance claims (not sure of the sum total of all the knock-on effects of economic/tourism/job loss, not to mention, you know, the incredibly-expensive wars); and nearly 3,000 deaths (not sure of # of injuries) and again, many more deaths in the ensuing wars.

                And now, we tend to look at 9/11 like a one-off, one that in retrospect, we perhaps should have thought of as a (spectacular, humongous) crime rather than an act of war; and we talk about how we are much more likely to die in a car accident than from terrorism, and the risk of terrorist attack is just something we have to live with.

                And it all feels very grown-up (and inarguably, we don’t want to blunder into another voluntary catastrophe, like Iraq becomes more and more apparent to have been with every passing second).

                But, here’s the thing – though I’m also much more likely to die in a car accident than by the hand of a serial killer as well, we don’t just throw our hands up if it becomes apparent that there is a serial killer operating in town.

                And this ideology, this specific strain of apocalyptic fundamentalist jihadist Islam, has a string of murders to its name. ISIS is not Al Qaeda – but Bin Laden thought he was paving the way for a caliphate, and ISIS pay their respects to their predecessor Sheik Osama – for that matter, the USA is not technically the “same” USA as it was on 9/11, or during Vietnam or WWII – but there is a continuity of ideological admixture, a notional “American” entity that we (for simplicity’s sake) say has acted and reacted, even though its leaders and population and national mood and objectives have changed multiple times over that timeframe.

                So my non-rhetorical, highly-uncomfortable-to-contemplate, philosophical-yet-practical question is this: what would it hypothetically take to get you, personally, to agree that it was finally time to see the US (or the West) go full-on Mike The Cleaner, No-Half-Measures on the situation, as horrific as that would be for all involved?

                What amount of terrorist-initiated death and destruction (either in a single incident, or a string of them) would make you say, OK, this is no longer low-level constant criminality or unrest with which we must learn to live; but a virulent, dangerous opponent that only the scorched-earth tactics of total war can hope to quell?

                When does the line get crossed?

                Another 9/11-scale attack here? 3 downed Russian commercial jetliners/year? 2 Parises per decade? Sabotage of a US nuclear plant? After all, we have 98 more and 50 states, why get too upset if we lose just 1?

                It’s easy enough for us to jadedly dismiss any single one of these incidents as a one-off not big/bad enough to cause us to say ‘no more’ and back it up, so we just have to live with it (and we seem to think that whatever the ‘no more’ threshold is, we need it higher than 9/11); but, crap, you could say that same thing about New Orleans/Katrina (almost 2,000 casualties) or Miami/Andrew, and it wouldn’t feel right there either – and hurricanes are something we have absolutely no offensive capability against, and only limited defensive capabilities.

                And moreover, as I said, as a society we historically have no hesitation treating the high risk of death and destruction from common accident or Act of God very, very differently from the low risk of premeditated death and destruction by human hand.

                We have massive, powerful institutions with sweeping authority – the police and the courts and the military – to deal with the latter, even though the preponderance of death and destruction is well outside their purview, in the hands of God or Fate or happenstance.

                We didn’t technically yet face an existential threat in WWII either (the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese were way across the water, and we could have withdrawn to our corner of the world for a while); but eventually, we decided it was time to fight anyway.

                What events would it take for you to agree that it’s – regrettably – time to do that here? It’s easy for us to snark about “kinetic action”, and I have no desire to be a warmonger; but I’m not an anarchist or a pacifist either; I believe there are times when a nation should fight, and those times include when it (or its allies) are attacked.

                So when would be that time? If ISIS were to follow through on their threat to repeat Paris in D.C., what should the U.S. do about that? “Find those responsible, and bring them to justice”? Sure, sounds great; but when the puppet masters who pulled the shooters’ strings are far away in some remote ungoverned land, it’s probably going to take a lot of men with guns and planes with bombs to make that happen.

                And when those get involved, it sure looks a lot like “war”, and innocent people on the other side of the world will die too.

                Is “war” something we only declare against that which we consider an actual industrialized state?

                If so, what size or capability or action would ISIS need to demonstrate, before we’d be willing to treat it as such?Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:


                I think it is possible to declare war against terrorists — or, more precisely, a particular group of terrorists. And if those terrorists are defined by an ideology, then we would want to target all of its followers in pursuit of winning that war. Or at least enough to make them move off of that particular ideology.

                So, I think we can declare war against ISIS. And, if so, we could consider killing every member of ISIS. And every supporter of ISIS. But ISIS is not Islam. ISIS is a group of people bound by a shared ideology. And part of that ideology is a series of practices designed to further that ideology’s agenda (i.e., mass killings).

                Killing Muslims in Turkey or jailing Muslims in America isn’t part of a war on ISIS.

                When do we cross that line? I don’t know. I’d argue that we are already at war with ISIS, we are just waging it half-assedly. It is hard to call daily drone missile strikes anything other than ‘war’.

                You are asking when we go scorched earth. Honestly, I’d rather NEVER see us go scorched earth. So for me that line is way off in the distance, almost impossibly far away. Others will obviously have different barometers for that. But just because we go scorched earth on ISIS doesn’t give us permission to kill anyone who kinda sorta resembles a member of ISIS.

                Of course, destroying ISIS won’t end terrorism… Muslim or otherwise.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Kazzy says:

                Thanks. If my questions are taken as implying I myself have a clear answer in mind – I don’t.

                My concern is mainly that just as we have overestimated threats in the past and gone wrong – it is also highly-possible to underestimate threats and go wrong.

                So how do we know when we have underestimated, before it’s too late?Report

              • Kim in reply to Glyph says:

                Underestimating someone is kinda like looking at Occupy Wall Street and seeing dirty fucking hippies.

                Occupy Wall Street might well still take down Wall Street.

                If you’re stereotyping people as harmless and not a problem, then you might be underestimating them.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:


                I won’t pretend to have an answer to that.

                Assuming we’ll almost always misjudge risks (and that seems an inherent part of the human condition), the question seems do we want to err on the side of underestimating or overestimating. Everyone’s response to that will be different and I don’t know that it is possible to have a “correct” response. It really comes down to your value system. Do you value American lives over non-American lives? If so, overestimating is probably acceptable. Do you value vast protections of civil liberties? You are probably going to prefer underestimating.

