The Corner

The Amoral Nature of the Pawn Strategy

The humanitarian crisis on the border derived from four callous parties who used illegal immigrants as pawns for their own self-interested agendas: (a) Central American governments wanted to export “excess” population, in hopes of soothing domestic social tensions and gaining remittances from loyal expatriates in the United States; (b) Central American parents weighed the risk of sending their youth unescorted to the border, versus the upside of getting money sent back home and/or an anchor for possible citizenship, and thus were willing to take the subsequent risk with their own children’s lives; (c) Mexico for a brief spell suspended its Draconian immigration laws to ensure Central Americans passed through rather than stopped in their country, and it sort of got a strange sense of payback at our ensuing border chaos; (d) a while ago the Obama administration signaled that most immigration laws concerning children, DREAMers or not, would not be enforced, and that insinuation green-lighted the current influx. The cynical administration hoped to soothe Latino feelings, and to create pressures for “comprehensive immigration reform” before the 2016 election, as part of a long-term strategy of altering the demography of the American southwest to favor a liberal agenda. All four groups then called any who objected and wished to enforce existing federal law callous, nativist, racist, xenophobic, etc. The apparent logic is that no one will remember the self-interested actions that brought thousands to the border, only the ensuing humanitarian crisis that must steamroll through the agendas of the selfish groups on the backs of exploited children.

In a more existential fashion, the pawn strategy works in Gaza as well. Hamas’s missiles are hidden among civilians, a two-pronged policy of hoping Israel does not find them all, while ensuring collateral damage that plays well in the Western media. Palestinians are mere pawns whose lives their leaders don’t worry much about — again on the logic that why or how they are dying is lost in the media blitz and all that matters are the photos that confirm that they are in fact dying, a fact which indicts Israel.

Common to both situations is the notion of disproportionality. Facts don’t matter, given that the poorer, less capable party is always morally blameless, the more lawful and better off culpable, on the theory that the latter alone should be able to afford to make allowances and grant concessions, regardless of the facts on the ground.

Just as we have forgotten the abject amorality of Central American parents, the Central American and Mexican governments, and the cynicism of an administration not enforcing federal laws, so too we have long ago forgot that Hamas started the entire disaster by murdering three teenagers and sending rockets into Israel. Instead, all that matters in the Western media now are photos of kids in extremis on the border and Palestinians fleeing their homes. Using suffering pawns to further political agendas is tailor-made for the postmodern Western mind.

Victor Davis Hanson — NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won.

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