Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Refugee Resettlement Reckoning on Obama Administration

 

Refugees come to the United States through several legal channels, and this post will focus on only the Refugee Resettlement Program. The Refugee Resettlement Program has its own issues, and is a high-profile element of our immigration policy. We have discussed this before at Ricochet, and it is time for an update. I am posting here to provide some background on Refugee Resettlement, to specifically discuss refugees from Syria, to comment on the program under the Obama Administration, and to document that @JamesOfEngland owes me a beer the next time we cross paths at a meetup.

The Refugee Resettlement Program brought 572,924 refugees to the United States during the Obama Administration (Feb 2, 2009 through Feb 1, 2017). In recent discussions, religion was an issue, so here are some highlights:

  • 196,900 were Christians (34%)
  • 160,622 were Muslims (28%)
  • 47,679 were Hindu (8.3%)
  • 38,781 were Buddhist (6.8%)
  • 8,381 were categorized as “no religion” (1.5%)
  • 249 were Atheist

The Refugee Resettlement Program is operated by the State Department, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. They provide an on-line database, which is the source of the numbers above. Links are in the comments.

I think it is good for the United States to maintain the Refugee Resettlement Program. It came to my attention during the campaign of 2012, when Christian bloggers started complaining that Team Obama was biased against Christians in the refugees that were admitted through the program. I wondered about that, and I did a little digging. The source of the complaints was Syria and Iraq.

Obama

Barack H. Obama campaigned in 2008 on an “End the Wars” theme. He said that Iraq and Afghanistan were failures of Team Bush and that America should get out of the Middle East where we are not wanted. We should drop our “imperialist colonizing” ventures and let the “peace-loving peoples” sort out their future “without American meddling.” Of course, by that time the Bush “Surge” had rendered Iraq as a stable, if restive place, trying to sort out their new government in the relative calm of a Pax Americana.

Obama kicked the props out from supporting our friends and allies in Iraq. He pulled out at the earliest possible pretense, counting on the absence of American power to be a positive measure that would allow the Iraqis to figure out how to cooperate without the necessity of keeping good relations with the Americans. He really does believe that American presence makes things worse and not better. He is ideologically blinded and blames America for many of the world’s problems. He was wrong, and millions of Middle Eastern people have suffered the consequences.

Of course, the first thing that happened after the Obama pullout was a round of quiet reprisals. I say “quiet” because pro-Obama western media ignored it when extremists assassinated some minor politicians in Iraq who had cooperated with the Americans.

Obama had famously gone to Cairo to apologize for America being American, and promised not to be American any more. I cannot connect all those dots here, but Obama contributed to the Arab Spring of early 2011, when an uprising in Tunisia spread to Egypt and then caught fire in a number of Arab countries. Most Americans know nothing more than what happened in Egypt and Libya. Ricochet spent a lot of energy discussing Libya, Quaddaffi, Benghazi and Hillary, so there is no need to go there just now.

Arab Spring came to Syria, mid-summer 2011

The dramatic events in Cairo were riveting across the world. The Assad regime decided that the best way to prevent an uprising in Syria was to double up on jackbooted thuggery to keep order. Bashir Assad underestimated the power of the internet to spread sedition, and underestimated the willingness of ordinary Syrians to stand up to the Baathist regime after many years of quiet.

By late 2011 there were at least five different militia groups fighting against the Assad regime and fighting each other. A torrent of displaced persons resulted as all sorts of Syrians were uprooted by war. Christians were particularly hard hit, because they were targeted by the anti-government forces of at least three militias.

One of the main new surprises of the multiparty civil war in Syria was the rapid rise of ISIS, who were overrunning northern Iraq and sending support to their friends across the border. Obama’s pullout in Iraq made the revolt in Syria much worse. Things went really bad really quick. Millions of Syrians left their homes. Many moved to safer places within Syria. Many fled to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Some made their way to Europe.

American Refugee Program

Obama spoke in the fall of 2012 and promised that America would take in more refugees from Syria. He spoke of “tens of thousands.” There was no corresponding change in the Refugee Resettlement Program; evidently no order came from the White House and the State Department did not pay any attention to what Obama had said.

Refugees kept pouring in to Europe. Europeans criticized America for not helping. Since the Europeans are all Obama fans (or at least the ones that were in power in 2012-2014), they did not blame Obama. But the “refugee crisis” kept growing. In September, 2013, Obama spoke again, and this time made a big splash about his promise to take in “tens of thousands” of Syrian refugees.

