A reader and frequent commenter sent me an article by Richard D. Lamm that appeared in the Denver Post. The story is told of Martin of Tours finding a starving beggar during a 13th Century ride and dividing his cloak and dinner with the desperate man. The question is asked “What if instead of one cold and starving beggar, there are 100?” Considering the world situation, what if there are thousands or millions? There is another report that ISIS has slaughtered another several hundred people after taking a city in Iraq, and thousands or hundreds of thousands of people are being displaced. I have difficulty imagining there is anyone remaining in Syria other than the various fighting organizations or a place for an “ordinary citizen” to live. Thousands of people are taking the perilous trip across the Mediterranean to escape the anarchy and terror of Libya (and perhaps wishing Gaddafi could return). Lamm mentions increasing population “…and political unrest in most of the Middle East and Africa guarantee continued massive migration from that volatile area. Is Europe’s only ethical response to take them all in?”
Lamm mentions that “…the U.S. has its own substantial pressure from south of its boarder (sic).” He then poses the ethical dilemma. “A moral response to an individual or manageable group might not make sense if there are hundreds of thousands. Sheer numbers can totally change the ethical implications.” “The maximum generosity of the developed world cannot absorb the staggering numbers fleeing political chaos, war, violence, and lack of economic opportunity.” Later in the article he writes, “No nation can be expected to commit social and cultural suicide. No ethics can demand what the ecosystem or social fabric of a society cannot support.”
I have fretted since the first reports of ISIS slaughters in Iraq that we as a nation should feel ashamed. Regardless of your beliefs about the justification of the second Iraq War, we did overthrow Saddam Hussein and established a fledgling democracy. We then decided we were “war weary” and withdrew our soldiers. The situation that evolved was predictable. There was an opportunity, perhaps a slim opportunity, to assist in establishing a stable and perhaps even prosperous country where people wouldn’t be slaughtered because they practiced the wrong religion. We instead chose to fulfill a political promise. Is there anyone out there who continues to believe withdrawing was the right thing to do? We also helped “decapitate” the dictatorship in Libya and then sat behind our comfortable borders while terrorists took over.
Perhaps we should be asking whether we’ve learned anything. Are we going to repeat what we did to Iraq in Afghanistan? I understand the Taliban developed a motto after the announcements that we were going to withdraw on a schedule. “You have the watch and we have the time.”