Life, the wise man observed, gets complicated when you get past 18. That’s when idealism collides with reality. It happens to the leaders of the real world, too.
Millions of refugees are pouring out of Syria, victims of four years of civil war and longer than that at the mercy of the merciless Assad regime. Many of the refugees take a perilous path to a better life in Europe, attracted to an elaborate safety net and opportunities in a dwindling pool of cheap labor. Many of the migrants are Syrians, but include Afghans, Iraqis, Pakistanis and even Central Asians as well, seizing opportunity where they find it.
To the consternation of her skeptical colleagues, German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed them all. Frau Merkel is of an earlier generation, rising to maturity under Marxist tyranny in East Germany, and she thought that given Germany’s onerous history of first the Nazis and then the Communists, her country should do no less. The German welcome, with its welfare-state benefits, made it the destination of choice for the 850,000 migrants expected by the end of this year. The Berlin government is pleading with its neighbors in the European Union to take in more of the flood. Some neighbors, like Poland and Hungary, however, are adamant that they can’t do that, for both economic and cultural reasons.
The situation is further complicated by the emergence of the Islamic State, sometimes called ISIS and sometimes called ISIL, eager to send its agents of barbarism hidden in the migrant surge. The risks are real, and President Obama, oblivious of those risks, wants to admit 10,000 of them to the United States this year, with as many as 200,000 more to follow over the next two years.
The House of Representatives has just passed legislation, by a veto-proof majority, establishing a pause in admission of the migrants. FBI Director James B. Comey, among others competent to judge, insists that the federal government does not have the ability to properly vet these applicants to weed out covert terrorists. The president and his friends in the media call such skeptics “racists, and compare the skepticism to the refusal of Franklin D. Roosevelt to admit Jews fleeing the Nazis during the 1930s and ‘40s. The analogy, like many references to the Hitler time, is both reckless and off the point. There were no suspicions that Nazis were hiding among the Jews; FDR, and certain of his advisers, including Jews, shut the door because they were afraid admitting them would harm Democratic prospects in the 1940 presidential election.
The United States have committed $4.5 billion to aid Syrian refugees since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, more than any other country. There may be a persuasive argument for taking in more refugees later, but it only makes sense to pause to re-examine vetting processes now. America must continue to welcome the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of teeming foreign shores, but Emma Lazarus, whose eloquent poetry adorns the base of the Statue of Liberty, specifically did not include the masters of terror intent on destroying the host. Neither must Mr. Obama’s government.