Ricochet wager

We spoke about this several times at Ricochet. One of our conversations occurred shortly after Obama’s speech in September of 2012. I predicted that Team Obama would favor Muslim refugees over Christian refugees. I knew nothing about State Department policy; I simply distrusted Team Obama. James of England also was uninformed about State Department policy, and he thought I was too harsh in my judgement of Team Obama. Since Christians were overrepresented in the population of refugees, James O.E. figured that they would at least be admitted at the ratio of their pre-war percentage of the Syrian population. In our ignorance of State Department policy, we made a bet. James stated the wager:

“If Christians are over-represented in the numbers, but Christians and Kurds are in the minority, we call it even. If they’re a majority, you buy drinks. If they’re underrepresented, I buy drinks.”

There was a lot of talk about refugees, but whether through disinterest, bureaucratic inertia, or incompetence, the Refugee Resettlement Program was extremely slow to react. Their performance was miserable. A year later, after Christian groups made some noise about the paltry number of Christians being admitted through the Refugee Resettlement, and some Republican officeholders made some noise about anti-Christian bias at the State Department. Their performance in this regard was so awful that I looked into it to see how the State Department defended themselves. They were saying that it was a matter of policy and not bias.

State Department policy

The State Department has been very concerned about America’s image in the Muslim world for a long time. State Department professionals in the Clinton Administration had supported the intervention in Bosnia, because in that case we were defending Muslims against depredations by Christian Serbs. The thinking was that it would help America establish credibility in the Muslim world and establish our assertion that America really does care about persecuted minorities, whether or not they happen to be Christian. State Department officials were leery of anything that could be portrayed by the Wahhabi Imams as “Crusader” activities, and they took steps to avoid favoring Christians over Muslims in several other contexts besides the refugees program.

One thing they did was to establish some bureaucratic rules and policies that would be “neutral” about oppression. They said that, to qualify as an “oppressed religious minority,” there had to be official government policies or track records of official government persecution by the country in question. So if a Christian lives in some country where Christianity is legal, but gets beaten by a Muslim mob and run out of town, so long as there is no official government persecution, then that would not qualify that Christian for the Refugee Resettlement Program. (Other helps were sometimes available for these sorts of victims, mostly involving charitable organizations.)

It is for this reason that Christian refugees from Syria got no respect from our Refugee Resettlement Program. Christians are a second-class but important element of the Baath coalition in Syria. Since Assad’s Baath Party government does not persecute Christians, the fact that Christians in Syria are persecuted by Hezbollah, al-Qaeda and ISIS (in increasing order of bloodthirstiness) does not count. That does not mean that Christians are not persecuted; they are just suffering from persecution at the hands of the Islamicist militias and not from their government.

UNHCR

The current United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is Flippo Grandi. The State Department outsources most of the selection of refugees for admittance to the Refugee Resettlement Program to his office. The State Department contracts with the United Nations for this, primarily because it is the United Nations that has people on the ground in the areas where the refugees are.

I had said that I had a dim view of the UNHCR just as bad as my dim view of Team Obama at the State Department. James of E. said that I was being uncharitable. It turns out that James is mostly right in his defense of those folk. Later, about a year ago, I spoke with a Lutheran Refugee Resettlement person who spoke well of the UNHCR staff.

Many Syrian refugees are housed in refugee camps that are either established by or monitored by UNHCR. UNHCR provides security for some camps and sanitation for some camps. As you might imagine, refugee camps are highly variable as to the quality of life that can be achieved there. Some of the camps are quite dangerous for Christians, and Christians commonly find other places to live, many times with extended families or Christian parishes who shelter them. All refugees, whether living in the camps or not, can enroll with UNHCR and also apply for admission into the American Refugee Resettlement Program through UNHCR.

We discussed reasons why UNHCR staff might prefer to send Muslims to America in preference over Christians. This was before we learned about the State Department policy that said that Christians from Syria typically did not qualify.

Team Obama report on Syrian Refugees

In the period from Jan 1, 2009 through December 31, 2013, the Refugee Resettlement Program brought in 158 refugees from Syria. Of these, 20 were Christian, so 13 percent, just a little more than the background population of Syrians before the revolution began (the CIA had reported Syria as approximately 11.5 percent Christian in 2010). This is a paltry number when you consider that it covers a fifteen-month period after Obama had spoken of taking in “tens of thousands” of Syrian refugees (in the context of over three million refugees at the time).

