Numbers wield extraordinary power.
The breadth of the suffering in Syria has prompted a historic outpouring of succor for those fleeing the twin horrors of the Islamic State and the Assad regime. A staggering 4.3 million people have been not only forced from their homes but forced from the borders of their own nation. Most remain in the region, but many have fled to Europe, where their arrival has been greeted with equal parts friendship and trepidation.
The attacks in Paris — blamed on the very group that has fueled the exodus — has prompted many to call for the rolling up of the welcome mat and a closing of the door. “Paris changes everything,” Bavaria’s finance minister, Markus Söder, told a German newspaper. “The days of uncontrolled immigration and illegal entry can’t continue.”
In the United States, many governors and presidential candidates can’t trip over themselves fast enough to demand a halt to any Syrian refugee immigration — never mind that the United States has admitted a paltry 2,200. Meanwhile, French President François Hollande, to his credit, says the grieving country would stand by its commitment to accept 30,000 additional refugees over the next two years.
In Europe, though, the fear over what else has washed across the borders, carried on the wave of human suffering, is a very real one. In February, ISIS threatened to use the flood of migrants as a “psychological weapon” against the West. That weapon is equal parts doubt and fear: To whom have we given shelter, and what do they intend?
The power lies in the numbers: The red dot below represents the one who may be a terrorist.
— ALEX KINGSBURY AND KATHLEEN KINGSBURY