The “Refugee” Question: Further Thoughts

In the discussion thread under our previous post, a commenter directed our readers’ attention to an article by Megan McArdle on the question of settling “Syrian” “refugees” in the United States. Further discussion ensued.

Ms. McArdle’s essay is helpful in that it identifies six low tactics that proponents of Syrian refugee resettlement have been using: Bible-beating, mockery, falsehood, mawkish incomprehension, straw-manning, and Western self-flagellation.

She then presses her case for U.S. resettlement with familiar arguments: we’ve assimilated all sorts of others before now; previous waves of immigrants were also regarded with a wary eye, but look how well it all worked out; most Muslims aren’t terrorists; etc.

She then says this sensible thing:

As long as you believe that it’s a good thing to help strangers at some sufficiently small cost to yourself, then we can have a reasonable discussion about whether the costs outweigh potential benefits.

That’s fair enough, I think. I’ll be happy to reply on her terms.

Ms. McArdle’s argument overlooks many important points. Here are some of them.

1) Previous waves of immigration had several distinctive differences. In particular, these were:

•   The immigrants were, almost without exception, white Europeans — and with the exception of a relatively small number of European Jews, they were all white European Christians. While there was of course some cultural distance between many of these immigrants and the nation’s founding British and Dutch stock, it was nothing like the cultural, linguistic, religious, and yes, genetic distance between that founding stock and the immigrants now pouring across our borders from the Third World. As recently as my own boyhood, the population of the United States was, to within a rounding error, 90% white people of European Christian stock, and just under 10% black. We are now in hitherto uncharted waters, and citing the history of assimilation from that very different epoch of American immigration is not nearly as relevant as refugee-settlement enthusiasts would like to imagine it is.

•   These prior waves of American immigration happened at a time when America’s population was much smaller, and when there was much greater opportunity for low-skilled labor.

•   When the last wave of mass immigration ended in 1924, America was a very different place. There was as yet no welfare state; immigrants were expected to fend for themselves, and to join the American monoculture. Moreover, it was followed by a four-decade moratorium that made it possible for the nation to digest and and assimilate the great waves of migrants it had just admitted. Now we have had, without respite, a half-century of mass immigration that has caused the foreign-born population of the nation to increase more than fourfold, while the sources of this immigration have completely changed, with Britain and Europe now contributing a negligible share. At the same time, unsurprisingly, we have gone from cultivating pride in America’s traditional culture to denouncing and rejecting it in favor of chaotic multiculturalism. It has always been difficult to assimilate new arrivals, but now not only do immigrants tend to be from radically alien cultures, but we have almost completely dismantled the social structure that once encouraged them to assimilate. (Indeed, we have reached the point where expecting them to do so is tantamount to “xenophobia”.) By providing education and other public services in foreign languages, we reduce the incentive to learn English; by providing lavish social programs and public assistance we reduce the incentive to assimilate through the workplace; and by celebrating “diversity” while denigrating the traditional American nation we encourage separateness and even resentment.

2) Most of the migrants we are proposing to settle are Muslims, and Islam is unique. Unlike the Christian faith to which nearly all pre-1965 immigrants belonged, Islam is much more than just a religion; it is also a totalizing, all-encompassing and ruthlessly expansionist political and ideological system. Here are some of its special qualities:

•   Unlike Christianity, Islam is, in its very essence, a literalist religion. Its most basic tenet, its doxastic bedrock, is that its holy Scripture, the Koran, is the literal word of Allah, as dictated to Muhammad. Because the Koran is holy as an extension of God Himself into the mortal world, its literal text is therefore holy to Muslims in exactly the same way that Jesus is to Christians. To deny this is, simply put, to reject Islam.

•   Islam makes no distinction between the temporal and the sacred. The teachings of Islam are all-encompassing, and address every aspect of life. Muhammad not only brought God’s law to the world, but as God’s Messenger and the most perfect interpreter of God’s will, during the Prophet’s lifetime he was also the temporal, political, and military leader of the faithful — and so gave Muslims, for all time, an infallible example for all of public and private life. The Shari’a, being God’s law, is and must be supreme; to place the laws of Man above the laws of God is therefore a supreme heresy. The very idea of “separation of Church and State” — or, in Christ’s words, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” — is in Islam an arch-absurdity: everything is God’s.