Then in the period from January 1, 2014, through February 1, 2017, the Refugee Resettlement Program brought in 17,671 refugees from Syria. Of these, 156 were Christians, so 0.9 percent (yes, less than one percent).

James, you owe me a beer.

There was some talk over the past year about changes to State Department policy, but as near as I can tell no change actually happened. I figure this is just due to bureaucratic inertia rather than actual malice. But it happens like that because the people in charge are more concerned about political optics than they are concerned about refugees or American security.

I am not happy to report this result, when I consider the plight of the Syrian refugees. But, then again, bringing them to America is perhaps not in their best interest, nor ours.

There are 40 comments.

  1. MJBubba Inactive
    MJBubba

    Katie Notice:

    @jamesofengland

    I sent a draft of this post to James two weeks ago. I have no idea of when I will make it to a meetup next, but I am looking forward to it.

    • #1
    • July 22, 2017, at 8:03 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  2. MJBubba Inactive
    MJBubba

    In 2014 we discussed Obama’s announcement that the U.S.A. will take in more refugees from Syria, in ignorance of State Department Policy. In the comments I agreed to a wager offered by James Of England.

    https://ricochet.com/archives/obama-to-resettle-tens-of-thousands-of-syrians-in-america/comment-page-2/#comment-2662351

    In the fall of 2015 I posted an update:

    https://ricochet.com/refugee-resettlement-reckoning-midpoint-report-on-my-wager-with-james/

    You can investigate America’s intake of refugees at the Refugee Processing Center site:

    http://www.wrapsnet.org/Reports/InteractiveReporting/tabid/393/EnumType/Report/Default.aspx?ItemPath=/rpt_WebArrivalsReports/MX%20-%20Arrivals%20by%20Nationality%20and%20Religion

    • #2
    • July 22, 2017, at 8:05 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  3. MJBubba Inactive
    MJBubba

    We have had a bunch of discussions about refugees. One I recall was a post by Matt Y.

    At Matt Y.’s post, he included a link to this Christian plea.

    https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/what-should-christians-think-about-trumps-refugee-policy

    It is from last February and it opposes President Trump’s announced travel ban as it was first rolled out. The article is from left-leaning Christians in opposition to politically-conservative Christians. Here is a quote from that article:

    Furthermore, though President Trump has spoken of the plight of Syrian Christians, in particular, several lawyers with whom I have consulted agree that the language of the executive order bars all Syrian refugees—including Christians and other religious minorities. Likewise, Iranian refugees are presently barred from entry, most of which over years have been Christians (in fact, less than 5 percent have been Muslims).

    My view is that we should prioritize refugees based on vulnerability, as has been the practice of past administrations. In some cases, an individual’s Christian faith makes him or her uniquely vulnerable in a particular context, which is why more than one-third of Iraqi refugees in the past decade and about 70 percent of Burmese refugees have been Christians—far higher in both cases than Christians’ share of the population—because they have been uniquely persecuted for their faith.

    By explicitly favoring Christians, it feeds into a narrative that the United States does not value the lives of Muslims, which fuels extremist sentiments and could ultimately put Christians and other religious minorities at greater risk. Open Doors USA president David Curry has warned that the new policy “could tragically result in a backlash against Christians in countries plagued by Islamic extremism.”

    Notice that they point out that Christians made up a third of the refugees from Iraq. This is no doubt included because the Christian blogosphere is full of claims that the refugee program is biased against the Christians who are in the greatest peril and are more deserving than Muslim refugees. Note also the concern for feeding the narrative about the U.S. not valuing Muslim lives. Also note the citation of Open Doors, expressing concern about a backlash.

    @matty

    • #3
    • July 22, 2017, at 8:08 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  4. MJBubba Inactive
    MJBubba

    Our conversation from February:

    https://ricochet.com/408907/on-refugees-a-plea-for-compassion/

    @matty

    • #4
    • July 22, 2017, at 8:24 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  5. Zafar Member

    @MJBubba – if Christians from Syria generally do not quality for resettlement in a third country, is that an indicator of anti-Christian bias, or does it say something about their options in Syria?

    Wrt Hezbollah and Christians in Lebanon, a couple of articles that might be of interest to you.

