Syrian Refugees and the False Choice Between Compassion and Security

Refugees have been streaming out of Syria for months, but the terrorist attack in Paris last week brought the crisis to the front of our minds. And the solutions so far have been more political food fight and less practical plans.

Within hours of the attack a chilling story unfolded: at least one of the terrorists had entered Europe as a refugee on a fake Syrian passport. This news, along with a claim from ISIS itself that thousands of jihadists had infiltrated multiple countries mixed in with refugees, prompted an immediate debate in the United States as to whether any of these refugees should be allowed in the US.

It feels like there’s no middle ground between some who are calling on us to turn our backs on refugees fleeing a war-torn land and others who basically want a near open-border policy. Both arguments are the result of our broken political system that has created deep divisions in our country.

This division didn’t happen yesterday, but today’s debate brings home two points. First, Americans don’t trust our leaders or our government. Second, there’s a whole lot of people all fighting to be the new king of the hill, and each is playing to a small pocket of our fractured nation, hoping that group will give them a boost to the top. No one, it seems, cares what happens to the whole.

It’s time we looked at real solutions that would really work, without the political infighting. Here are three things we could do to actually make an impact in the days, months and years ahead — both for the safety of our communities and with compassion for the refugees in need.

First, we can’t solve the global security crisis, but we can support organizations caring for refugees overseas, especially those caring for oppressed religious minorities. No need to wait for the government, we can donate to help refugees now. We are a compassionate, generous people. Let’s show it.

Here’s the reality: while most refugees coming to the United States are processed at refugee camps outside the US, it seems increasingly likely that ISIS terrorists have already infiltrated the US via Syrian refugee relocation. This underscores the need to keep refugees out of the US for the time being, but does not mean we cannot support innocent families in camps having fled their homes.

A wise move to keep our communities safe does not preclude us from showing compassion to those in need.

Second, defeat ISIS and give Syria back to the Syrian people. An international, NATO-led coalition with Russian involvement (still with one eye open on their intentions) could send ISIS into oblivion quickly. In our fractured world, we now have a common enemy: ISIS. Let’s take them out. Never mind that taking out the bully in the Middle East would be an opening to improve relations between the Arab world and the West.

Finally, reform US energy policy to ramp up oil and natural gas refining. We have a unique opportunity to not only supply for our own energy needs, but to export energy to our allies. Lift the oil export ban. Start building the Keystone Pipeline. Approve permits for more refineries.

These solutions may not have an economic impact tomorrow, but they will have an immediate geopolitical impact. By demonstrating that the United States is ready to pull our dollars out of the region, it could put immediate pressure on oil-producing states in the Middle East to deal with the issue of ISIS themselves.

In the realm of geopolitics, diplomacy may be nice, and military might may be tough, but economics actually have the leverage to move mountains.

The time for political food fights is over. The political grandstanding has to stop. Our safety — our children’s safety — deserves a serious conversation about what to do. It’s time for action, and we need actions that are proven to work.

Our military, our businesses, and our individual efforts can go a long way to not just contain the enemy, but to win. And hopefully, our leaders will join us along the way.

Tech+politics. Founder Flat Creek & Datrm.in. SDG