•   Jihad and expansionism are central to Islam; to fight unbelievers “until there is no more Fitnah [unbelief] and worship is for Allah alone” is the highest calling. This is why the term for all those parts of the world that have not submitted to Allah is “Dar-al-Harb”, or “House of War”.

•   What all of this means is that Islam is fundamentally incompatible with Western norms, and that no pious Muslim can ever truly assimilate into Western secular societies. As I have written elsewhere:

The problem for the West, and for “moderate” Muslims living here, is that Islam has a perpetual, self-renewing wellspring of fundamentalism at its core. That there may always be some more liberal and secular Muslims at the fringes of the Ummah, and rifts within Islam itself over who is an apostate and who isn’t, is irrelevant.

What matters is that due to the unique nature and origins of Islam there has always been, and will always be, a powerful and persistent gravitational pull away from modernizing reforms, and toward fundamentalism — and this will always be a source of tension and conflict wherever there are large communities of Muslims living in the West.

We must keep in mind the certainty that whenever we settle any sizable number of Muslims in the West, we are also introducing a sympathetic “fifth column”, partial to the central Islamic mission of conversion, subjugation, or destruction, that will include a significant percentage of the numbers we admit. Think of the partisanship and fervor with which great numbers of Westerners now embrace the mission and the tenets of their secular religion: egalitarianism, universalism, wealth redistribution, global warming, non-discrimination, and so on — and remember that Muslims have a religion too.

3) We need not theorize about the effect of establishing large and expanding Muslim populations in Western societies; we have instructive and concrete examples before our eyes. In every European nation that has permitted substantial Islamic immigration, the results have been the same. Look at France, England, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Denmark, Greece, and Italy, to name a few, and ask yourself if they are better off now — happier, more cohesive, safer, better able to operate as well-functioning social-welfare states — than they were before this madness began, when they had their ancestral homelands to themselves.

4) Immigration is the most difficult of all social policies to undo. Laws can be repealed, and agencies defunded, but demographic changes — especially those that introduce new populations with much higher birthrates than the natives — are, barring mass deportation, or worse, wars of “ethnic cleansing”, irreversible, and it is often impossible for a nation to know that it has passed a critical demographic “tipping point” until it is already too late. This alone makes an extremely powerful argument for supreme caution regarding refugee and immigration policy, especially at a time of increasing racial, ethnic and political tension.

5) As Mark Krikorian points out, it is economically inefficient to succor Mideastern refugees by bringing them here. In a recent article on this subject, he wrote the following:

The Center for Immigration Studies, which I head, recently calculated that it costs twelve times as much to resettle a refugee in the United States as it does to care for the same refugee in a neighboring country in the Middle East. The five-year cost to American taxpayers of resettling a single Middle Eastern refugee in the United States is conservatively estimated to be more than $64,000, compared with U.N. figures that indicate it costs about $5,300 to provide for that same refugee for five years in his native region.

We can help more people for less money, and at the same time avoid all the serious problems noted above, by helping them “over there”.

6) We have no way of “vetting” these “refugees”, or even of knowing who or what they are or where they really come from. Syrian passports are easily available on the black market, and various Islamist groups have made no secret of their intention to move as many jihadis as possible into the West under cover of this mass migration. Unless we can positively identify applicants as already known to us, we have almost nothing to rely on when “certifying” them; they come from ungoverned places, and any documents they might carry can easily be fraudulent. (And as I asked in my previous post: how can you “vet” beliefs, allegiances, sympathies, hatreds, and intentions?)

7) The overwhelming majority of the “Syrian” “refugees” now inundating Europe are young, military-age males, which is a very unusual composition for refugee flows. Why, we might ask, have they abandoned their homelands, their women, and their children, to flee to safety and relative comfort in the West? If the United States were to face an internal enemy like ISIS, don’t you think young American males — at least those worthy of our respect and our assistance — would stay home and fight? Why don’t these young men?