    • #5
    • July 23, 2017, at 3:02 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  6. I Walton Member

    Thanks. Good article. Not a surprise. Do these programs serve our interests? What do we know about former refugees, Salvadorans for instance who came here by the thousands during the civil war there. These were mostly in fear of persecution by the government for being associated with the marxist rebellion. The UNHCR Salvadoran camps in Honduras were run by the guerrillas so I assume many managed to become refugees.

    • #6
    • July 23, 2017, at 4:17 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor

    There is so much catching up to do following the damage that Obama has wrought in several areas. This is just one more. My heart goes out to the Christian refugees in particular. Thanks for this post, MJ.

    • #7
    • July 23, 2017, at 8:10 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  8. MJBubba Inactive
    MJBubba

    Zafar (View Comment):
    – if Christians from Syria generally do not quality for resettlement in a third country, is that an indicator of anti-Christian bias, or does it say something about their options in Syria?

    I think it can be said that the American State Department has a tilt that favors Muslims. This is for the reasons stated in my post. It is more the result of realpolitik than as a bias against Christians. The plight of the Christians is subordinated to the geopolitical realities in the Middle East.

    As far as options in Syria, well it would be better for Syrian Christians if peace could be restored and they could return to their homes. If Team Obama thought that was going to be likely, then they were even more ideologically blinded than I considered them to be.

    Right now, peace for Syria seems far off. All Christians in Syria are in peril.

    • #8
    • July 23, 2017, at 8:45 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  9. MJBubba Inactive
    MJBubba

    Zafar (View Comment):
    Wrt Hezbollah and Christians in Lebanon, a couple of articles that might be of interest to you.

    Zafar, thanks for the links. In particular, I never would have seen an article in The Nation except if a friend at Ricochet recommends it. But it does not contain any new information.

    Hezbollah has been in a difficult relationship with the Assad regime. They are natural allies, but they don’t trust each other (no surprise; neither is trustworthy). Both the Assad Baath Party and Hezbollah are friends of Iran and Russia.

    In Syria, Christians have only two choices. Either throw in with the Kurds, or else you are with Assad. All the other groups are either hostile to Christians or else are unwilling to protect Christians.

    That is why Christians are overrepresented among the population of refugees who have fled Syria.

    • #9
    • July 23, 2017, at 8:51 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  10. Front Seat Cat Member

    It’s amazing (or maybe deliberate on the part of the Obama administration) that the bias is not seen for what it is, that Christians are in different categories and are ignored for refugee status. Clergy have been reporting on the atrocities for years, pleading for help to deaf ears. I hope Trump doesn’t make the same mistakes. Thank you for your extensive research and excellent post.

    • #10
    • July 23, 2017, at 8:53 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  11. MJBubba Inactive
    MJBubba

    I Walton (View Comment):
    Thanks. Good article. Not a surprise. Do these programs serve our interests? What do we know about former refugees, Salvadorans for instance who came here by the thousands during the civil war there. These were mostly in fear of persecution by the government for being associated with the marxist rebellion. The UNHCR Salvadoran camps in Honduras were run by the guerrillas so I assume many managed to become refugees.

    I do not know, but the Refugee Resettlement Program has done a better job than I had expected, based on what I learned about them over the past three years. If you are a member of a group that is targeted by your government for persecution, and if members of your group have been killed just for membership in the group, then you are a candidate. If, however, you are a known member of an armed gang, whether for protection of the group or just for garden-variety crime, you are supposed to be screened out.

    • #11
    • July 23, 2017, at 9:09 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  12. tigerlily Member

    Thanks for a very informative article on a subject I knew next to nothing about.

    • #12
    • July 23, 2017, at 1:09 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  13. Zafar Member

    @mjbubba – my point was more that if Hezbollah in Lebanon has the support of about two thirds of Lebanese Christians then either all those Lebanese Christians are insane, or Hezbollah is not the ideologically driven persecutor of Christians that you assume.

    • #13
    • July 23, 2017, at 4:00 PM PDT
    • Like
  14. MJBubba Inactive
    MJBubba

    Zafar (View Comment):
    @mjbubba – my point was more that if Hezbollah in Lebanon has the support of about two thirds of Lebanese Christians then either all those Lebanese Christians are insane, or Hezbollah is not the ideologically driven persecutor of Christians that you assume.

    Hezbollah does not all speak with one voice; they have some serious internal factions. Also, though Hezbollah is not a trustworthy protector of Christians, they have allied with Christians in various areas where they have formed alliances against al-Qaeda or ISIS. Hezbollah and various Christian groups were both second-class members of the Baath Party alliance in Syria, so there are some longstanding agreements they can build on.

