There are benefits as well as costs to allowing refugees, even refugees from places where many people hate us and want to do us harm. Some of the refugees are likely to be especially friendly to the United States, and especially likely to share their knowledge of local conditions, knowledge of the language, and the like. If we’re going to be doing war, nation-building or business in Syria in the coming years, Syrian refugees to the United States could be helpful. And, of course, like other refugees, they could just become productive Americans.
Also, if we don’t let the refugees in, and instead they stay in refugee camps, or in Syria, they may well be more likely to get radicalized there than they would be here. To be sure, a terrorist elsewhere is, all else being equal, much better than a terrorist here. But terrorists elsewhere can easily come here, even without refugee status; no one is going to stop all tourism, for instance, from Arab countries. If we keep Syrian families out, so their children can stew in Lebanese refugee camps, the result may be more Islamic State/al-Qaeda/etc. supporters, some of whom will then come here with bad intentions.
Moreover, helping people fleeing evil all over the world is the American thing to do. We’ve done it many times before, and on balance it seems to me that we have profited from that. That doesn’t mean that we should do it even at prohibitive cost or risk to ourselves, but it’s worth doing if the cost and risk can be managed.
To be sure, screening will never be perfect; it won’t screen out the really well-hidden Islamic State plant, or for that matter the 10-year-old son of a well-intentioned family who becomes radicalized by extremist friends or imams when he grows up. But allowing refugees, with screening, is at least something that we should be considering.
Again, it’s possible that thoroughly analyzing the apparent costs and benefits will indeed counsel in favor of blocking all Syrian refugees. But I think the best attitude is “Let’s see what makes sense” — including “Let’s see if we can maintain enough security while also maintaining traditional and historically profitable American hospitality and charity towards refugees” — rather than “Hell no.”
Thanks to Instapundit for the pointer to Kevin Drum’s post.