From Whence Come Refugees? They Come From You


I have a small but somewhat regular audience for this blog. WordPress is kind enough to give me view stats and though I am overjoyed to see over 40 countries so far have taken a peek, I do get more from the United States than elsewhere. Since I live in DC and this often guides me to write about directions in U.S. foreign policy, this is no surprise. I do, however, miss my earlier focus on more historical and sometimes even fictitious hypotheticals and do plan on moving back in that direction soon. Nonetheless, when something is topical its topical.

No doubt you have heard about the capstone of the raging shitstorm that is Week 1, President Trump. I speak of course of the temporary executive order banning migration from certain countries. This move actively harms U.S. foreign policy and undermines its position at working effectively with allies on the ground to combat extremist movements and build diplomatic bridges. It unjustly harms people and is a rank hypocrisy from a nation which is 98% descended from immigrants. It has also directly harmed those who have served U.S. interest abroad more than most American citizens have. But you don’t have to take it from me, the internet is flooded with outrage on this issue, and rightfully-for once-so. Because of this widespread condemnation, however, I do not feel it would be useful to add to an already common opinion. I would like to bring up something else, something specifically addressed to many, but by no means all, of the outraged:

I am happy you are so empathetic to refugees. But why, if you support these people so much, were you so content for so long to launch military operations in their countries, at least when your party was in power anyway? Operations not made necessary by major security concerns and operations which often resulted in furthering a crisis rather than alleviating one?

On social media I have noticed that so many of those who are first to proclaim themselves righteous defenders of Muslims are those who were either silent or tacitly supported various misguided American actions in the Middle East which resulted in thousands of casualties. We had legions of ‘woke’ partisans actively shrieking for a presidential candidate who promised, on multiple occasions, an expanded regime change war in Syria. These are the same people now, after this disastrous first week for a new administration, who blithely and smugly proclaim, ‘we were right, see?’ While ignoring that we could just as easily have been in an equally damning crisis a bit further down the line, with Syria as a new Somalia, hemorrhaging even more displaced people fleeing sectarian genocide in a power vacuum through the region and setting off radicalization like never before. Not to mention the resulting explosion in even more right wing populism in reaction to this in Europe and eventually America. The most effective means to counteract the refugee problem is to deal with it at the root and de-escalate military options in the region. Not inflame them. But no one, and no major party in America, seems to consider this an option. Despite all the money, time, and lives it would save. No one even seems to care about this issue that lies at the heart of everything from the rise of the right to the refugee crisis. The thought that the United States (and others) plays a major role in creating the refugee situation in the first place barely enters the equation. ‘We are the light of the enlightenment, shining forth in Buzzfeed Listicles, attracting only The Elect from their Hell of being born outside the glow of the North Atlantic World.’ Of course, being one of the tacit causes of these conflicts, the least liberals can do is take the refugees in.

But perhaps this is to overthink more simple motives. Most likely its that in their world of snarky op-ed pieces, ‘zingers’, childish fantasies of living in a world where The West Wing is real, and understanding everything through Harry Potter analogies- the American liberal simply does not care about anything that happens outside of their heavily domestic-oriented media consumption. Maybe the people who fancy themselves cosmopolitan are in fact merely putting on a show to cover up their superficiality and provincialism. Sometimes, a cause becomes fashionable and a status symbol, but until you see the human suffering on a screen and know it is in your country now, then, and only then, can you take a stand. Since our media barely covers Yemen, this would explain by no one outside of the foreign policy field seems to be even be aware of its existence as a major battlefield. The same once happened in the Congo. The more photogenic breakup of Yugoslavia, however, got all the attention. And naturally, when a Democrat launches a ill-conceived war, its not a problem. Its not even a war, but rather a kindler, gentler, ‘intervention’. Being opposed to a war is only popular with such people when the other party launches it.

I don’t know about you, but I was happy to see such a large turnout for the women’s march here in DC. A crowd much larger than the inauguration took to the streets to assert themselves against the looming shadow of a government potentially hostile to their interests. But I could not keep a sneaking and depressing suspicion out of my mind…had the election gone the other way, what percentage of these people would have shown up to protest an attack on Damascus by another new administration? Even after knowing everything that comes from such policies and how they come back to haunt us later. Even after Iraq, which has if anything a less toxic combination of internal factors than Syria does, ended up widely acknowledged as the biggest policy blunder so far of the 21rst Century? The answer? That crowd protesting in the National Mall would not be in the hundreds of thousands, but rather the hundreds.