    I really don’t like speaking positively about the Baath Party or the Russians on account of their checkered histories, but in Syria right now, I am thinking that Team Trump could do the most good for Christians by telling Putin to go all out and be the protector of Christians, and if Putin will keep him on a short leash we will stand aside and let him prop up his stooge Assad.

    It’s complicated.

    • #14
    • July 23, 2017, at 5:46 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  15. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I should start by recognizing that I was wrong, partly about the position that the US would take and partly about the composition of the refugee flow.

    MJBubba (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):
    Wrt Hezbollah and Christians in Lebanon, a couple of articles that might be of interest to you.

    Zafar, I’m disappointed that you’d bring two articles, both directly from FSB propaganda outfits. The Nation is the only one of the major leftist media organs in the US to have gone all in for Putin. Information Clearing House, Tom Feeley’s website, is more typical of the machine; so far as I can tell, it doesn’t even pretend to be respectable. Russia had to go to real effort to take over The Nation, a genuine brand. It can, on the other hand, pump out all the fringe conspiracy theorists it needs. I’m assuming that it’s Feely’s authority that you’re relying on for the value of the article rather than the actual author, primarily a rap music critic for VladTV (really) and Christian outlets.

    Zafar, thanks for the links. In particular, I never would have seen an article in The Nation except if a friend at Ricochet recommends it. But it does not contain any new information.

    Hezbollah has been in a difficult relationship with the Assad regime. They are natural allies, but they don’t trust each other (no surprise; neither is trustworthy). Both the Assad Baath Party and Hezbollah are friends of Iran and Russia.

    In Syria, Christians have only two choices. Either throw in with the Kurds, or else you are with Assad. All the other groups are either hostile to Christians or else are unwilling to protect Christians.

    The FSA has been happy to have Christian leadership (admittedly Christian Commies, but Christians nonetheless). The Southern Front has been particularly keen to emphasize its desire for non-sectarian government. Al Nusra and ISIS are awful for Christians and there are endless stories in entities like Information Clearing House, but you won’t find a lot of stories of FSA abuse of Christians, or refusals to protect Christians, that don’t originate in Russian or occasionally Iranian organs.

    That is why Christians are overrepresented among the population of refugees who have fled Syria.

    Do you have a source for this claim? Since the vast bulk of the killing of civilians in Syria is engaged in by Assad (and Putin), having Assad being the safest ally is not as problematic from a short term survival perspective as it might seem.

    • #15
    • July 23, 2017, at 9:49 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  16. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    MJBubba (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):
    @mjbubba – my point was more that if Hezbollah in Lebanon has the support of about two thirds of Lebanese Christians then either all those Lebanese Christians are insane, or Hezbollah is not the ideologically driven persecutor of Christians that you assume.

    Hezbollah does not all speak with one voice; they have some serious internal factions. Also, though Hezbollah is not a trustworthy protector of Christians, they have allied with Christians in various areas where they have formed alliances against al-Qaeda or ISIS. Hezbollah and various Christian groups were both second-class members of the Baath Party alliance in Syria, so there are some longstanding agreements they can build on.

    There’s also a fair amount of Lebanese Civil War and Lebanese political cooperation. I think that Zafar is correct that Hezbollah are not particularly focused on opposition to Christians, particularly not Orthodox Christians, with whom they have more often found themselves allies than enemies. They’ve generally found themselves on the other side to the Maronites more often than not, but that really hasn’t been theological in its focus; the French left a ghastly constitution in place that forced denominations into political conflict that led to other problems.

    I really don’t like speaking positively about the Baath Party or the Russians on account of their checkered histories, but in Syria right now, I am thinking that Team Trump could do the most good for Christians by telling Putin to go all out and be the protector of Christians, and if Putin will keep him on a short leash we will stand aside and let him prop up his stooge Assad.

    It’s complicated.

