We live in a morally upside-down world. At one stroke, President Obama — the man who has presided over and, through his profound weakness, facilitated one of the worst humanitarian disasters of modern times — has suddenly and aggressively tried to claim the “compassionate” high ground by making a dangerous offer to take in an insignificant fraction of the refugees his policies have helped create. Yet sadly enough, millions of well-intentioned Americans are falling for this craven and cynical political stunt.
Let’s begin with a quiz. How do you define compassion? In the face of a jihadist blitzkrieg, do you refuse to take decisive military action (including providing substantial aid to proven allies)? Refuse to create safe havens? Allow allies to be overrun with refugees, provide insufficient material support to make their lives sustainable, and then preen over your offer to admit less than a third of a percent of them into your country?
Or is it more compassionate to take decisive action in the Middle East and defeat the jihadist army that is one of the primary sources of instability, thereby creating a way for refugees to return home and ensuring that adjacent allies don’t have to bear the entire burden of caring for the displaced?
In the last week, I’ve seen too many Christians fall prey to the notion that they’re doing something brave and bold for the church by advocating that America open its borders to 10,000 or more Syrian refugees. Sure, ISIS is trying to infiltrate refugee camps. Sure, one of the newcomers may bring down an airliner or shoot up a concert hall. But God doesn’t call us to live a “safe” life, does he?
No, he doesn’t. So I have a better idea for you idealistic Christians and other compassionate Americans who so bravely seek out risk and danger: Go to the Middle East and help fix the problem. Bring food, water, and medical care to the refugee camps. Or, if you really want to bear the risk and be part of a lasting solution, in the immortal words of Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, “I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand to post.” Because unless jihadists are defeated, the refugees will flow, endlessly, and among them will be people who seek to kill your friends and neighbors.
You’re not “brave” when you know there’s a 99.9999 percent chance that you won’t be on the plane that goes down or in the mall that gets bombed. But you will be the person who bears the responsibility for urging your government to forsake its duty to protect the people who did die. This isn’t bravery. It’s sanctimony, and it’s contemptuous.
Compassion is hard, but stopping genocide is harder still. In this case, true compassion and America’s national security converge: It is in our best interests that ISIS be destroyed, that we reach a sustainable resolution to the refugee crisis, and that we protect our own nation from harm. President Obama’s false compassion accomplishes none of these goals. His administration is placing America at risk even as it lets Syria burn.In the last week, I’ve read many weepy invocations of Emma Lazarus’s iconic poem, carved into the Statue of Liberty — “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” It’s a touching sentiment on its face, but a poem isn’t policy: It doesn’t trump our leaders’ constitutional and moral duty to protect the citizens they serve. And even on its own terms, it fails to capture our current challenge. We are not concerned about the refugee “yearning to breathe free” but about the jihadist who longs to kill us — and about our inability to discern the difference.
— David French is an attorney, a staff writer at National Review, and a veteran of the Iraq War.