As expected, the process of resettling Iraqi refugees into the US is proceeding at a painfully slow rate. Our inability to process these refugees of our creation raises severe ethical and foreign policy issues.
Consider that hundreds of thousands of the two million refugees fleeing Iraq have gone to Syria and Jordan, what is our responsibility towards these nations? We’ve swamped third party nations, who were entirely uninvolved, with refugees of our creation. Do we rely on the hospitality of these nations to accommodate these refugees, and do we have an obligation to assist them in so doing?
On a more practical level, what sort of situation have we created for ourselves? Ignored in the wake of the ‘successful surge’ is that 4 million Iraqis have left their homes, about half as refugees and the other half as internally displaces persons. Certainly some of them have returned or can return safely home with the recent stability in Iraq, but it is also likely that much of that peace has been the result of Iraqis leaving mixed neighborhoods where they aren’t welcome. Can Iraq’s tense social fabric tolerate the eventual re-entry of 2 million people who for whatever reason didn’t feel they belonged before?
And how are the thousands of refugees in Syria and Iran, nations the US has had rocky relationships with at best, going to feel about the US in the future? Children growing up in anti-American nations while hiding from American-caused chaos will not likely grow up with positive feelings towards Uncle Sam. More immediately, how wide is the Iraqi government’s margin of support, and to what extent has it been bolstered by the exit of over a million voters (perhaps many refugees would support the current government, but that seems unlikely).
Why bring this up now? Well, for one we should take better care of these people, either by letting them come to the US or helping closer countries take care of them. Secondly, Iran has twice as many people as Iraq, and if we produced several million refugees there, they would have close to nowhere to go given that we would surely seal off Iraq and Afghanistan, two of its largest borders. If the goal of the war in Iraq is stability in the Muslim world, creating any more refugees in the area would probably overwhelm what stable countries are left so thoroughly as to make the entire project impossible for years to come.