    It seems unlikely to me that the most effective path to the long term wellbeing of Christians in the Middle East involves the promotion of genocide in their name. While ISIS continued to flourish there was an anti-ISIS argument for ignoring the genocide in favor of a focus on the more colorful atrocities committed in the East. Now that ISIS is falling, particularly in its capacity to hold territory in Syria, it’s not obvious who benefits by a policy of rewarding Assad’s atrocities. Is the idea that this would benefit Christians outside of Syria? One of the most regrettable results of the lack of Western support for the Kurds and the Arabs opposed to atrocities (whether in the FSA or related groups) has been the growth of Arab groups that endorse atrocities. Drawing a line under this and allowing Putin and Assad to continue their policy of targeting the FSA primarily, withdrawing opposition to the horrors entirely, seems likely to lead to their collapse as a viable force, dramatically empowering Al Nusra. Maybe Al Nusra could be defeated in large chunks of Syria, but that sort of approach seems unlikely to lead to very low levels of violence any time soon, and the violence that was enacted against Assad would be considerably more likely to be disproportionately focused on Christians.

    • #16
    • July 23, 2017, at 10:04 PM PDT
    • Like
  17. Hang On Member
    Hang On Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Lost in all of this is how fluid lines are between Muslims and Christians in the Middle East. There are a lot of mixed marriages with kids who are one, the other or both depending on what is to their advantage depending on whom they are talking to. It’s something that doesn’t get captured in statistics or checkboxes. I’ve encountered it lots and lots of times.

    • #17
    • July 24, 2017, at 8:30 AM PDT
    • Like
  18. Hang On Member
    Hang On Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    And talking about atrocities in the Middle East is a fruitless, ridiculous exercise. EVERY group has committed atrocities at one time or another and in a land where memories are eternal, it is a weapon that will be used by one group by another to further their own interests vis a vis naive outsiders.

    • #18
    • July 24, 2017, at 8:33 AM PDT
    • Like
  19. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Hang On (View Comment):
    And talking about atrocities in the Middle East is a fruitless, ridiculous exercise. EVERY group has committed atrocities at one time or another and in a land where memories are eternal, it is a weapon that will be used by one group by another to further their own interests vis a vis naive outsiders.

    Since the Second World War there have been three Middle Eastern bloodlettings on this sort of scale; Saddam’s abbatoirs, Bashir’s, and Assad’s. There are absolutely people who will talk about very ancient grievances, but they tend to be people living in rural, tribal, contexts. For an increasingly urban society with an incredibly young population, medieval history is ever less important.

    The unprecedented waves of refugees cannot simply be dismissed with the notion that something is always going on over there. Assad’s butchery has had tremendous impacts on the whole region, including Europe, South Asia, Noth Africa, and such.

    • #19
    • July 24, 2017, at 11:59 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  20. Hammer, The Member

    Hang On (View Comment):
    And talking about atrocities in the Middle East is a fruitless, ridiculous exercise. EVERY group has committed atrocities at one time or another and in a land where memories are eternal, it is a weapon that will be used by one group by another to further their own interests vis a vis naive outsiders.

    I don’t think this is an accurate statement, though it is often repeated.

    • #20
    • July 24, 2017, at 12:44 PM PDT
    • Like
  21. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I’d buy you both a beer.

    • #21
    • July 24, 2017, at 2:46 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  22. MJBubba Inactive
    MJBubba

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    There is so much catching up to do following the damage that Obama has wrought in several areas. This is just one more. My heart goes out to the Christian refugees in particular. Thanks for this post, MJ.

    @susanquinn

    In Syria and Iraq we are focused on Christian refugees,

    because the Jews are all long gone.

    • #22
    • July 24, 2017, at 3:11 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  23. MJBubba Inactive
    MJBubba

    James Of England (View Comment):
    I should start by recognizing that I was wrong, partly about the position that the US would take and partly about the composition of the refugee flow.

    MJBubba (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):
    Wrt Hezbollah and Christians in Lebanon, a couple of articles that might be of interest to you.

    Zafar, I’m disappointed that you’d bring two articles, both directly from FSB propaganda outfits. The Nation is the only one of the major leftist media organs in the US to have gone all in for Putin. Information Clearing House, Tom Feeley’s website, is more typical of the machine; so far as I can tell, it doesn’t even pretend to be respectable. Russia had to go to real effort to take over The Nation, a genuine brand. It can, on the other hand, pump out all the fringe conspiracy theorists it needs. I’m assuming that it’s Feely’s authority that you’re relying on for the value of the article rather than the actual author, primarily a rap music critic for VladTV (really) and Christian outlets.

    Zafar, thanks for the links. In particular, I never would have seen an article in The Nation except if a friend at Ricochet recommends it. But it does not contain any new information.