                Part of the difficulty in making these assessments is that we don’t often have enough information, sometimes because that powers-that-be (on all sides) deliberately mislead us. If our government hides the various ways a given counterterrorism measure/war strategy negatively impacts every day Americans and if ISIS keeps telling us that they are going to attack DC despite having no reasonable expectation of actually being able to do so, it becomes hard for us to make an informed decision because we are being misinformed.

                I think all of your questions are good ones that must be considered. I just don’t know that they really have “answers” in any meaningful sense of that word.Report

              • Don Zeko in reply to Glyph says:

                @glyph I think the mass psychological tendency to err on the side of belligerence and aggression in the wake of a successful terrorist attack is so strong that “do less than we are initially inclined to do” should always be our default response.Report

              • North in reply to Glyph says:

                Glyph, I think we’re forgetting here just how historic an anomaly 9/11 was. Bin Laden/AQ identified both a social assumption (that passengers should passively sit tight in a hijacking and they’ll survive) that happened to overlap with a security flaw (relatively weak controls on cockpit access in planes that, when they take off, are functionally giant flying bombs). The window for that specific and unique strategy remained open for a matter of hours once they began exploiting it (specifically from the time the first airplane crashed to the point where the passengers of flight lynched their hijackers and sent the plane tumbling into the fields of Pennsylvania. Subsequently the airlines bigger problem has been how to keep their passengers from dogpiling every kook who happens to behave suspiciously to death.

                Your other examples, nuke sabotage etc. are, if anything, even more spectacularly difficult to pull off and also are enormously vulnerable to counter-terrorism law enforcement.

                My point here is that ISIS and similar terrorist entities utterly lack the capacity to seriously threaten the developed world. They can pull off an occasional highly visible act of mass murder but they continue to come in behind entirely mundane human and natural incidents in terms of body count. Their ability to harm us, therefore, depends almost entirely on our propensity to freak out and do idiotic things because of their highly marketed attacked. What’s more their business model is very dependent on us choosing to all-out attack them specifically or ideally attack Muslims in general (it’s how they get recruits).

                So basically the answer to your question is that ISIS would have to massively up their ability to project force and terror against us before we would treat them like an industrialized state and the very act of scaling up to that capacity would bring ISIS into a frame where our conventional war methods would smash them like eggs. So it’s a self-answering question, ISIS can’t hurt us enough for us to go all in because to get big enough to hurt us that way they would have to become big enough for us to be able to hurt them. Their diffuse small size both protects them from us and also renders them impotent against us on an existential level.

                So that leaves the war of ideas where we have almost every advantage. It bears remembering that this entire ISIS/terrorism phenomena is a result of a combination of modernity and liberalism flowing into previously unmodern and illiberal areas & the fallout from previous ill-advised first world meddling. More ill-advised first world meddling is probably the worst thing we could do.Report

              • Glyph in reply to North says:

                Thanks. This is very helpful.Report

              • Morat20 in reply to North says:

                hey can pull off an occasional highly visible act of mass murder but they continue to come in behind entirely mundane human and natural incidents in terms of body count.

                Paris was a tragedy, assuredly. But pretty sure the 2015 mass shooting total in America are what — almost 400 dead, a 1000 or more wounded?

                Yeah, we’re much bigger than France but…

                We do that year in and year out. It’s not like 2015 was much of an outlier. That doesn’t count toddler shootings, individual shootings, police shootings…..

                But those foreigners, well….we can unite against THEM without having to ask hard questions about ourselves.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

                I’ll also say that you are technically correct about “killing” an ideology but you can’t really guarantee it stays dead. If some random guy in Chattanooga converts to a following of the Greek gods, that belief system suddenly ceases to be dead. And there really isn’t anything we can do to stop him. But, yea, we can effectively kill an ideology but it takes a lot of work.Report

              • Mo in reply to Glyph says:

                How many of those 8 million are willing members vs. those that just got roped in because the alternative is worse. Or those who joined because they were the strongest anti-Assad group. And those 8 million are people under their control, most unwillingly, not members. They most certainly do not have an 8 million person army.

                Also, the eagle is the symbol of many Arab nations (UAE, Egypt, Yemen, Iraq, Libya).Report

              • Glyph in reply to Mo says:

                RE: the eagle – thanks, I did not know that.

                RE: 8 million – that’s a valid point; yet you could make a similar point that some of the people at Jonestown were there unwillingly, and not all Germans were Nazis, and not all Americans are military or support the US administration and armed forces.

                At some tipping point, these become distinctions without differences; we look at the amount of territory an entity controls, and the number of people under its dominion, and we treat that geopolitical entity as unitary and rank its risk to us. “Russia” technically has the ability to nuke us into oblivion, even if most *individual* Russians are too poor to do much of anything, and have no particular animus against the USA, and are ruled by a small oligarchy/kleptocracy.

                (As I said to Don Zeko, I worded my original question badly, and will post a longish reply to Kazzy momentarily).Report

              • Mo in reply to Glyph says:

                The difference between Germans, Americans and Russians is that those are governments with consent of the governed, to differing extents. Whereas ISIS is literally in the middle of multiple hot sectarian and Civil Wars. Including all those in the territory as part of ISIS or consenting to ISIS is akin to counting slaves as part of the Confederacy. This also comes dangerously close to saying that all targets, including civilians, are legitimate targets because they’re part of the entity we’re fighting.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Mo says:

                “to differing extents” – yeah, I’d say so, particularly in the case of Germany and Russia. Many of the people under their dominion were little more than slaves.

                I don’t think your position is unreasonable – it’s just that I still am not seeing what you consider the tipping point.

                Let’s say ISIS wins all its regional conflicts, and establishes the continuous pan-Arabic state they dream of (and at the risk of going even further Godwin than I already have, I’m not clear on the practical differences between ISIS’ conception of a Caliph, and a Führer) – what then?

                All those peoples living in fear under the Caliphate will be just as much slaves as they are today – may we not go to war with the state in which they now reside, because they (or their parents) did not join up with ISIS willingly, but were compelled to fall in line by force and threat?Report

              • Mo in reply to Glyph says:

                The Nazi party was democratically elected into power. That’s a stretch to say that Germans were effectively slaves.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Mo says:

                Conceded arguendo; now, to my actual question? 😉Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Mo says:

                In the last elections held in Weimar Germany, the Nazis got 33% of the vote.Report

              • North in reply to Glyph says:

                If ISIS even started getting serious traction and claiming, say, an entire Middle East state then they’d get knocked ass over teakettle by their first world foes. Dealing with entire states and the apparatuses that constitute and maintain states are what modern militaries are highly proficient at. ISIS’s current operating model is functionally opportunistic; they’re an infection that moves into areas with poorly functioning states (civil war torn Syria; horribly misgoverned Sunni Iraq) and then runs amok.

