Thursday, September 17, 2015


On September 3rd, Chris Walker took President Barack Obama to task for his recent sightseeing trip to Alaska. He was absolutely right!

While the President was renaming Mt. McKinley, lamenting the loss of salmon stocks, and projecting a huge rise in Alaska’s temperature by the end of the century, here in the lower forty-eight, violence and civic division have dominated the headlines. It’s been police against citizens and citizens against police. The culture wars have pitted many Americans against one another. Things are nasty and they’re about to get nastier.

The President has failed us. As Mr. Walker put it, “At no time in recent decades has there been this type of unrest in America. To date, the President has not shown any leadership to get these problems under control.”

Things in the Mediterranean are even worse.

Just a few days ago, the world witnessed the tragic scene of three year old Aylan Kurdi’s lifeless body lying in the Turkish sand. He, his brother, and mother had drowned in their desperate attempt to flee the violence in the Syrian city of Kobani. The boys’ father survived the ordeal, only to compound the tragedy by having to return to Kobani to bury his family.

While the tragedy of Alyan Kurdi and his family has captured the world’s attention, thousands of desperate refugees have also died trying to escape Syria’s civil war. Millions more have been displaced - Kurds, Muslims, Druze, Yazidis, Christians. The crisis is so bad that news agencies are reporting that it rivals the refugee crisis that followed the end of World War II.

How has the world responded to this crisis? The Lebanese, whose population is 4 million, have taken in over a million. The Turks have taken 1.8 million. The Jordanians have taken 600,000. Germany has pledged to take 800,000.

Some within the private sector have also offered help. Egyptian billionaire Nagub Sawnis is willing to buy and island or two from Greece or Italy for 200,000 refugees.  “All I need is the permission to put these people on this island,” he said.  “After that I don't need anything anymore from them. I'll pay them for the island, I'll provide the jobs. I'll take care of all the logistics.”

Some politicians were critical of his offer. His response was perfect. “I sometimes think the politicians don’t have a heart.”

What has the United States, with its unmatched ability to respond to such a crisis, done? According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, between 2011 and 2014, 201 Syrian refugees were given asylum in the U.S. So far in 2015, we have taken in 651, with a pledge to take 1,150 more.

Have we done our fair share? What should our fair share be? The best response I can offer is, “To whom much is given, much is required.” (Luke 12:48)

Is it fair, then, to ask the President some questions? Is it fair to ask who drew the red line in Syria? Is it fair to ask who told Bashar al-Assad he had to go? Is it fair to ask who told al-Assad the chemical weapons had to be destroyed or who boldly declared that ISIS was the “junior varsity?” Why has the President dithered while the crisis he did a great deal to create has deepened? How can his State Department tell us they are “horrified by what they see, but insist they cannot be the ones to swoop in and make the situation better?” Why is there only $360 million to spare for Syrian refugee relief while the President is prepared to give the Iranian ayatollahs over $100 billion for their worthless signatures on a meaningless piece of paper?

Is it fair to remind the President of Colin Powell's warning about a leader's obligation to fix things he  breaks? Is it fair, then, to ask the President why he refuses to fix something (Syria) that he broke?

And, I do have one more question for the President. Is a salmon’s life really more worthy of America’s protection than Aylan Kurdi’s?

Yesterday I read an op-ed penned by author Robert Darwall, comparing Barack Obama’s response to Syria with Jimmy Carter’s response to the plight of the Vietnamese boat people. His words reinforce the well placed words of Chris Walker from a few days ago. I’ll close with them and let you, the reader, draw your own conclusions about whether or not the questions about the President’s leadership are fair.

“But where is the 44th president? He is in Alaska taking selfies. “Alaskans are on the frontline of one of the greatest challenges we face this century,” the president said in a White House video. The emergency of melting glaciers was a “wake-up call,” President Obama claimed. The president is wrong. Today’s emergency is not in Alaska. It is in the Mediterranean. Obama’s cold indifference surely marks the lowest point of his presidency - a moment which will be weighed in the balance and found wanting. The world is waiting for America to act. As Jimmy Carter demonstrated 36 years ago, only a president deploying American leadership can make good on the commitment, “I cannot let your people die.”

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