    Hezbollah has been in a difficult relationship with the Assad regime. They are natural allies, but they don’t trust each other (no surprise; neither is trustworthy). Both the Assad Baath Party and Hezbollah are friends of Iran and Russia.

    In Syria, Christians have only two choices. Either throw in with the Kurds, or else you are with Assad. All the other groups are either hostile to Christians or else are unwilling to protect Christians.

    The FSA has been happy to have Christian leadership (admittedly Christian Commies, but Christians nonetheless). The Southern Front has been particularly keen to emphasize its desire for non-sectarian government. Al Nusra and ISIS are awful for Christians and there are endless stories in entities like Information Clearing House, but you won’t find a lot of stories of FSA abuse of Christians, or refusals to protect Christians, that don’t originate in Russian or occasionally Iranian organs.

    That is why Christians are overrepresented among the population of refugees who have fled Syria.

    Do you have a source for this claim? Since the vast bulk of the killing of civilians in Syria is engaged in by Assad (and Putin), having Assad being the safest ally is not as problematic from a short term survival perspective as it might seem.

    Pardon me. Christians are overrepresented among the population of displaced persons in Syria, in addition to being proportionally represended among the population of refugees that fled Syria.

    Christians depopulated entire villages under threats from ISIS, al-Qaeda, al-Nusra, etc. But many of them went to towns in western Syria that were less exposed.

    • #23
    • July 24, 2017, at 3:17 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  24. MJBubba Inactive
    MJBubba

    James, do you think it would be possible to find a way to preserve Baathist/Russian power while coercing them to quit mass killings of civilians?

    I do not see any solution that does not include the Russians.

    I agree that the Free Syrian Army and the Kurds are the teams we wish to succeed. I just don’t think Team Trump and the Congressional Republicans have the stomach to boost them to real success in the field.

    • #24
    • July 24, 2017, at 3:26 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  25. MJBubba Inactive
    MJBubba

    (Pause to remember that John McCain wanted Team Romney to campaign on a boost for the Free Syrian Army in 2012, and lobbied Team Obama also to that effect.)

    • #25
    • July 24, 2017, at 3:27 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  26. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Hammer, The (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):
    And talking about atrocities in the Middle East is a fruitless, ridiculous exercise. EVERY group has committed atrocities at one time or another and in a land where memories are eternal, it is a weapon that will be used by one group by another to further their own interests vis a vis naive outsiders.

    I don’t think this is an accurate statement, though it is often repeated.

    I think it becomes true if you define down atrocities enough and fail to distinguish between “member of the group” and “the group”. I mean, can you name a demographic that has been present in the US for a century and has not committed an atrocity?

    In terms of the group identity shenanigans, I was listening to a talk by the EU ambassador to the US who was saying, as an Irishman, that “we” were trying to become independent of the UK for 800 years. That doesn’t work for any consistent definition of “we”; the United Irishmen was a Protestant group, and there was no contemporaneous Catholic independence movement of note. At other times the independence movement was essentially exclusively Catholic. At times the “independence” movement has to adopt causes that did not involve independence, such as the Civil War and the Williamite War, on the basis that it involved fighting with people from the mainland. If you’re willing to take a procrustean approach to history, though, you can tell more or less any story you want and accuse more or less anyone of horrors.

    • #26
    • July 24, 2017, at 3:27 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  27. Zafar Member

    James – I’m always quoting the wrong sources :-(. But the point that Hezbollah enjoys the support of a chunk of Christian Lebanon is born out by the opinions of my Leb crowd here. They aren’t comfy with them, but they believe Lebanon needs Hezbollah to survive. They see Nasrallah as a patriot. A narrative that completely squelches this bit of reality when talking about Hezbollah and Christians doesn’t seem accurate or responsibly informative. Whether it’s propaganda or not, you can decide.

    • #27
    • July 24, 2017, at 4:14 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  28. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    MJBubba (View Comment):
    James, do you think it would be possible to find a way to preserve Baathist/Russian power while coercing them to quit mass killings of civilians?

    I cannot picture Baathist rule over Syria. One of the problems with genocide is that one cannot then act with the consent of the governed. A government can break the trust of its people and still rule with authority, but there arrives at a point when it has engaged in so much abuse that it can only rule with power. Too many Syrians are radicalized and armed for a Baathist government to ever arrive at peace in the sense of developing a stable society.

    If the Russians need a treaty agreement for a warm water port, I can imagine that working out fine with a treaty agreement. For many Baathists, a federal system would allow them to retain office in substantial parts of the country, albeit not in Aleppo or most of the other major cities.

