Defense

Ambassador: White House not leading on refugees

A top former State Department official predicted Thursday that the Syrian refugee crisis will only get worse, slamming the Obama administration for not leading globally or at home on the issue. 

“We are facing … a crises of truly global proportions, and as bad as it is now, on its current trajectory, it’s going to be a whole lot worse in six months, in a year, in two years,” said Ryan Crocker, whom President Obama selected as ambassador to Afghanistan in 2011. 

Crocker said with four million Syrian refugees and over seven million internally displaced, the refugee crisis was the worst since World War II, and with no end to the Syrian civil war in sight and donations drying up, the crisis could grow still larger. 

“What’s missing that was present at the end of World War II, is global leadership….There is only one nation that can exercise that leadership. That is the United States,” Crocker said at a National Press Club breakfast. 

“And the United States — I’m very sad to say, as an American, is not leading. We’re not even participating,” he said. “You can’t ignore it. This is not going away. This is going to get worse.” 

The issue of allowing refugees from Iraq and Syria into the United States has sparked a fierce debate in the U.S. public, between those who fear it could lead to a terrorist attack within the U.S., and those who argue that helping those in need aligns with American values.

The issue has also been at the forefront of the 2016 presidential elections, with proposals from Republican candidates ranging from temporarily keeping all Muslim immigrants out, to only allowing Christians in. 

“I simply hope that the president, secretary of state and others will come to that appreciation and push back against those forces in this country that would have do the wrong thing. The wrong thing morally, but also the wrong thing for our national security interests,” he said. 

Crocker, who has also served as U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait and Lebanon, said the U.S. should accept 100,000 Syrian refugees this fiscal year — much more than the 10,000 proposed by the administration, which he called a “sad goal.” 

Crocker also praised new Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for greeting Syrian refugees arriving to Canada. 

“I wish we could see our president at the airport,” he said. 

Crocker, who served during both the Bush and Obama administrations, said the debate on the topic by Republican presidential candidates has been “insane.” 

He said a “fractious primary field has been united on one thing — let’s not have any Syrian refugees,” or “if we’re going to have them, let’s be sure they’re just Christians.”  

“It’s not America’s greatest day,” he said. “Unless you’re a descendant of Native Americans, or your forbearers were brought to this country in chains…you’re an immigrant or a refugee — as all but one of those candidates are.”  

Crocker praised German Chancellor Angela Merkel for saying Syrian refugees were welcome in Germany since it undercut the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s narrative that the “true believers against the Crusaders.”

“My real concern is this absence of U.S. leadership on a key issue. Absence of U.S. leadership abroad, and at home, quite frankly,” he said. 

Tags Angela Merkel Barack Obama Ryan Crocker Syria Syrian civil war Syrian refugees

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