Wednesday, Bloomberg released a poll that captured national attitudes on America’s commitment to take in 10,000 Syrian refugees.

In the wake of Friday’s Paris attacks, 53% of Americans polled opposed continuation of plans to assist in the resettling of Syrian nationals seeking refugee status. According to Bloomberg, “Just 28 percent would keep the program with the screening process as it now exists, while 11 percent said they would favor a limited program to accept only Syrian Christians while excluding Muslims, a proposal Obama has dismissed as “shameful” and un-American.”

Mirroring the sentiments found in the Bloomberg poll, a bevy of Republican governors also indicated unwillingness to accept a portion of Syrian refugees. As we discussed earlier this week, while Governors do not have legal authority to determine what individuals gain entrance into the United States, they can complicate the resettlement process by refusing to cooperate with federal authorities.

Also at question is the vetting process. As with all visa or immigrant petitions issued by the federal government, the vetting process takes awhile. Applicants are run through FBI background checks, health screens, interviews, and other scrutiny before receiving an opportunity to request entry to the United States. For those seeking refugee status, the wait time clocks in at about 18 months. Caps are set on the number of refugees to be admitted by region. Similar caps apply to other visa types.

According to the Department of State, 70,000 individuals were admitted under refugee status in 2013, only 36 of which were Syrian nationals. In 2012, only 31 of 76,000 refugees were Syrian. So why all the fuss now?

While the answer is largely political, other serious considerations apply. Like the fact that FBI officials have testified there’s no fail-proof way to vet Syrian nationals. “We can query our database until the cows come home, but there will be nothing show up because we have no record of them,” testified FBI Director Comey in October. So little ground work has left agencies like the FBI with limited information to pull from.

As for the political front, that erupted into a heated rhetorical war between Republicans and Democrats. President Obama continues to harp on Republicans for their heartlessness towards orphans from abroad while Republicans are left defending themselves at home. Noah Rothman of Commentary cautions Republicans against, “taking Obama’s bait,” and stresses that at the crux of the argument lies President Obama’s incompetence in combatting radical Muslim terrorist players like ISIS.

This is not about the refugees; it is a judgment on the Obama administration’s competence. Since 2012, a total of 1,854 Syrian refugees have been resettled across the United States after a nearly two-year-long vetting process; Syrians represent just 2 percent of the 70,000 refugees admitted to the United States just last year. For this, the nation is rending garments in anxiety? No, the refugee issue is proxy through which Democrats and Republican alike can criticize this administration’s inept preservation of American national security. But while this is a stinging rebuke of this president, it also redirects the nation’s attention away from the ISIS threat.

Republicans are aiding Obama in his quest to refocus the national debate away from his failing war in the Middle East and toward alleged GOP heartlessness. Among Republican presidential aspirants, a race appears to be on to strike the most ruthless position on both the refugees and Muslims in general. Donald Trump suggested that America has “no choice” but to unconstitutionally dissolve mosques in order to prevent radicalization and bloodshed. “The fact is that we need appropriate vetting, and I don’t think orphans under five are being, you know, should be admitted into the United States at this point,” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said. Obama could not have wished for better foils.

Though he remains overseas, the president cannot resist the temptation to remind the international press which American political party more closely represents their values. “Apparently, they are scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America,” Obama scoffed. “At first they were too scared of the press being too tough on them in the debates. Now they are scared of 3-year-old orphans. That doesn’t seem so tough to me.” This is the debate Obama wants to have. Anything other than the losing war he has been prosecuting for nearly 18 months, the fruits of which are continuing to blow themselves up in Parisian streets nearly a week after the ISIS strike on Paris ended.

…Every day that Republicans spend trying to position themselves as the most singularly focused on addressing the symptoms of war rather than its source is a day Barack Obama wins. Republicans are inexplicably focused on providing Obama with material that allows him to posture and signal to his supporters that, even if his governance is incompetent, the alternative is intolerable. Meanwhile, the world drifts ever farther away from the galvanizing attacks on Paris without having mustered the resolve or decided on a strategy to prevent the next strike. Obama wants nothing more than to be let off the hook for his complicity in the bloodshed in Paris, and Republicans are playing right into his hands.

The better discussion here is not refugees that will take at least 18 months to vet, but how an absence of overall strategy has resulted in an emboldened ISIS.

Speaking from Turkey earlier this week, President Obama renewed his commitment to stay the course with the current strategy to fight ISIS (whatever that is) and admitted he has no interest in, “pursuing some notion of American leadership or America winning,” an attitude that become more obvious by the day.

The administration’s overwhelming ignorance in handling ISIS was captured fabulously in the season opener of Showtime series, Homeland. Having recently returned from a two year stint in Syria, a CIA operative briefs intelligence officials on the ground situation (NSFW: language).

“They have a strategy. They’re gathering right now in Rocca by the tens of thousands, hidden in a civilian population, cleaning their weapons and they know exactly why they’re there. They call it The End Times. What do you think the beheadings are about? The crucifixions, the revival of slavery, you think they make this sh*t up? It’s all in the book. Their f*cking book. The only book they ever read, they read it all the time, they never stop. They’re there for one reason and one reason only — to die for the caliphate and usher in a world without infidels. That’s their strategy and it’s been that way since the 7th century. So do you really think that a few special forces teams are going to put a dent in that?”

Follow Kemberlee on Twitter @kemberleekaye


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