But these are all speculations. So the question remains open: Why is it, for the average American liberal, more acceptable to drop bombs on someone than to ban them from entering the country?


5 thoughts on “From Whence Come Refugees? They Come From You

  1. As always, I appreciate your insightful commentary.

    I believe the answer to your question, and much of your frustration with the complacent or misguided population, is simple: It’s all human nature.

    I’m not one to blithely attribute *all* human behavior to some sort of biological determinism but I do believe that we have programmed behavior tendencies/proclivities. In this case, we have a strong fundamental xenophobia and herd mentality which makes it easy for us to enthusiastically support bombing our perceived enemies. Perceived, of course, because we have been taught that they are our enemies and our echo-chamber constantly reinforces these beliefs.

    Combine a deep seated xenophobia with a strong dose of what I’ll call “the caring mindset” (for lack of a more accurate description) and you get a Liberal. They fundamentally do care for the welfare of others in a general sense. They get a warm glow by helping those in need. Again, the perception of who is in that class of needy people is determined by those that have managed to market most effectively to this liberal target market. Of course, this susceptibility to marketing to our fundamental belief structure is exactly the same trait that leads conservatives to believe the “news” produced by such outlets as Fox News and Breitbart.

    In general, I do not blame people for believing what they hear repeatedly because, without this trait, we would be frozen into inaction. We need simple strategies to cope with the deluge of information constantly bombarding us. How do you know something is true without it turning into a research project? You pay attention to people you respect. Just as I learn about world affairs through reading your works and talking with you. I simply don’t have the time nor the knowledge to do the research myself.

    However, I have to follow this by saying, if an issue is truly important to a person, then it is their responsibility to do enough research to understand it more deeply. I share your distaste for those who passionately support (insert your favorite social cause here) without understanding at least some of the nuances. Getting back to my initial assertion that it’s human nature, this is where we have to exercise our humanity and *not* take the lazy path. Do what’s hard, and *not* follow the lemmings off the cliff. It is those people, who overcome their lackadaisical nature, that earn my respect. Unfortunately, I have learned in my half-century of existence, that perhaps 5% of the population exercises this ability to take the hard path, resulting in a persistent feeling of being alone in the world surrounded by idiots…

    Liked by 3 people

    • Alright well thanks for getting back to me. I mean I know how you feel. I constantly feel alone too. But I mean what’s the point of being smarter than all the idiots if they won’t even listen or understand. The way I see the banning of 7 countries is Type I error at its finest. You can actually calculate how much this was an overreaction. At least now we have a really great example for what that means in stats classes. Anyway, the only reason I commented was because you seem like someone who could actually make a difference, and I’m glad to hear that you are in your field. And maybe not emotional validation, but definitely some compassion or empathy may be able to stir things up. I don’t know

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You’re making a huge assumption here. Think about where social media was just 8 years ago. Think about how many users were actively posting to facebook in 2008. Not nearly as many as there are today. So to assume that people care more about banning refugees than they do about bombing them is completely wrong. For my case, I wasn’t even old enough to vote yet, but yes I was always against the wars that were going on and I had many discussions about it with my friends and family, but we weren’t actively posting our views on social media. My question for you is why are you spending so much energy putting down people who are empathetic to the people banned from the US. If you truly believe that the war is the root cause for refugees, then you could have just as easily written a great piece on that. Instead of creating a negative spin on the women’s march and the fact that people are reacting. You’re a great writer and maybe you would have a bigger following and actually produce positive change if you took a more positive and direct stance on what you believe. I know you said this wasn’t meant for all who were outraged, but then you continue to state this is the average American liberal. I clicked on this to hopefully read something uplifting and smart. Instead I just got bashing and overgeneralization that all American liberals care more about the ban than the bombings. This is hurtful and it’s not just liberals who are against the ban, it’s trump supporters too.


    • My answer is that had democratic partisans and allies showed half this amount of energy before, this might not be a problem today, or at least we could have avoided endless repeats. My second answer is that I have already written pieces on war being the root causes of both refugees, radicalization, and the insurgent right, in addition to published surveys of various conflict zones elsewhere. My third answer is that since my job is working in the foreign policy field, I do in fact work towards the changes I want to see in the world in a very direct and substantive manner. And my fourth answer is that emotional validation is not my thing, as its counter-productive to shaking up complacent tropes about policy.

      Liked by 2 people

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