                They can’t persist in areas where the state is even halfway strong. Southern Iraq, for instance, is in no danger of falling to them and they can’t consistently hold onto other non-Sunni areas reliably because their MO isn’t sustainable without the passive acquiescence of the local population (both to support them and to stay around and provide human shields from bombardment).Report

              • Chris in reply to North says:

                Right. They were able to take over portions of Iraq in large part because the Sunni population was extremely unhappy with the Shia-dominated Iraqi government, and because Sunni soldiers were reluctant to risk their lives to kill other Sunni Muslims. When they entered Kurdish areas, they were met with resistance that they have, largely, been unable to withstand. They’ve been pretty soundly routed by Kurdish militia across large swaths of both Iraq and Syria, in some cases despite superiority in numbers and weaponry and just about every other advantage as well. It turns out that if you just throw people into a fight with little training against highly motivated local forces, they tend to just die.Report

              • North in reply to Chris says:

                Precisely Chris.Report

              • Don Zeko in reply to Glyph says:

                @glyph When the difference in degree is large enough, it becomes a difference in kind.Report

              • TrexPushups in reply to Mo says:

                Indeed the vast majority of those people are hostages at best. They are living under a horrific and evil regime with secret police everywhere they even have multiple groups of secret police so they are watched as well.

                Saying those 8 million are all Daesh is like saying the polish people were Nazis after Germany invaded. Saying all Muslims are like Daesh is like saying all Polish people were NazisReport

              • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Glyph says:

                There isn’t an essence to Islam. Religions don’t have essences.

                Consider: Which Christianity is realer, that of John Calvin, which burned heretics at the stake? Or the Christianity of the local Quaker meeting, which renounces violence in all its forms, and which waits for group consensus before making any decisions?

                We can argue about which form of Christianity we prefer. But we ought not make the mistake of imagining that the one we prefer is more real.

                Likewise with Islam. It will offend many if I say that the Islamic State’s version of Islam is Islamic. It will also offend many if I say that my moderate Muslim friends are also Islamic. But both are true.

                Religions are big, messy things, particularly when you’re talking about religious umbrella groups like “Islam” and “Christianity.” We need finer concepts than these for the work at hand.Report

              • Chris in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                This is precisely right. Combined with our tendency to view Islam as an out group, essentialism about Islam is very dangerous.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                Fair enough. I did qualify, by saying (or “with this specific branch of Islam”).

                I agree if Quakers were blowing stuff up that we shouldn’t say we are at war with Christianity; but I don’t think we should be afraid to say we were at war with Quakers.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                We need more high-profile hippie-dippy Muslims, though. We need Muslims explaining that, well, you have to understand… the prohibition on this or that made perfect sense in the year 615 but we now live in the current year and things that the Archangel Gabriel told Muhammad then aren’t meant to still be taken literally *TODAY*. Hell, we need more high-profile ones explaining that the Archangel Gabriel is a metaphor for cosmic knowledge of the self. “Allah” is just *OUR* name for the facet that we see when we look at the Celestial Diamond from our position, man.

                The existence of weird Southern Babtist types among the Muslims doesn’t really trouble me much. We’ve got those (BOTH SIDES DO IT!), after all.

                The lack of high-profile hippie-dippy Muslims? That bugs me.Report

              • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

                We have muslim quakers though, that’s got to count for something…
                (they use snakes).Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kim says:

                Need hippier. Need dippier.Report

              • Mo in reply to Jaybird says:

                The lack of high-profile hippie-dippy Muslims? That bugs me.

                How much do you go looking for them? I think it’s less that they don’t exist, but more that you haven’t looked hard with them. Are you familiar with the Gülen movement, Edip Yüksel or Sayyid Al-Qemany?

                Also, there are some really hippy dippy Sufi sects.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Mo says:

                This is where I fall back on the whole “high-profile” thing. How high profile is the Gülen movement? I dig the interfaith dialog thing it has going on but reading about it has me wondering if it isn’t merely as hippie-dippy as the Catholic Church.

                Edip Yüksel is a great example of the kind of scholar that I’m talking about… but “high-profile” he ain’t.

                Then again, “high-profile” requires a lot more heavy lifting on the part of those who provide profiles to the rest of everybody and those people are dropping the ball here. Same for Sayyid Al-Qemany, actually.

                These guys should be given a much more prominent public space and it’s a pity that they haven’t been.

                There’s also the “A Jihad for Love” guys who made a documentary about reconciling being gay with being Muslim.

                I’m not saying that these guys don’t exist at all. They do. But they aren’t particularly high-profile.

                Their lack of a high-profile isn’t their fault. We, as a society, should be doing a better job explaining how this Islam is the Islam that we, as a society, believe is the authentic one.Report

              • North in reply to Jaybird says:

                I suspect that Islam is in it’s pre-reformation period. Christianity did about a century of bloody flat out war before it figured out the enlightenment compromise. It’s younger brother Islam looks to be following the same track; just with modern media on hand to broadcast the whole bloody mess to the entire world.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to North says:

                I don’t know what follows from that, though. Do something? Do nothing? Do more to ensure they end up like us? Do more to ensure that they don’t?Report

              • North in reply to Jaybird says:

                I’d suggest if we see a way to encourage them to liberalize more quickl? Do that. Immigration to the US? Definitly will help Islam liberalize faster.

                But in general seeking to contain the damage is probably the most practical angle to take it.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to North says:

                Islam is no more illiberal than other religions but it does seem to have some strong immunities to religious liberalism and modernity built in or at least existing externally. One advantage that Muslim traditionalists and reactionaries have is hindsight. They saw how liberalism eroded religious faith among Christians and Jews and know to act against it in advance. This includes opposing the emergence of liberal Islam.

                Islam’s way of seeing itself as a political order as well as a religion also creates a sort of inbuilt resistance liberalism. Like Judaism, Islam is supposed to represent a complete religious, social, and political system. Unlike Judaism, Islam was able to do so for most of it’s existence. Islam and government are supposed to be united in a unique way with state and religious officials being one. The Caliph was both Pope and Emperor ideally.

