Refugees, the Holocaust, and the Danger of Illiterate and Partisan Analogies

Jan. 30 2017

Many of those outraged by President Trump’s executive order severely restricting the admission to the U.S. of people from certain Muslim countries have compared it with Franklin Roosevelt’s callous treatment of Jewish refugees from Europe during the 1930s, a comparison encouraged by the fact that Trump’s order was issued on Holocaust Remembrance Day. While calling the president’s move “cruel and bigoted,” Walter Russell Mead and Nicholas M. Gallagher note, and correct, the mix of historical ignorance and political tendentiousness at work in these analogies:

The restrictions that kept out the St. Louis’s passengers, [who were turned away from the United States in 1939 and for the most part later perished in the Holocaust], were written into law in 1924, when the Reed-Johnson Act almost totally cut off immigration to the United States, refugee or otherwise. . . . [Going] far beyond anything we’re seeing (yet) today, [it] cut immigration by over 90 percent, and an almost total ban was imposed on immigrants from central, eastern, and southern Europe that would endure for two generations. Not even the Holocaust could pry the doors open more than a crack; large-scale immigration was not allowed to resume until 1965. . . .

[But the] real problem in the 1930s wasn’t the lack of compassion for Jewish and other refugees; it was the feckless appeasement of Adolf Hitler and the unwillingness to confront him that empowered the Nazi persecution of the Jews and created hundreds of thousands of refugees. So today the true villain of the Syria story—aside from Syria, Russia, and Iran—is the feckless Obama foreign policy that allowed a cyst to metastasize into a cancer, just as Britain, France, and America once allowed Hitler to grow into the master of Europe.

The Obama administration officials and cheerleaders now guilt-tripping the country over its “heartlessness” toward Syrian refugees are giving hypocrisy a bad name. Bad foreign policy is the cause of the heartbreak in Syria today, not bad immigration policy. The world does not need lectures from Susan Rice and Samantha Power on what we should do about Syrian refugees; the best way to deal with refugee flows is to prevent them from happening. The Holocaust was not caused by the Reed-Johnson Act; it was caused by Nazi hatred, enabled by naïve liberal illusions about the “arc of history” that prevented the West from mobilizing against Hitler when he was weak and easily defeated.

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More about: Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Holocaust, Politics & Current Affairs, Refugees, Syrian civil war

The Dangers of Diplomacy with Iran

Aug. 21 2018

Although President Trump’s offer to meet with President Rouhani of the Islamic Republic was rejected, the possibility of direct negotiations remains. Ray Takeyh and Mark Dubowitz warn that Tehran could use talks to stall and gain leverage over Washington:

The mullahs understand that just by staying at the table, Americans usually offer up concessions. [They] are betting that the Trump administration may become weaker over time, preoccupied with domestic politics. Best to entangle America in protracted diplomacy while awaiting what the regime expects will be midterm Republican losses in Congress and the return of a more flexible Democratic president to power in 2021. This is what [Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei probably meant when he stressed that negotiations have to wait until America is softened up.

Diplomacy would surely blunt the impact of U.S. pressure. The mullahs believe they can undermine the escalation of [U.S.] sanctions by being diplomatically flirtatious and know well that America seldom disrupts negotiations with military action. Indeed, as a prelude to the talks, Iran may even resume its nuclear activities to frighten the Europeans and gain leverage by putting even more pressure on Washington to adjust its red lines.

Should negotiations begin, the Trump team should take sensible precautions to avoid the predicament of the Obama negotiators. The administration will need to maintain its maximum-pressure campaign and its negotiating demands. . . . Any negotiations with the Islamic Republic should be time-limited, and Washington must be prepared to leave the table when it confronts the usual pattern of regime bombast and mendacity.

Donald Trump should insist on direct talks with the supreme leader, as he did with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un: Rouhani is a lame duck without any real influence. The administration also should demand that Europeans join its sanctions policy targeting Iran’s ballistic-missile program, support for terrorism, and human-rights abuses as a price for their participation in the talks.

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More about: Ali Khamenei, Donald Trump, Hassan Rouhani, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy