The number of refugees in the world today is truly staggering. The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees publishes statistics on refugees and they show that there are more than 19.5 milliOn refugees globally. Over half of the refugees are under 18 years old. Today, around 86% of all refugees have sought safety in developing, rather than developed countries. That is shifting now that refugees are heading to Northern Europe.
Americans should be concerned about how to assist our allies in this time of crisis for several reasons. First, it is just the right thing to do (sound familiar?). When our allies face a problem, we should try to stand with them just as they have often stood with us.
Second, the problems in the Middle East, especially in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria are incredibly complex. Without getting into all of the politics, the turmoil in these countries has come about in part by actions taken by the United States. If we are honest, we can acknowledge that some of out intervention and policies have brought about good and unity and some have brought about bad and conflict. The current refugee crisis is in part (but not totally) an unintended consequence of actions by our government and our allies. To abandon our allies, Germany, Greece, Serbia and Sweeden in particular and leave them to deal with a crisis that to some degree we helped to create, is to neglect and disclaim our responsibility. That won’t strengthen our ties to these countries and could generate other undesirable consequences the next time we need their help.
Third, we have an opportunity to demonstrate to the refugees, our friends and foes alike, that the U.S. will help those in need, will stand with our allies, will not be intimidated or cowardly when faced by any threat of terrorism and cannot be outdone in generosity by any nation, religion or group. Allowing ISIS or other extremist groups to provide greater aid than we do, only strengthens their erroneous narrative that we are a people of hate.
So, in addition to our obligation to simply do the right thing for the refugees, we need to do the right thing for our allies: 1) to take on more refugees here, which is the basis on which our country was founded, and 2) to assist with the funding of the movement of the refugees that are on the move today, alleviating developing nations of bearing that full responsibility.
Tomorrow, in an effort to convince those people who don’t see a need to help because it is either the right thing to do for the refugees or the right thing to do for our allies, I will try to give another compelling reason for providing assistance that has a selfish motivation. Hopefully for the unconvinced, if they cannot support aid out of a humanitarian or allied motive, perhaps a selfish one will suffice.