Posted by Curt on 10 April, 2017 at 10:59 am. 1 comment.


Jonathan S. Tobin:

President Donald Trump confounded most of his critics and even some of his supporters last week by attacking Syria. Trump came into office promising to stay out of foreign entanglements and advocating outreach to Russia. So the decision to punish Moscow’s Syrian client shocked those on the right who liked the sound of Trump’s “America First” isolationist rhetoric. For mainstream conservatives who hope that his administration will discard his campaign rhetoric on foreign policy, the decision to strike was a tonic.

For Democrats, Trump’s move is particularly painful. It throws a wrench into their efforts to portray the president as a moral imbecile or a puppet who was essentially elected by Russians and is now ruled by them. If Trump is going to act like a commander in chief able to make carefully calibrated decisions that starkly contrast with his predecessor’s feckless and immoral dithering on Syria, and if he does this while also offending Russia, the Left’s “resistance” strategy and their truculent anti-Russia tone begin to look less effective.

Deprived of the standard talking points they’ve been using to assail Trump since the inauguration, most Democrats are flailing. Some are joining Rand Paul in saying that no president should be able to order a strike without a congressional vote. There is some merit to that argument, but it’s not one most Democrats like, given that they support such actions whenever their party controls the White House. Plus, few liberals have any real enthusiasm for a strict interpretation of the Constitution.

Instead, they are falling back on something they do care about: refugees. Democrats are claiming that Trump may have been right to punish the butcher of Damascus for atrocities that President Obama ignored. But there is a disconnect, they say, between his military action and his immigration policies. According to both Hillary Clinton and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, anyone who has compassion for the victims of the Syrian regime’s nerve-gas attacks — as Trump clearly demonstrated — must also be willing to let refugees from that country enter the United States.

While Trump is often guilty of inconsistency, this is a specious argument. America’s role as the world’s only superpower does obligate it to act when the international order is threatened by atrocities. The leader of the free world can and must send a message to rogue regimes that they can’t use weapons of mass destruction with impunity. But this doesn’t mean that everyone affected by those governments automatically gets a ticket to enter the United States.

If the U.S. were to admit all refugees from countries where it has fought wars or aided one side or another in a conflict, there would be no limit to those who would have a right to enter the United States. As a matter of law and tradition, the entry of refugees is governed by factors that relate to whether their plight is a special humanitarian concern to Americans, whether there are reasonable alternatives for resettlement, and whether the particular refugees are admissible to the United States. While one may claim that Syrians qualify as a focus of humanitarian concern, they arguably fail under the latter two categories.

The Syrian civil war is one of the greatest human-rights catastrophes of the last half-century. Last year, the United Nations said that 13.5 millions Syrians needed assistance inside their country, including 6 million who had been forced from their homes. In January, the U.N. claimed that more than 4.8 million Syrians had fled their country. Many are eager to leave the Middle East and start new lives in more prosperous lands where there is no war. But it’s absurd to think that it’s the West’s responsibility to take in what amounts to close to 22 percent of Syria’s pre-war population. The only rational long-term solution for Syrian refugees is to end the war, not to facilitate Bashar al-Assad’s effort to depopulate his tortured country.

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