8) Even the settlement in the West of Muslim women and children bears a hidden cost, in that it is often the children and grandchildren of Muslim immigrants — those who are poorly assimilated, yet have no memory of the hell their parents fled to come to the safety and prosperity of the West — who are most easily radicalized, and become the “home-grown” threat we now face all over Europe, and here at home.

Given all of this, then, I think that the balance of the arguments falls strongly against the resettlement of Muslim refugees in the United States, and that the governors and legislators who have opposed the idea, along with a large majority of Americans, are right to do so. To denounce and rebuke such prudence as mere bigotry or xeno-“phobia” is as foolish as it is morally obtuse.

Postscript, November 22nd: As I write, the ancient city of Brussels — the capital city of united Europe — has been under lockdown since yesterday in response to a threat of “imminent” terrorist assault, while New York City, though separated from the heart of Islam by thousands of miles and a vast ocean, is mounting major anti-terror exercises.

As the far-seeing Lawrence Auster wrote long ago:

This is our future, FOREVER, unless we stop Muslim immigration and initiate a steady out-migration of Muslims from the West until their remaining numbers are a small fraction of what they are now and there are no true believers among the ones that remain. Travelers from Muslim countries must be tightly restricted as well. Muslims must be essentially locked up inside the Muslim lands, with only carefully screened individuals allowed into the non-Muslim world.

The enemy are among us, in America, in Britain, in the West, and will remain so until we remove them from the West and indeed from the entire non-Muslim world. As extreme as this sounds, it is a no-brainer. There is no other solution. All other responses to this problem add up to meaningless hand-wringing. The hand-wringing will go on FOREVER, along with the terrorist attacks and the threat of terrorist attacks, until we take the ONLY STEPS that can actually and permanently end the threat.

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  1. Whitewall says

    It seems some in our government want to sell the “women and children only” refugee program when it comes to Syrians. Where are all the young men who have not migrated to Europe? Well, maybe some have been using Central and South America and Hezbollah’s financial connections with Venezuela to work their way to the US to join these “lone women”.

    Posted November 22, 2015 at 9:34 am | Permalink
  2. “Why, we might ask, have they abandoned their homelands, their women, and their children, to flee to safety and relative comfort in the West? If the United States were to face an internal enemy like ISIS, don’t you think young American males — at least those worthy of our respect and our assistance — would stay home and fight? Why don’t these young men?”


    Posted November 22, 2015 at 9:36 am | Permalink
  3. Whitewall says

    “To denounce and rebuke such prudence as mere bigotry or xeno-“phobia” is as foolish as it is morally obtuse.” Thus our two front war–at home against the corrosive Left, and outside our borders against Islam and its enablers.

    Posted November 22, 2015 at 10:45 am | Permalink
  4. the one eyed man says

    I have no interest in a discussion about Islam or immigration, so I will take a pass on the bulk of your argument. No reason to further beat an already dead horse. I will simply take exception to your assertion that “the overwhelming majority of the “Syrian” “refugees” now inundating Europe are young, military-age males.” That is false.

    Of the more than four million refugees who are registered with the UNHCR, over half are women, and over half are under the age of 18. Only 22.1% are men between the ages of 18 and 59. While we don’t know how many of them are of military age, it is reasonable to assume that this would be roughly 10%, far from the “overwhelming majority” which you falsely assert.

    In the fear and panic which has gripped many following the Paris attacks, truth is one of the first victims. As Winston Churchill noted, “a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”

    Posted November 22, 2015 at 12:57 pm | Permalink
  5. Malcolm says

    I believe you are mistaken (and I have no particular reason to trust the U.N. about any of this). Even if what you allege were true, it would have no bearing on the central argument here.

    Posted November 22, 2015 at 1:10 pm | Permalink
  6. And yet, huge numbers of supposedly intelligent non-Muslim Americans continue to insist that such very persuasive commentary is completely wrong! How in the name of all that makes sense (to me at least) can this possibly be?