    The problem is that the Russian agenda is less about the port and more about showing the world that it can commit atrocities with impunity. It’s demonstrating that being a pawn of the Kremlin allows one to get away with murder, rape, and whatever else one wishes, on a massive scale. Most importantly, it’s showing that opposing Russian interests exposes one to being on the receiving end of that. It turns genocide into a diplomatic tool in a manner that we really haven’t seen in the developing world in quite some time (there were hints of it in Bosnia, but that’s probably the closest example, other than Iraq). In Bosnia, we showed that this was not a path to prosperity. In Iraq, we showed that this was not a path to a natural lifetime of power. We’ve been less successful in the least developed country sphere, but that isn’t really something that Putin can monetize.

    I do not see any solution that does not include the Russians.

    As in Ukraine, and Georgia, and any future conquests or sites of Russian atrocities, of course the Russians should be at the table. Although it is imperative that they do not profit from their behavior, that half the world is not held to ransom, that Syria be allowed to become free and democratic (not necessarily immediately), those hostage negotiations should absolutely include the hostage taker. So far as I know, all of the proposed peace plans do.

    I agree that the Free Syrian Army and the Kurds are the teams we wish to succeed. I just don’t think Team Trump and the Congressional Republicans have the stomach to boost them to real success in the field.

    Trump cut off funds to much of the FSA last week in a pretty explicit handing over of our allies to monsters in an attempt to appease the monsters. We got a ceasefire. I agree that we probably cannot get Congress to override Trump on this issue. But, Congress is willing to back the Kurds. Trump isn’t giving more support to Kurdish groups yet, but he talks about it and may well do so. Obama’s increased commitments to the fight against ISIS appear to have been maintained and there is every chance that Raqqa will fall and after it the rest of ISIS’ existence as a territory holding entity in the Middle East.

    That’s pretty helpful. At the moment, Russia is able to get a depressingly large amount of media to describe its ISIS enlarging efforts as being efforts against ISIS. I don’t know if you recall Ben Shapiro claiming in Breitbart that Yankovich was anti-Russian and Tymoshenko was an anti-Semitic Russian patsy, but that sort of absurdity is depressingly successful. Without ISIS, it seems likely that misapplied binary choice arguments will lose their force.

    The FSA doesn’t need that much support; they have the bulk of the people with them and the Kurds. Back in 2015, they were winning handily against both ISIS and Assad without Western military support, although there was a little in the way of supplies and an even smaller training program. The war turned when Russia started to bomb in earnest. The West doesn’t have to affirmatively do much in a direct military capacity (although a little nation building in the territory taken from ISIS would go a long way). Just stopping the bombing would be enough. Without the ISIS argument and with a couple more injured or murdered kids that Trump feels sympathy for, that doesn’t seem particularly unattainable. Even a reduction in bombing would help keep the cause alive until 2021 when it appears eminently likely that the US would provide any additional leadership required.

    • #28
    • July 24, 2017, at 4:15 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  29. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Zafar (View Comment):
    James – I’m always quoting the wrong sources :-(. But the point that Hezbollah enjoys the support of a chunk of Christian Lebanon is born out by the opinions of my Leb crowd here. They aren’t comfy with them, but they believe Lebanon needs Hezbollah to survive. They see Nasrallah as a patriot. A narrative that completely squelches this bit of reality when talking about Hezbollah and Christians doesn’t seem accurate or responsibly informative. Whether it’s propaganda or not, you can decide.

    That’s definitely true, as I believe I said. Some of Putin’s propaganda works by making people like Shapiro or vanden Heuvel saying things that no honest person could say, but most of the time it’s a matter of including a few message phrases in articles, interviews, and such that mostly contain uncontroversial stuff.

    • #29
    • July 24, 2017, at 4:18 PM PDT
    • Like
  30. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    MJBubba (View Comment):
    (Pause to remember that John McCain wanted Team Romney to campaign on a boost for the Free Syrian Army in 2012, and lobbied Team Obama also to that effect.)

    I still believe that had it not been for Cruz (“Al Qaeda’s Air Force” etc.), the Syrian Civil War would have looked like the Libyan Civil War; a regional problem that everyone condemns but that doesn’t have all that much impact on the rest of the world.

    • #30
    • July 24, 2017, at 4:21 PM PDT
    • Like