This morning the hotel left a USA Today outside my door. On the opinion page the editors call for the US to accept more Syrian refugees. I perceive the editors’ position is prompted primarily by ethical concerns, but they feel compelled to make a strategic argument. They fail, in my judgment, to make a strong argument.
The newspaper has, as usual, recruited an opposing view. Today Congressman Peter King has authored what is pasted below in-full. The Congressman is being reasonable. If security is your top priority, his is a persuasive argument.
From an ethical perspective it is a deeply mistaken argument. It tells us we are allowed to dismiss the present pain of another because of a possible risk to ourselves.
Most ethical systems: Stoic, Judeo-Christian, Confucian, Islamic, even Epicurean are skeptical of narrowly self-interested choices. We are in relationship with each other and when — by commission or omission — we do harm to another, we do harm to ourselves (this is, I suppose, the nub of the strategic argument the newspaper editors are circling about). Plato has his Socrates say, “Of these two then, inflicting and suffering wrong, we say it is a greater evil to inflict it, a lesser to suffer it.” (Gorgias)
In most situations where others are in desperate need, we cannot be of assistance without assuming some risk to ourselves. This is true for individuals — lifeguards, firefighters, or bystanders — and for societies.
Too often in an attempt to avoid suffering, we inflict it on others. When we do, it ought not be a surprise that others view us as hypocritical or much worse.
The following was published on the Opinion Page of USA Today on September 14, 2015. The author is Peter King.
We have seen the tragic footage of Syrian refugees fleeing the Assad regime and ISIL.
While the United States and international community must respond, I have very serious concerns about how refugees coming here will be vetted, since we know that ISIL will attempt to infiltrate its members into the United States with these refugees. It is vital that we measure our humanitarian beliefs against the security risks of bringing in thousands of unknown individuals. Since the beginning of the year, the FBI has arrested more than 50 individuals connected with ISIL and plotting attacks in the homeland; we cannot afford to compound this threat.
With the lack of stable foreign governments and on-the-ground intelligence in Syria, our ability to vet refugees is significantly degraded. The White House announcement that 10,000 additional Syrian refugees will be admitted next year is contrary to the advice of law enforcement and intelligence professionals.
The United States has already experienced the danger of flawed refugee vetting, as well as the potential for refugees to be radicalized once they are here. In 2011, two Iraqi refugees were arrested in Kentucky for conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals abroad in support of al-Qaeda in Iraq, the predecessor to ISIL. Other cases include “blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman; 1993 World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef; Mir Aimal Kasi, the 1993 CIA headquarters shooter; the Tsarnaev brothers; and the 20-plus cases of Somali Americans who left the U.S. to join al-Shabaab; and the dozen or so who have joined ISIL.
None of us wants any more of these threats or attacks.
To start, we need to do more to work with Jordan, where we have a good intelligence-sharing relationship. Additionally, we need to review U.S. laws regarding what data are collected from refugees and how U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies can use and retain that data. Above all, the United States needs to have a clear policy on the need to remove the Assad regime and defeat ISIL.
America has a long and proud history of providing safe harbor for refugees. We must continue to do so, but in a way that keeps America safe.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairs the counterterrorism and intellegence subcommittee of the Homeland Security Committee.
Recently my non-blogging life has become more complicated. I need to give it fuller attention. I will as a result be taking another indefinite hiatus beginning when I push the publish button for this post.