    If there are any accredited psychologists out there who are not Leftist zombies, would one of you please offer an explanation that makes sense. Pretty please, with a cherry on top? It is driving me nuts.

    W.T.F. is going on here? And why T. F. is it going on here?

    Posted November 22, 2015 at 1:10 pm | Permalink
  7. Malcolm says

    Henry, your answer is in an edit to this post that I made this morning:

    “Think of the partisanship and fervor with which great numbers of Westerners now embrace the mission and the tenets of their secular religion: egalitarianism, universalism, wealth redistribution, global warming, non-discrimination, and so on…”

    Posted November 22, 2015 at 1:16 pm | Permalink
  8. JK says

    Helpful link there One-Eyed, takes one many places.

    For instance:


    Had I not read that I’d probably never heard of the “proportion of true negatives.”

    Posted November 22, 2015 at 1:39 pm | Permalink
  9. Malcolm says

    That link isn’t going to work, JK.

    Posted November 22, 2015 at 1:46 pm | Permalink
  10. the one eyed man says

    If 62% of all Syrian refugees are men over the age of 17, then it is inconceivable that the “overwhelming majority” of refugees are men of military age. Your assertion is false.

    I don’t dispute that your assertion is tangential to your argument. However I am not going to touch the Islam question with a ten foot pole. (The provenance of that phrase is the ten foot poles which boatmen used to move their vessels. The provenance of “the whole nine yards” is the 27 foot long magazine artilleries which were used in World War II – “give the Japs the whole nine yards.” The provenance of the phrase “sleep tight” is that parents formerly put their children to sleep in mattresses suspended from the ceiling with ropes, which would be tightened before bedtime. But I digress.)

    Posted November 22, 2015 at 1:49 pm | Permalink
  11. Whitewall says

    Just 45 minutes ago in Malaysia, our “President” warns America and the West not to over react over ISIS. Meantime Brussels, the capital city of the misbegotten European Union is on full lock down. Maybe America and the West no longer have any faith or more properly, any trust in him to act like an American president. He is more like an apologist for and enabler of Islam.

    Posted November 22, 2015 at 1:50 pm | Permalink
  12. JK says


    Maybe I better switch browsers. Or maybe, will a breadcrumb trail suffice?

    I’m figuring tho’ One-Eyed ain’t gonna like discovering in the “verification” area, there’s a 64% “excluded from analysis” category.

    Posted November 22, 2015 at 1:54 pm | Permalink
  13. Malcolm says

    Got the link. It’s here.

    Posted November 22, 2015 at 2:04 pm | Permalink
  14. the one eyed man says

    Always being cautious & deliberate, especially for Germans, has individuals justifiably kvetching loudly, maniacally, noisily, often. Peter’s question recasts Syrians thoughtfully, unlike vigorous, widespread xenophobia, yelled zealously.

    Posted November 22, 2015 at 2:32 pm | Permalink
  15. Malcolm says

    Very clever, Peter. (That ampersand, though!)

    Posted November 22, 2015 at 2:36 pm | Permalink
  16. Malcolm,

    Allow me to temporarily sidestep the “secular religion” explanation and pose a related conundrum.

    People respond to incentive. That is a universal tenet. If a person does not, that person is either dead or insane. If we can not agree on this point, there is no point in pursuing this any further.

    Leftist ideology (Communism, Socialism, et al.) has failed miserably wherever it has been experimented with on a national level. History is replete with graphic examples.

    The “this time it will work” rubric is silly and not meant for intelligent consideration.

    My question is — WTF is the Left’s incentive in pursuing a policy that will fundamentally alter their way of life? I don’t buy the explanation that the optimists among them think they will be insulated from the consequences. If the country as a whole is diminished in any meaningful way, everyone’s station in life must also be diminished to some extent (i.e., your mileage may vary, but it will decline).

    I ask again, where is the incentive that drives the Left’s insanity?