                Finally, the social situation changed. The liberal forms of Judaism caught on because they allowed Jews to enter into mainstream Western life without converting to Christianity..The need for a liberal Islam to acculturate is non-existence because of changing norms. The West is more open than it was during the 19th century and doesn’t demand as much acculturation. You can be part of the West and be a really traditional Muslim in away that you couldn’t be an Orthodox Jews and part of modernity during the 19th century. The ability to jump to irreligion works great for individual liberalization but not for group liberalization.Report

              • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

                CAIR and others seem to champion “moderate islam”, which again, is not liberal islam.Report

              • North in reply to LeeEsq says:

                All salient thoughts but beneath all of that is the culture, not the religion and as the culture changes the religion will change too.Report

              • trizzlor in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                I think when people claim that some strand of Islam is essential, what they mean is that it represents the underlying views of a substantial portion of Muslims, and that it is predictive of what their views & behaviors will be like the in the future or in another society. Saying religions don’t have essences is certainly true, but it’s kinda ignoring the underlying argument.Report

              • Barry in reply to Glyph says:

                Glyph: “How much of a fraction would it need to be, before we could legitimately-say “We are in fact at war with Islam (or, “with this specific branch of Islam”)?”

                When the overwhelming majority of their victims are not Muslim.

                Did you really not know that?Report

        • greginak in reply to Chris says:

          I think it says something about their strategy. They aren’t super concerned about being bombed and they think they can hold their own against the various forces against them. But they need the West/Russia to be freaking out and scared to bolster their own regime/forces. They want a black and white world where they are the only option for muslims with the rest of the world hating them.Report

          • Chris in reply to greginak says:

            Right, my point is not that they’re trying to bring about the apocalypse, as they seem pretty convinced that they don’t need to. Rather, they’re convinced that they’re doing God’s work, so it doesn’t matter who and how many be against them, as they have God on their side. Daesh perhaps shows that an important addition to Dostoevsky’s famous quote is that it’s not just if god doesn’t exist, but also if he’s firmly believed to be on your side.Report

            • greginak in reply to Chris says:

              I’m guessing “hey come to Syria/Iraq to kill americans/russians/french” is a better recruiting tool then “kill fellow muslims.” So if we go in they would not be preturbed.Report

    • Will H. in reply to Doctor Jay says:

      The misplaced quest for the perfectly safe is perfectly inane, perfectly malignant, and perfectly unattainable.Report

  4. Glyph says:

    Awesome piece, and I agree with it 100%, with a caveat:

    There’s a vetting process. It’s much more difficult than the process used to screen ordinary immigrants, in that it inquires into a candidate’s background more closely. Those who have something to hide aren’t likely to take this route.

    The vetting has served us relatively well so far, too: There have been no vetted refugees in the United States who have gone on to become terrorists.

    This is a very good indicator that the politicians currently demagoguing this issue are playing on baseless fears. BUT –

    Sooner or later, a terrorist WILL slip through – either they will come with the intention of terrorism, or will be later drawn to extremism, or their children will be. That’s inevitable.

    And on that day, those politicians and their parties who said “let the refugees in”, will be attacked by their political opposite numbers for that past decision.

    On that day, a more convincing narrative than “we couldn’t possibly have known the future”, or “it had never happened before“, or “some amount of terrorism is inevitable” will be required, since those can be easily painted to look like incompetence, naivete, and passive fatalism.

    I have no idea what that competing narrative is. That means we are asking politicians to trade an issue they can make hay on now, for one that could potentially come back and destroy them in the future.

    Like I said, I agree with you: but I sense this is a case where getting political incentives to line up neatly with the right thing to do, is going to be tough. It will take master politicians and persuaders, both now and then.Report

  5. LeeEsq says:

    The United States is better at acculturating immigrants than most European countries. Within a few years, many of the Syrian refugees are going to be relatively Americanized and into the same cultural things as many native Americans. There American born kids or those who are coming over very young even more so. There isn’t much of a danger of Syrian refugees becoming a radicalized minority like European Muslim communities for a variety of reasons.Report

    • Joe Sal in reply to LeeEsq says:

      ‘There isn’t much of a danger of Syrian refugees becoming a radicalized minority like European Muslim communities for a variety of reasons.’

      “it is true that the majority of these mass shooters are angry young men,”
      Has the environment that created those young men evaporated over night to not radicalize a new group of ‘young men’?

      If the systems we have is disenfranchising our own people, how will adding more to the system make it better or worse?

      You show me that we have a glint of improvement in that direction and we may consider what a rosy future looks like.Report

  6. North says:

    Here here Jason, well said.Report

  7. Jason Kuznicki says:

    I remember an experience that was possibly formative of the way I think.

    Long ago, on a defunct Internet forum, I was discussing monetary policy with some goldbugs. I may or may not have been fully convinced of the doctrine at the time. I don’t recall. I know I was for a while.

    Someone, though, remarked that even gold is not secure as a store of value: A gigantic new vein of it might be discovered at any time. A new process might extract gold for insanely cheap from previously uninteresting ores. Nanobots might recover gold waste in enormous quantities. People might even lose their taste for the stuff.

    All of that value would be gone, and there would be absolutely nothing we could do about it. Nothing in life is perfectly safe. Nothing.

    After that, all that’s left to talk about are levels of risk, and the various payoff schedules for each. But in reality, the conversation seldom gets that far, and it’s just a lot of braying about our insecurities. I never quite looked at the goldbug idea in the same way again.Report

  8. Jaybird says:

    A million years ago, there was a television show called “All American Muslim”.

    The idiot Culture Warriors demanded that this show be taken off of the air because… I guess… they didn’t like the idea of Islam being painted as some little Leave it to Beaver lifestyle when we all know that Wahhabi Islam is the only *AUTHENTIC* Islam (in the same way that Southern Babtists are the only Christians who get any of the Water of Life).

    We should accept tens of thousands of refugees, find the ones who fit a short list of traits (photogenic, speak English fairly well, two parents, two or three or four kids with a mix of genders) and make a reality show about them and paint the life of a refugee in America as some visit to Big Rock Candy Mountain mixed in with some *SERIOUS* assimilation. The adults going to a surprisingly liberal Mosque. The family eating For Real Mexican Food for the first time (it doesn’t have to be the real first time, a staged first time is good). The family being bewildered by some strange pop culture phenomenon like the boy singing Bieber or the girl singing Taylor Swift (“Weeeeee are never ever ever! Getting back together!” “Dearest daughter, you have never ever ever dated anyone!”) Show the family discussing getting a dog and how having a dog might conflict with Muslim faith but that can be overcome if the dog lives outside or something. Send them to Epcot and show them walking through the Moroccan pavilion and have them make trenchant insights.

    Not only is there money to be made here, there is *PROPAGANDA* to be made here.

    The most devastating weapons we have in the War on Terror are the cultural ones and, for whatever reason, we hesitate to use them.

    We should try putting down the bombs for a bit and really start doing some damage over there.Report

  9. Chip Daniels says:

    Agreed on all points, Jason, and well stated.Report

  10. Will H. says:

    From the data I have seen, tornadoes are three times as deadly as terrorism.
    Asthma is over 149 times as deadly as tornadoes.

    If we took all the money that we throw away on anti-terrorism measures and spent it on anti-asthma measures, millions more lives would be saved.Report

  11. Maribou says:

    Hear, hear.

    (If this were mainstream American patriotism, as it is mainstream Canadian patriotism, I’d probably have become a U.S. citizen by now. Someday maybe.)Report

  12. Damon says:

    Frankly, I’d rather stop the problem at the source. Why are there refugees? Because we’ve and the west have destabilized Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, etc. If we stopped meddling with regime change, and causing civil wars, these people wouldn’t be leaving their homes.Report

    • Glyph in reply to Damon says:

      “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore – and if you don’t give them to me, I will reach over and shake the tree until they fall into my lap.”Report

    • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Damon says:

      And I’d really like to unshit the bed. But arguing that we should unshit the bed doesn’t give us the capacity to do so.Report

      • Damon in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        No, but it provides a FORWARD plan to avoid this situation in the future.Report

        • Kim in reply to Damon says:

          I’m not so sure it does, really. When we walked away, Eritrea and Ethiopia still fought their war.
          The borders are the problem, and walking away doesn’t fix the borders, nor do we actually get nationalism of even the most ineffectual variety (I’m talking Kenyan nationalism, not even French or Spanish).Report

          • Damon in reply to Kim says:

            I see no reason why the US has to responsibility for the shitstorm the Brits/Germans/Colonials left after WW2. I’m taking about OUR foreign adventures-vietnam, afganistan, iran, iraq, libia, etc. We own those screw ups. But NOOO we can’t not mess with other countires.Report

            • Kim in reply to Damon says:

              That’s fair cricket indeed, sir!
              Sadly, they aren’t making the distinction that you are– who did it, other than a vague “the west which includes israel”Report

  13. Burt Likko says:

    Fishin’ A, bubba. I challenge the opponents of liberalized immigration to point to a wave of immigration from our past that didn’t work out to our benefit. I bet they can’t do it.

    These people from Syria and Iraq come here to seek peace, prosperity, tolerance, freedom, and fellowship. It’s not like there is so little of these things to go around right now that needs must we be parsimonious with them.

    Besides, welcoming them sets in motion a way to depopulate and brain-drain Daesh. Maybe one day there will be peace and a stable democratic government for these folks to go home to, and if so, awesome. If not, I bet they like jobs. And paying taxes. And not having crime and violence near them. And being able to worship as they please.

    The most American thing we could possibly do is say to people displaced by Daesh, “Come on in and set up shop. Here, have a Coke. Say, what’s that you’re eating, can we try some?”Report

    • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Exactly. Unlike many states, we are pretty good both at “you can worship as you please” and “we can still be your neighbors/friends/employers” even after that.

      It’s a good deal, if I may say so myself.Report

    • TrexPushups in reply to Burt Likko says:

      That is the response they fear us doing the most.

      The Great Satan and Infidels responding to their attacks and attempts to scare us by loving and helping people not like us. By protecting their victims and letting that contrast shine the light on their evil.

      Yes, rough men with guns and bombs will still have to kill he bastards. But when it is rough men from the region backed by a legitimate government that can properly and legitimately “occupy” the territory in perpetuity. Then they are finished. Any thing else is just lashing out with half measures or biding time until that can happen.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to TrexPushups says:

        The only problem with this vision is that there are no rough men with guns backed by a legitimate government and who can effectively occupy territory indefinitely. There are only competing bands of warlords, of whom Russian client Assad and Daesh are merely the most successful specimens.

        We will have to settle for rough men with guns who can effectively occupy territory for a period of time, probably have to help them make that period of time long enough to appear indefinite, and only after that is done set about encouraging them to legitimize themselves.

        It’ll have to do.

        …Other than that, yeah, we agree. Our good moral example will ultimately be hugely powerful, if only we are brave enough to set it.Report

  14. SaulDegraw says:

    I agree with what you are saying but this seems to go into the age old problem of fear being able to overcome reason.

    There is no evidence of a Dasesh member sneaking into Europe as a refugee. This won’t stop people from believing it and a lot of politicians are just going to go for a better get reelected position.Report

  15. notme says:

    SaulDegraw: There is no evidence of a Dasesh member sneaking into Europe as a refugee.

    Wrong. A passport belonging to one of the attackers was registered in Greece as a refugee.


  16. dexter says:

    With as much sarcasm as I can muster on short notice I will go on record as saying since the psycho that blew up Oklahoma City was an ex-gi I think we should not let service personnel, once they have served abroad, back in America.
    As I was writing the above sentence I received a robo-call from the Vitter camp promising that, unlike his opponent, when he becomes governor will not let any Syrians in Louisiana.
    I get down on my knees every night and pray to the god I don’t believe in not to let that disgusting fleck of effluvia become our next governor.Report

  17. Kazzy says:

    At the risk of piling on… great piece, Jason.

    We stand to lose far more than we stand to gain by turning away refugees.Report

  18. Michael Cain says:

    At exactly this moment in time, yes, the correct policy position is that the US should accept lots of Syrian refugees. Thank you for saying it, Jason. That out of the way, I disagree on the open borderish parts of the post (ie, the “all immigration has turned out well, so that will always be true” stuff).

    1) It is one thing to be a temporary refuge. It is another to be the permanent residence for millions of people displaced by a much smaller number of bad guys. At some point, it would seem the answer has to be “Ten million of you have to say ‘no’ to one million of the bad guys, not run away.”

    2) In the long term, the answer can’t always be “The US will absorb some millions of refugees.” The US chunk of North America has a carrying capacity for an American-ish lifestyle, with single-family homes and generous allocations of electricity and broad streets and personal transportation and cutting-edge medical tech and… I happen to think that we’re close to it. I don’t apply this just to Syria. The US can’t forever be the safety valve for Mexican or Central American societies by absorbing another few million immigrants. It is one thing to say “Previous immigration waves have not crossed that carrying capacity.” It is quite another to say that we won’t ever exceed the carrying capacity, that increasing population will never result in a decline in living standard. Bring numbers that suggest it can be done without baking the planet.

