Freddie DeBoer has what I think is a great idea. Rather than using the military for “humanitarian intervention” around the world, why not open up our immigration policies to take in those who find themselves oppressed or in danger in other countries?
It’s a cliche at this point that the past decade of American foreign policy has been dominated by the idea of humanitarian intervention. The idea of aggressively deploying the American military to save people from the world’s (very real) troubles has outlived the war it is most deeply associated with, our second Iraq excursion, now widely and correctly considered one of the worst blunders in American history…
As a dedicated non-interventionist, this doesn’t make me happy. What bothers me in particular, though, is that there is an option that is almost never discussed that could have enormous humanitarian benefits with far smaller human and material costs than the use of America’s clumsy destructive force: opening the borders to, and facilitating the transport of, the people who need our intervention. This is a big, open, empty country. There is tremendous room to accept refugees here and in so doing protect them from the forces that are harming them in their home countries. Look, my preference would be a for a world without any borders, and I think a true open border policy for the United States is far more feasible than people realize (including without sacrificing our social safety net). But I know that this is not politically possible in the short term. Surely, though, the same politicians who can agitate us into war on humanitarian pretext can push to grant broad invitations to refugees to enter the United States legally, and facilitate (unofficially if necessary) escape and transport from dangerous countries.
For gay, transgender, and bisexual people in places like Russia and Uganda; for Syrians of all stripes; for those in Crimea and eastern Ukraine who fear either Putin or reprisals against linguistically and ethnically Russian Ukrainians; for those in Venezuela who agitate against the Maduro government; for women in Saudi Arabia; for liberal dissidents in Iran; for oppressed people the world over, legal entrance into the United States would represent protection against those forces that some would have us defeat with force of arms. The beauty of it is that we can accept people without having to stake a claim on every legitimate internal controversy; we merely can do so out of a desire to prevent the violence that often attends internal strife that we have no business adjudicating. I don’t suggest this as a panacea, but then, if the last decade should teach us anything, it’s the inability of military intervention to secure humanitarian outcomes.
Let me add to that list: atheists, Christians and many others who are at constant risk for arrest and violence, often state-sanctioned, in many Muslim nations. And Muslims in predominately Buddhist Burma. The famous inscription on the Statue of Liberty begins, “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.” It’s about time we lived up to that.