    Posted November 22, 2015 at 2:37 pm | Permalink
  17. Whitewall says

    Henry…”I ask again, where is the incentive that drives the Left’s insanity?” Virtue Signaling. It is a powerful narcotic among people you describe.

    Posted November 22, 2015 at 2:56 pm | Permalink
  18. the one eyed man says

    Thank you, Malcolm. I’m trying to come up with mental exercises to mitigate the headlong descent into senility and decrepitude. I’m thinking of taking up chess again, although the last time I played was probably with you, however many years ago.

    I’m inspired by a newsletter I get which is half investment/financial information (very helpful to my business) and half libertarian rants about Obama, Obamacare, and the government (not so much). The author played for the State Department chess team at the age of nine (who knew there was a State Department chess team?), and today’s newsletter linked to his game at the age of sixteen with Edward Teller:

    Posted November 22, 2015 at 3:00 pm | Permalink
  19. Malcolm says

    Right, Robert. That, and “pathological altruism”: an adaptive in-group strategy that becomes maladaptive when overgeneralized.

    Posted November 22, 2015 at 3:00 pm | Permalink
  20. the one eyed man says

    Don’t like the ampersand?

    Allow me to edit: always being cautiously deliberate …

    Posted November 22, 2015 at 3:17 pm | Permalink
  21. Whitewall says

    “Don’t like the ampersand?” Is that like professional amateur?

    Posted November 22, 2015 at 3:21 pm | Permalink
  22. the one eyed man says

    Always be conservative, demands every fearful, government hating individual. Just kidding! Lately, many neanderthal opinionators present quarrelsome remarks, stating them usually vocally, with x-rated, yucky zingers.

    There: no ampersands.

    Posted November 22, 2015 at 3:56 pm | Permalink
  23. Malcolm says

    If you don’t like “overwhelming majority”, fine, we can go with “majority”. Reports vary, to upwards of 70%.

    In any event: lots and lots of vigorous, displaced, demanding, Muslim males. Just what Europe needs, I suppose.

    Posted November 22, 2015 at 4:02 pm | Permalink
  24. Virtue signaling? How does an ephemeral triviality like that qualify as an incentive to degrade one’s way of life in the greatest country humanity has ever been fortunate enough to stumble upon?

    It is a preposterous bargain for anyone with normal human instincts.

    Posted November 22, 2015 at 5:06 pm | Permalink
  25. Malcolm says

    Henry, I think we have to understand this as a memetic disease.

    It’s C.I.V.

    Posted November 22, 2015 at 5:18 pm | Permalink
  26. Malcolm says

    JD wonders if it isn’t as simple as this:

    “They are poor, hard, and fertile, and they have a fierce, masculine religion. We are rich, soft, and we have stopped reproducing. Such religion as we have is feminized and submissive. It’s an unequal contest.”

    Posted November 22, 2015 at 5:41 pm | Permalink
  27. Your C.I.V. concept, Malcolm is certainly a worthy effort at explaining what appears to be crowd mentality run amok. But a crowd of roughly 75M liberals in the U.S. who have run amok? I think there must be more to it than C.I.V., but I have yet to hear a plausible explanation. Can 24% (roughly 1 out of every 4 Americans) be crazy enough to forsake their priceless heritage? Just so they’ll be acknowledged by their cohorts as politically correct?

    Posted November 22, 2015 at 6:37 pm | Permalink
  28. Whitewall says

    Henry, if you come back on, I noticed on Maverick Philosopher that Bill has picked up on Malcolm’s last two posts after Malcolm picked up on one of Bill’s posts a day or two ago. Translate–each has been discussing the other and the discussion crosses into your frustrated question of, paraphrased–just what in the *&$#@* is wrong with Leftists and their suicidal reasoning ability? The piece is long and I am not schooled in philosophy or its methods to follow all of it. But–the last two short paragraphs of it may be helpful..