    3) I spent the afternoon thinking about what could be done with a few thousand 30-minute road flares, each with a small circuit board (square inch or two) and battery attached to it. I came away convinced that the world is lucky the bad guys seem to lack imagination. If unemployed US engineers ever decide that terrorism is in their interest, we are screwed. (Small note, tongue mostly in cheek, but not entirely, to the folks who think there is no difference between STEM programs and liberal arts programs: liberal arts programs don’t generally teach you skills for rendering cities uninhabitable.)Report

    • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Michael Cain says:

      Germany is a very nice place. Eighty million people in an area only slightly larger than Montana.

      We’re very, very far from being full. I agree that “full” is empirically determined, but Germany seems to say that we’ve still got a lot of room.Report

      • I admit to a bias based on where I live. Draw a line down the center of the Great Plains and consider the region to the west. In round numbers, 40% of the area of the contiguous states, population about 70M. The vast majority of the population, certainly >60M, live in urban/suburban areas totaling far less area than Montana. Arguably, you can add in the non-marginal (when irrigated) agricultural land and it’s still smaller than Montana. In one sense it is Germany, it’s just divided up into chunks scattered here and there across a vast landscape. That doesn’t mean that the empty spaces between those chunks is usable, though.

        The carrying capacity in the West is largely determined by water during multi-year droughts, and by how much diversion and storage can smooth out the supply. There are any number of experts who will explain in great detail why Southern California and the rest of the area that draws on the lower Colorado River has already overshot that capacity. The Bureau of Reclamation will probably be able to juggle the water levels in Lakes Mead and Powell for another couple of years before serious emergency cuts get made, but they’re clearly coming. None of the West is immune: Vancouver, BC implemented stage 3 emergency water restrictions this past summer.

        Of course, from a general population perspective the West has been absorbing an enormous number of immigrants annually for decades; it’s just that most of them came from elsewhere in the US :^)Report

    • j r in reply to Michael Cain says:

      The US chunk of North America has a carrying capacity for an American-ish lifestyle, with single-family homes and generous allocations of electricity and broad streets and personal transportation and cutting-edge medical tech and… I happen to think that we’re close to it.

      I submit the existence of Detroit in its present state as evidence against this claim.Report

    • liberal arts programs don’t generally teach you skills for rendering cities uninhabitable.

      No, that’s finance.Report

    • North in reply to Michael Cain says:

      Looking at global birthrates and especially birthrates in places like Latin America I’d say they’ll run out of people to export to us well before the US runs out of room for them. The American economy needs fresh blood and we (happily) don’t crank out swarms of kids like we used to.Report

      • Joe Sal in reply to North says:

        Where is this new blood going? If it is one of the top 5 urban centers that have high inequality, and near 0% prospects of a wealth generating job, the future I see is 50,000 more yuts, hummin’ Gangsters Paradise in the streets.

        I really haven’t seen evidence that in the long run they wouldn’t be better off in their own country arming up and scratching a living in whatever areas of capitalism1 one they can sustain.Report

        • North in reply to Joe Sal says:

          It’s going all over the place.
          As to whether they’d be better off staying home, arming up and building a better world at home? Maybe. But they seem to be more interested in not arming up, moving to the US and filling a labor slot here. I’d say that’s our gain and the developing world’s loss.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:


      If unemployed US engineers ever decide that terrorism is in their interest, we are screwed.

      You and I need to go drinking sometime. Or maybe not…


      Excellent post, I fully sign on.Report

    • Kim in reply to Michael Cain says:

      ” If unemployed US engineers ever decide that terrorism is in their interest, we are screwed.”
      … oy, don’t remind me (citing that news story from Austin).

      How long does it take to Destroy American Civilization? Two weeks.

      In my better moments, I suspect that Anonymous was created simply to amuse bored software engineers.Report

  19. Damon says:


    So I’m unclear as to the WHY of welcoming the refugees. Is it because they’d contribute to the economy,
    is it because we should help all refugees, because of the attacks in Paris, or because of your second to last paragraph?Report

    • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Damon says:

      It’s because not welcoming them contributes to a genocidal humanitarian disaster. We should stop those disasters whenever the costs are relatively low.

      And also because the knock-on effects are, selfishly, pretty excellent.Report

      • Damon in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        Ok, thanks for the response. Since your comments are pretty broad, I’d like to nail down some specifics. Please provide add’l info to the following:

        “It’s because not welcoming them contributes to a genocidal humanitarian disaster.” So just THIS disaster or should we have been doing this for all the others, which we clearly didn’t. Rwanda, Burma’s ethnic cleansing, Central African Republic? Too many to list…. Would you have / do you support doing something about those?

        “We should stop those disasters whenever the costs are relatively low.” By “stop” what do you mean? Political pressure, economic aid/embargo? Does it include military intervention? If so, how much? How do you define “low” cost? How much blood and treasure are you prepared to pay and for what duration? We only have so many aircraft carriers and they cost $7M a day to operate.

        I want to be clear that I’m not trying to be snarky, but I truly want to know what you are prepared to have us do, as a country. You’re using very broad words to argue a position. I want to know where you draw lines and say “no more”.Report

        • North in reply to Damon says:

          I’d guess Jason would say we should welcome refugees from everywhere.
          I believe by “Stop” Jason is referring to allowing refugess to flee to the US. If refugees flee to the US is stops the disaster of them being killed in their home countries. It also is rather inexpensive as compared to floating aircraft carriers over there and the like.Report

          • Damon in reply to North says:


            See I didn’t read “stop” that way. I read it as “we need to stop these humanitarian disasters when the cost is low”. I don’t see how you could read it any other way, nor do I see how allowing refugees into the country “stops” the disaster. It just provides a location for those people to go. The fleeing will continue until no one is left and the country is depopulated of everyone but the gov’t forces and the insurrectionists. Are you or he in favor of that? There’s 23M in Syria. Let’s assume they are evenly divided between loyalists, insurrectionist, and “those caught in the middle”. That would be @ 7.5M refugees “in the middle” but probably higher.Report

            • North in reply to Damon says:

              I’m sure Jason will weigh in but considering his tone and comments in the thread and article so far if he was advocating some kind of active first world intervention in Syria I’d be breaking the glass and pulling the doppelganger alarm.

