The recent terrorist attacks in Paris have heightened the debate about Syrian refugees coming to the U.S. Unfortunately, a lot of the current discussion is counterproductive. Much of the problem has to do with Republican governors (three of whom are currently running for president) saying that they won't accept Syrian refugees. To a certain extent, this misguided and politically expedient stance is unsurprising, although we should still expect more from our political leaders.
Congressional Republicans aren't helping either. If the more moderate, tolerant strand of the GOP is going to articulate a more sensible position on this issue, now would be an opportune time to do so.
In the U.S., we should be having a thoughtful conversation about how we can accept more Syrian refugees -- not less. Now is definitely not the time for America's political elites to abdicate U.S. global leadership. On this issue, U.S. President Barack Obama is getting things right. And the U.S. should not be turning people away on religious grounds. (What could be less American than that?)
Richard Fontaine, president of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a think tank in Washington, has written an excellent piece about the debate over Syrian refugees. Here's the last paragraph of Fontaine's article:
Civilized nations should see the violence in Paris not as a moment to question our long-held ideals but as a chance to reaffirm them and embrace the most vulnerable among us. It is not just the ethically correct thing to do. This embrace of humanity's deepest values is itself a rejection of the tortured ISIS worldview.
There are, quite clearly, compelling moral reasons for the U.S. to accept Syrian refugees. There are very compelling strategic reasons too. Nobody's suggesting that we shouldn't think clearly about this issue; let's have a constructive debate and stop with the demagoguery.
In foreign policy, strategy matters. Domestic political support matters. But vision and ideals matter too. Right now, the rhetoric on refugees emanating from much of the GOP is reprehensible and goes against America's interests -- in the Middle East and beyond.