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Crunching the Numbers

The current “You’re a racist!” versus “No, you’re an idiot!” kerfluffle running through American politics is whether or not the United States, and with it the rest of Christendom, ought to be providing assistance to people fleeing from Syria and other war-torn countries.  Another question is how rigorously these refugees should be checked before being handed identification papers, an EBT card, and the keys to their government-paid housing.

Before I go any further, let me say that I believe that the U.S. has a moral obligation to assist those who need it.  However, just because you’re charitable doesn’t mean you’re a sucker.

So, let’s talk about whether that aid should come in the form of allowing said refugees to enter our territory and roam freely among our populace, and the potential risks we take on by doing it.

First, let’s look at the 10,000 refugees that the President has said the United States will take from Syria in the next year.

Number of People 1% 0.10% 0.01%
10000 100 10 1

If there is a population of 10,000 refugees, we see the number of potential attackers to whom we open our gates if 1 percent, 1/10th of 1 percent, and 1/100th of 1 percent of them are terrorist infiltrators.

That’s really not a lot of people, but then, none of the major attacks in the past couple of decades have taken more than a platoon’s worth of people.

Incident Perpetrators Civilian Dead Civilian Injured
September 11th 19 2996 6000
London 4 56 700
Madrid 21 191 2050
Beslan 32 334 728
Bali 5 202 209
Paris 7 130 368
Mumbai 10 166 600
Boston 2 6 280

Of course, the number of perpetrators, for the most part, doesn’t include the number of people it took to plan, fund, and organize the attacks.  Let’s assume that those resources already exist, either here in the United States or abroad, and can be tapped by anyone who knows the proper secret handshake.

At .01%, there would probably be enough infiltrators to execute a Boston-style attack, or possibly a bombing like Bali or London.  Of course, it only takes one jackass to walk into a Super-Duper-Megamart on free popcorn Monday and blow himself sky-high to have an impact.

At .1%, there would be enough to replicate Mumbai, Paris, Bali, London, or Boston.

At 1%, we would have admitted enough attackers to perpetrate any of the attacks I’ve listed several times over.  That’s assuming that they didn’t try to do 50 or so little attacks on soft targets like shopping centers, schools, or hospitals, which would probably shake the American man and woman on the street even more.

These numbers are only for the expected number of Syrian refugees we plan on admitting.  It doesn’t take into account those we bring in from other Islamic war zones, such as Iraq or Afghanistan.  They also don’t account for people who come here with a neutral mindset, but decide, after they’ve been admitted to the United States, to bite the hand that feeds them.

So, what do we do?  How do we separate the needy sheep from the dangerous goats, or at least keep them away from the American herd?  As I see it, we have several options, all of them bad in one way or another –

  1.  Do nothing.  I don’t like this one.  Like I said, I feel a moral obligation to assist those truly in need.
  2. Allow in 10,000 Syrians after they are vetted as thoroughly as possible, but allow them to settle wherever they can find support. To me, this is the worst option, security wise.  If we do this, we’re relying on our ability to sniff out terrorist infiltrators with a sketchy background check and a few interviews.
  3. Establish refugee centers in the United States, as we did in the 1970’s for Cuban refugees, and keep the refugees there until they can be repatriated.  This will centralize management of the refugees and their needs, as well as allow our security services to more efficiently monitor the refugees for ‘radicalization’ or other indicators that they either came in as terrorists or are starting to lean that way.  If we insist on bringing them to our shores, I prefer this method.
  4. Establish and expand refugee centers in the region, such as has been done in Turkey.  This keeps the potential threat of terrorist infiltrators on the other side of the ocean, but also leaves the refugee populations within easy reach of ISIS and anyone else who wants to either victimize them or recruit from their numbers.  To me, however, this is the option that best insulates the American homeland from potential infiltration by terrorists disguised as refugees while still satisfying our moral obligation to assist and protect the innocent.

Whether or not we even consider military-aged males for refugee status is another debate entirely.  I lean toward the women, children, and old people only side of that argument.

Are we willing to chance that a few, and we are talking about a handful of people, get through the vetting process and do harm to Americans while living among us as refugees?  This is one of those “low probability but high cost” kinds of risks, I grant you.  But what is at risk because 1, or 10, or 100 terrorists abuse our hospitality and slip in along with those who truly deserve it and pose no harm?

To put it bluntly, what will be the cost in American blood for us to provide for these refugees, and are we willing to pay it?

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  1. Anonymous

     /  November 23, 2015

    Agree 100% with all of the above.


  2. Roy

     /  November 23, 2015

    “…what will be the cost in American blood for us to provide for these refugees, and are we willing to pay it?”

    Another question is do “we” – you and I – have the right to force others to pay that price. Let’s face it, the odds of any particular individual dying in a terrorist attack are very low, but not zero. Let’s suppose you and I are on the side of letting the refugees in and we welcome them here. Then a year or two from now one of them turns rogue and commits an atrocity – not here in Louisville, but in Cincinnati. Did we have the right to make that decision for the citizens of Cincinnati?

    I don’t disagree with what you have said, but I think of the choices you gave, option number 4 is best. Actually, there is an option 5. Destroy the regime that is causing the oppression. Of course, that will not happen under this administration.


  3. jake

     /  November 24, 2015

    DB – if the organizers behind a “sheep in wolves’ clothing” plot had the resources to train and support an extended network of agents in the setting you describe, why not simply cover them as businessmen/college students/guest speakers and fly them in? It’s a lot easier to enter the US as a tourist flying Singapore Airlines than it would be to get a refugee slot, and it’s not like we track the average tourist closely enough to prevent them kicking up their heels.


  4. AndyN

     /  November 24, 2015

    Option 3, but build the refugee centers in some remote empty spot in Alaska. I have a feeling that a high percentage of the refugees would decide that things aren’t really all that bad back home.


  5. Agree with all.


  6. Or try this:

    Lets let those 10,000 in. But rather than let them bunch up in colonies, where the radicalization happens, lets put TWO families in a bunch of small towns. Let ’em learn “America” and learn to live here, and become part of the citizenry and amalgamate into our society. Learn English and our customs….

    And make ’em check in or be checked on weekly for the first two years.

    No mosque, you say? Too bad. You don’t need a mosque to be a Muslim anymore than you need a church to be Christian.

    This solution is better than letting them choose to live in colonies where English isn’t spoken….


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