    Posted November 22, 2015 at 9:56 pm | Permalink
  29. Henry, I can’t wrap it up in any fancy terminology, but it seems to me that we are reaping the harvest of a concerted cultural revolution that evolved from the early 20th. The progressive cadre, filled with plenty of communists and far-left social engineers, seized control of our academic institutions and mass media. With such wholesale indoctrination over several decades, fewer and fewer children develop critical thinking skills.

    JK brought this article, “Killing History” to my attention, which explains the disconnected way history is being taught – laundry lists of events, with no contextual background and an effort to eliminate early American history, opting instead, to start US history with the US Civil War ( Just a couple days ago Pew ran a poll result that 40% of millennials are okay with limiting free speech (

    You can watch this cultural change happen with hot button issues, in such a rapid fashion, that you’re left wondering how things changed so quickly. To mainstream acceptance of gay marriage, TV shows and movies conditioned people to see it as “normal” and from there the talking heads expended a lot of effort too. And within just a few years polls start popped up indicating “most” Americans support gay marriage, thus insuring more people will jump on board. Few people want to be cast as part of some bigoted fringe. The orchestrated, systematic social conditioning indicates there’s a long-range strategy behind these efforts. A lot of the CPUSA literature from the 1920s and 30s sounds eerily prescient. Stella Morabito makes the case that what we’re experiencing is the end result of mass delusion and I agree with her assessment. Just yesterday I read A statistic ( :

    Posted November 22, 2015 at 11:55 pm | Permalink
  30. Sorry for the jumbled repeat of that Pew link – dozing off here.

    Posted November 23, 2015 at 12:03 am | Permalink
  31. Malcolm says

    Let me see if I can make my own thoughts on this clearer, Henry. You ask a good question.

    The key, I think, is to see all of this as a product of the radical doubt that has been, for better or worse, an intellectual legacy of the Enlightenment. I have often described it as a kind of “universal acid” that no vessel can contain.

    The action of this corrosive memetic reagent has been gradually to eat away at the basis of all discriminations. When you combine this with the potent, secularized legacy of Puritanism now ascendant in the West: the expansive universalism of the original Christian message, along with the Puritans’ sense of mission and their Calvinist habit of conspicuous virtue-signaling — and then you toss into the mix the ever-present human inclination toward egalitarianism that has been the seed of so many political revolutions, this is what you get.

    Posted November 23, 2015 at 12:17 am | Permalink
  32. Robert,

    Thanks for the link to Mavphil’s commentary. Like you, I don’t think I got all the nitty gritty philosophy. But if I understood correctly, he implied that universal truths are not universally recognized and the Western values most of us cherish are not cherished by Muslims and Leftists, despite the fact that these values are necessary for human existence that is not nasty, brutish, and short.

    I think I understand why such values are not recognized by most Muslims and some Leftists — they have their own value sets which are part and parcel of their respective religions (the Left’s being of the secular flavor described by Malcolm). Nevertheless, I can not attribute such a clash of valuations for the entire group of 75M left-leaning liberals in the United States. How is it possible that such a large group of people does not recognize, let alone not appreciate, how much better off they are in America than they would have been in most other places of the world? To me, it just doesn’t compute.

    Posted November 23, 2015 at 12:17 am | Permalink
  33. LB and Malcolm,

    While I was composing my response to Robert, I see that you guys also responded to my expressed quandary. Thanx for that.

    By now, however, I feel a migraine approaching from all the wrestling with an issue that I simply can not get my head around. Possibly there are people out there who could help me make sense of it all if not for the fact that those people are largely pathological lying scumbags.

    Posted November 23, 2015 at 12:40 am | Permalink
  34. JK says

    Posted November 23, 2015 at 7:20 am | Permalink
  35. JK says

    Oh and Henry?

    Possibly there are people out there who could help me make sense of it all …

    Posted November 23, 2015 at 7:35 am | Permalink
  36. Asher says

    The inbreeding coefficient alone of mideast populations is enough to warrant excluding them from migrating here

    Posted November 23, 2015 at 8:56 am | Permalink
  37. JK,

    Are you sure those are not Onion stories?

    Posted November 23, 2015 at 12:07 pm | Permalink