              And yes, if every civilian fled Syria and left just the fighters and the government loyalists that’d effectively stop the war in its tracks (actually the country would implode long before all of them left). Tyrannical governments and insurrectionists need to eat after all.Report

            • Gaelen in reply to Damon says:

              I read it like North. The phrase was “not welcoming them contributes to a genocidal humanitarian disaster. We should stop those disasters whenever the costs are relatively low.”

              It seems to me that those two paragraphs, when read together, relate to letting in refugees, not remaking the middle east.Report

              • Damon in reply to Gaelen says:

                That’s a fair interpretation. You’ll kindly explain now please just when is the appropriate time to intervene, i.e. saying EVERYBODY is welcome and when it’s not, because if you went all EVERYBODY during each humanitarian crisis, it’d be EVERYBODY all the time. If that want you’re advocating?Report

              • North in reply to Damon says:

                You’re a libertarianish aren’t you Damon? Aren’t you open borders by definition?Report

              • Glyph in reply to North says:

                I’ll let him answer, but IIRC open borders is an issue where he deviates; I think his take is “open borders or welfare state, pick one”.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

                I’d be curious to hear @damon ‘s (and other people’s position) on a quasi-compromise wherein welfare state benefits to recently arrived immigrants were limited in some fashion. For example, recently arrived immigrants could avail themselves of basic necessities like school, police and fire protection, and public facilities but were not eligible for financial assistance until after working/residing for a certain period of time?

                In some ways, this is sort of the system we have cobbled together but in a very messy and ugly way. I’d rather seen it brought above board.

                Essentially, we’d create a recently arrived immigrant class that would have all the rights of American citizens but not necessarily all of the privileges or entitlements, but they could work towards acquiring them.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to North says:

                Damon has consistently said he is heterodox from other libertarians on this position. I think it runs into the Enoch Powell problem, you can’t have free market capitalism, especially as understood by libertarians, and somewhat to very closed borders because the movement of goods and people are necessary for it.Report

              • Damon in reply to Damon says:

                @north @kazzy @glyph @leeesq

                Yep, you CAN have a generous welfare state and open immigration, it’s just not a smart fiscal idea, and immigration is where I diverge from classic libertarians.

                But my posts in this thread, which no one seems to want to answer, are really directed at how much the US is supposed to alleviate the suffering of the rest of the world, either by direct military, economic, political, or what have you, effort to stop humanitarian crisis’s over the world. A question I have taken pains to ask again and again and no be snarky about. I really want someone to say but all I’m hearing is crickets…..Report

              • Roland Dodds in reply to Damon says:

                ….I would add to @damon ‘s question: I want a socialized state. I want wealth to be more equally distributed by the government and for a generous welfare state. Since Jason is a libertarian, I think it is much easier to make the case for a state not only taking in a large refugee population, but making them citizens as well. But if we want a state like the one I described, at what point is making the world citizens of your state unfeasible?Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Damon says:


                How much? I dunno… As much as we can? This question seems almost impossible to answer, in part because I see only three types of answers..
                1.) Help no one. Ugh.
                2.) Help everyone. Impossible.
                3.) Help some. Who decides?

                Three seems to be simultaneously the best answer and still awful. We’re balls deep in the Middle East and not Africa because oil. And probably Israel. If we have to be selective, intervening in places where it is beneficial to us over those it is not seems superficially reasonable. But it creates all sorts of perverse incentives. And it seems obvious that it’s really hard to just take the “good guy’s” side. So, weirdly, maybe refugee relief is the best way to go. If you get here and need help, we’ll give it. But we’ll stay out of other countries. (Cue Holocaust question…)Report

              • Damon in reply to Kazzy says:

                Well, it’s similar to the question I posed to my then girlfriend, who supported torturing and killing terrorists to “keep us safe” when I asked, “where on the continuum of evil are you prepared not to go past?”

                It seems to be we could improve the situation a whole like my not starting problems in the first place. And why are people advocating helping these people and not others? They don’t have oil? Africa has a lot of stuff the world uses. The Chinese are all over Africa.Report

              • North in reply to Damon says:

                It’s a broad and vague question Damon.
                By direct military action do you mean the catastrophic adventures that the GOP embraced (and the Dems cowardly acquiesced to) that cost a fortune in blood and treasure and made things worse? If so then is the answer not self evident?
                Or do you mean more muddled real world messes like Obama has fumbled at where we try and nudge the issues towards resolution or at least improvement on the cheap? If so that’d depend on whether you think it can be accomplished.

                Politically? I’d say judicious diplomacy is cheap and expedient and pretty much always worth tossing around. Far right wing raw isolationism is nonsensical.

                Economic? Depends again what you mean? Do you mean the palliative charity that is shoveled into some regions that treats the symptoms but not the causes? If so then who cares? It’s predominantly private and thus so what?
                Do you mean the comparative trickle of foreign aid that the US hands out? It buys friends and clients and probably is mostly merrily embezzled by those same recipients who mostly spend it on American arms and goods thus handing it right back to us. If so I can’t embrace a position that says it should all be cut off. It’s far from seemly but it’s a tool of foreign policy and has been used to useful ends in the past.
                Or do you mean the “charity” of open trade that tends to draw low to mid margin manufacturing into the developing world to the detriment of the first world lower middle class and the benefit of the global impoverished? I’d say we should for as long as we can endure to. Here’s hoping the electorates continue to support it.

                Or short answer: we don’t try and stop humanitarian crisis’s all over the world, never have, probably never will. I’m puzzled why you think that’s much in question.Report

              • Damon in reply to North says:


                Yep, that’s part of my question, which was intentionally broad. When some one says, “we must stop this humanitarian crisis”, my response is “How do you suggest we do that?” I mentioned several broad areas, you asked me what I meant by that, but I’m asking that question too. Just what are Jason’s suggestions, or the community here, suggestions on how we actually do that. Because, as you hinted, some of the solutions you mentioned worked poorly, some not at all, some made things worse. I’d actually hoped that my question would have sparked a significant conversation on better ways of solving this problem.

