Why Admitting One Million Refugees Can Help Defeat ISIS

HATAY, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 21: A Syrian refugee woman fled from her home due to civil war is seen at a house in Reyhanli distri
HATAY, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 21: A Syrian refugee woman fled from her home due to civil war is seen at a house in Reyhanli district of Hatay on November 21, 2015. Syrian refugee families who fled their country due to the ongoing civil war try to hold on to life as they live in rented houses, tents and storehouses. (Photo by Cem Genco/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

I believe the United States is in the midst of making a major and very damaging mistake in relationship to ISIS.

That's because we are doing exactly what they want us to do to play into their apocalyptic endgame.

Governors, legislators, and citizens across our country are reacting largely out of fear by escalating the rhetoric against Islam and against Syrian refugees in particular.

While the fear is understandable, if we continue to let it drive us, we will be playing our part in their script to a T.

The truth is that ISIS wants us to polarize against Muslims. They need us to help their recruitment efforts by marginalizing young Muslims and making them more receptive to recruitment.

That's the only way they can "win" in the long-term.

By reacting with isolationism and discrimination, we fulfill our part in their plan to ignite a Holy War of Islam versus the rest of humanity.

The antidote?

We write a new script, one that approaches the situation strategically and builds upon the great virtues of America. It means we take real and dramatic steps to embrace our Islamic brothers and sisters as allies.

One of those steps should be to welcome far more Syrian refugees as a gesture of real generosity and solidarity.

That's because the most significant battle underway is not over Raqqa. Ultimately, it's in the hearts and minds of Islamic youth around the world, of which there are 780 million under the age of 25. And that battle cannot be won with bombs in Syria or boots on the ground.

It can only be won with real friendship, generosity, and love. Those are the antidotes to alienation and polarization.

Frankly it is beneath us to be debating over whether or not to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees, which is a miniscule amount in proportion to the vast sea of suffering now flowing out of Syria.

The number we ought to be discussing, if we truly want to win against ISIS in the long-term, is one million.

While the number may at first seem large, it is not just about compassion but about our long-term security.

Why you say?

First of all, we would be sending a message to the 780 million Islamic youth around the world that we are offering something better than violence. We are offering opportunity, compassion, and real friendship. We would show that we care about their fellow Muslims and are willing to put our money and resources behind helping them.

Second, we would be taking responsibility for our contribution to creating the tragedy in Syria. Our mistakes--including devastating Iraq without an adequate plan to rebuild it, putting Iraq's whole military leadership out of a job, and sending armaments to anti-Assad forces that were then turned over to ISIS--have all played roles in creating ISIS and the chaos in Syria. Since we have contributed to the creation of this tragic situation, we need to take more responsibility to remedy it, which builds trust in Islamic countries.

Third, we have a healthier, stronger and more integrated Islamic population than Europe does. Our Islamic population of 2.77 million tends to be more middle-class, more entrepreneurial and more patriotic than Europe's. Bringing more refugees here is far more likely to inoculate these refugees against radicalization than is the case in Europe, which has a longer history of anti-Islamic sentiment and more ghettoization of Islamic populations.

Fourth, mass migration of refugees can have powerful stimulating effect on the economy. Refugees tend to be entrepreneurial and more grateful to be here than the rest of us. They put in the work to make good on the welcome they receive. St. Louis offers a great case study, with tens of thousand Bosnian refugees, mostly Muslim, revitalizing that city.

Fifth, if the flood of Syrian refugees overwhelms Europe and Turkey and triggers even more xenophobic backlash and an escalation into global war, we will be pulled in as members of NATO. We need to prevent the inflaming of the situation with our allies, who we are legally bound to protect.

Sixth, this is the biggest humanitarian crisis in decades and, as the world's leading superpower, we are morally obliged to do our part. If not, the world's faith in our leadership diminishes which has serious security repercussions in the long haul.

And finally, forcing refugees to stay in hopeless camps in places like Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon fosters more radicalization and more resentment of America, which appears indifferent to their plight.

The truth is that we are the richest country in the world and we can handle taking in one million refugees, which is only 0.3 percent of our population. In Lebanon, they have taken in 1.1 million, which is more than 25% of their pre-refugee population -- staggering to imagine. Germany will take in 800,000 by year end, which is 1% of their population, three times what I'm advocating for us per capita.

With more than 4.5 million refugees already outside Syria and more on the way, one million is the least we can do to take our fair share of the responsibility for a long-term solution.

The good news is that unlike dropping bombs, which cost money and generate no return, refugees will eventually become good American citizens, entrepreneurs and workers who generate wealth. They are a long-term investment rather than solely an expense. And they eventually become emissaries of peace back to the Middle East and the relatives and allies that remain. They can testify to the warm welcome and good heart of our country.

As for the concern about security, the truth is that there are easily one million Syria refugees who we could take in who can be carefully vetted and are very, very low risk. We don't have people pouring across the border the way Europe does; each refugee can be well-screened. We can admit one million refugees in a far safer way than Europe has been able to. And there are many analyses that make it clear that refugees are not a real security risk.

It's also important to consider history. In 1940, 66 percent of Americans were opposed to a bill that would allow the admittance of more refugees from Europe, principally Jews fleeing Hitler. Some estimates run that we could have saved 190,000-200,000 Jews from the Holocaust if we had shifted our policies.

We have been so desperately focused on the thousands of radicalized militants who have joined the horrific violence of ISIS that we are now throwing gasoline on the fire and making it more likely that 1.5 billion Islamic people, including 2.77 million within our own borders, see us as fundamentally anti-Islamic.

And that is a recipe for disaster.

So I truly believe it is time to demonstrate the great generosity of spirit that Americans are capable of, make a rapid change of our policy, and open our doors to one million Syrian refugees, as soon as we can manage it safely.

It will take a large grassroots surge to overcome the political climate against this, but it is possible and important.

With the full cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars estimated at more than $4 trillion dollars, we simply cannot afford the chance of ISIS succeeding in provoking a full-fledged WWIII, which is their objective.

Investing in refugee resettlement is a tiny fraction of the cost of a major war. Germany is spending $6.6 billion this year for its 800,000 refugees, which is .3 percent of what another Iraq or Afghanistan War would cost us. And the apocalyptic vision of ISIS aims for something far worse.

Lady Liberty has it inscribed, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." That line is part of our real greatness as a country.

We took in more than two million Jews fleeing persecution in Eastern Europe and Russia before 1924. They have helped build America into a great country. We gave one million political refugees from Cuba a chance and they have made their lasting contribution to America as well. Irish. Italians. Iranians. Vietnamese. The list goes on and on.

We are a nation built from people fleeing bad circumstances who then demonstrate their gratitude by making America prosper.

Let's dare to give one million Syrians a chance to make America still greater and forge an enduring bond of friendship with the people of Islam everywhere.

That's what will create long-term security, uphold our American values and offer the kind of leadership that can make us proud.

That is how we can start to win the battle for the hearts and minds of 780 million Islamic youth and eventually relegate ISIS' medieval madness to the dustbin of history.

The military is, of course, part of the story but the military alone cannot win this.

If you agree, start using #OneMillionSyrians in social media to spread the idea widely.

And call your representatives in Congress to let them know your opinion, particularly Senators if/when a Senate bill comes up: 202-224-3121