                As to your last comment, that’s kinda my point. Why does this community seem to care so much about ending this particular crisis when “we don’t try and stop humanitarian crisis’s all over the world”? I’m still waiting on an answer.Report

              • North in reply to Damon says:

                Jason isn’t saying that we have to end the crisis in Syria by direct involvement in it thus he doesn’t suggest that any such courses of action. I suspect that he’s not a fan of Obama’s current involvements either. Jason’s claim is merely that it is morally, ideologically and economically in our best interests to welcome a very large number of Syrian refugees. He makes the case solidly that the cost of absorbing refugees is quite modest in the short term and that it profits us in the long term to do so. Everyone’s agreeing with Jason because he’s right, it’s a good deal and also the right thing to do.Report

              • Damon in reply to North says:

                And yet, where was he and the rest of this community on all the other humanitarian crises that have occurred over the last several years? I’ve seen no argument as to why the Syrians should be the benefactors of our largess but not the thousands of others all over the world. And I’m back to my point above….Report

              • Kim in reply to Damon says:

                I know where my money goes… and it does go to stop a lot of tragedies. Of course, it doesn’t always work, but that’s a different, and far darker, tale.Report

              • North in reply to Damon says:

                Why has he written about Syria and not all the others? Because Syrian refugee immigration is the subject in current affairs possibly? I can’t speak for Jason but I suspect his position would be that refugees should be accepted from anywhere they’re fleeing from. The rationalle is functionally the same.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to North says:

                I’m offended by artisanal, small-batch atrocities.

                You’ve probably never heard of them.Report

              • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

                Me too, me too.
                Particularly when people think it’s a brilliant idea to post them online.Report

              • North in reply to Jaybird says:

                A hipster humanist, great, this is what happens when your state legalizes pot.Report

              • j r in reply to Damon says:

                But my posts in this thread, which no one seems to want to answer, are really directed at how much the US is supposed to alleviate the suffering of the rest of the world, either by direct military, economic, political, or what have you, effort to stop humanitarian crisis’s over the world. A question I have taken pains to ask again and again and no be snarky about. I really want someone to say but all I’m hearing is crickets…..

                I call BS on the underlying logic, which implies that taking refugees is some act of charity by which we help others and hurt ourselves. The United States has a foreign policy and the aim of that foreign policy is to help make the world a richer, less violent, and more cooperative place. We ought to do this, because it is the right thing to do. Morally and ethically right and the most beneficial to ourselves.

                Accepting refugees is part of that foreign policy. Especially when this present refugee situation exists, in part, because of our actions. And especially when, conditions in the Middle East are broadly the result of actions from the United States, the European powers, and others.

                Taking refugees is not the action of a martyr. It’s the action of a responsible and conscientious human being.Report

              • El Muneco in reply to j r says:

                I disagree with jr a lot, probably more than not, but on this I’m with him five by five. Straight down the line. I can’t upvote this enough.Report

              • Damon in reply to j r says:

                “I call BS on the underlying logic, which implies that taking refugees is some act of charity by which we help others and hurt ourselves.” Nowhere did I saw that in this thread.

                But I will call BS on your comment “The United States has a foreign policy and the aim of that foreign policy is to help make the world a richer, less violent, and more cooperative place. ” Oh really? Overthrowing the legit gov’t of Iran and Ukraine is part of that policy? All the fun FP adventures in South America? That all has a end goal of less violence and a rich cooperative world. Hogwash.Report

      • Richard Hershberger in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        I would add two things:

        (1) It is clear that ISIS is trying to prevent refugees from leaving Syria. This is a prima facie argument that it is in our interest to encourage refugees from leaving Syria.

        (2) This argument does not apply to everyone, but as a Christian it is my duty to help these people. I am unambiguously and repeatedly commanded by God to do this, in both the Old and New Testaments. When I see people who self-identify as Christian who deny this (yes, I am looking at you, Mike Huckabee) I find their conception of Christianity to be unrecognizable.Report

    • El Muneco in reply to Damon says:

      I don’t know about Jason’s long form answer to this, but for me, the answer is very simple.


    • LeeEsq in reply to Damon says:

      Its because they are alive and they need help. Part of the reason they need help is because of America deciding to wage war against Iraq without reason and creating a hash of things that spilled over. We caused the mess, we should help clean it up a little.Report

      • Damon in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Yes, that’s kinda my point, but since we have a history of meddling and generating chaos in other countries, does that mean we should be welcoming Ukraine refugees to? CAR refugees, etc. or is there something special about this particular humanitarian crisis?Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Damon says:

          This humanitarian crisis can be directly traced back to George W. Bush’s to invade Iraq for no reason. Since this humanitarian crisis squares more firmly on our shoulders and others besides the Central American one, a result of the War on Drugs, than it would be polite to take more the refugees created by it.Report

  20. The US did not apply this kind of reasoning back in the 1930s. (Canada, even less so.) I can scarcely imagine the kind of contribution a million European Jews could have made, to science, medicine, the arts, and the economy. And we could have denied You Know Who the propaganda point that no one else wants them either.

    Jason’s right, of course. And I’ll add to the reasons he’s right that we owe it to ourselves and to the ones we could have saved to get it right this time.Report

    • The US did not apply this kind of reasoning back in the 1930s.

      By the mid-40s at the latest it did, though, and gained some measure of the benefit you describe. At least more so than before. In the 30s we were still mired in depression and a little wary of allowing more poor people in (and also we were racist and seized with fears of communist infiltration, which was all disgraceful). Far too late we came around some, and millions too many were lost (and with them their potential contributions). But we did come around. Some.

      Just sticking up for my country’s record and ability to learn a little.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      Let’s not forget that the Jews killed Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman.Report

    • TrexPushups in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      Correct. The biggest problem with our accepting the refugees policy is that we are not accepting enough of them.

      In my meaner moments I wish I could trade out people who spread fear and hatred of those refugees for the refugees. I would rather have 10 new Syrian neighbors than 1 cruel fear obsessed hater.Report

      • El Muneco in reply to TrexPushups says:

        I know 31 governors (possibly 27, they’re still evolving their positions) that I would trade for 10000 refugees each in a heartbeat, and I could easily be negotiated up for more…Report

  21. Road Scholar says:

    Absolutely, Jason. I agree with every word of this.Report

  22. James K says:

    Well said Jason, its great to have you back.Report

  23. Zac says:

    I couldn’t agree with this more, Jason. Great stuff.Report

  24. Murali says:

    Largely agree with the post.Report

  25. Jaybird says:

    A suicide bomber killed a dog in France today.

    I mean, people died too… but there are pictures of a dog on the internet now.

    This will create additional hurdles for the pro-refugee argument (primarily because the opposition is based in emotions rather than cold analysis in the first place).Report