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Ducey and the refugees: History will teach us...

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Rogue Columnist

Ducey and the refugees: History will teach us...

  • Women and children are among Syrian refugees at the platform of Budapest's Keleti railway station.
    Mstyslav Chernov/Wikimedia CommonsWomen and children are among Syrian refugees at the platform of Budapest's Keleti railway station.

It is low-hanging fruit to remind wealthy Republican Douglas A. Roscoe (aka "Doug Ducey"), the governor of Arizona, that one of the state's most famous families, the Bashas, came from the Levant, specifically Lebanon.

Michel Goldwasser fled the 1848 revolutions convulsing Europe, first to London and finally to Arizona Territory. "Big Mike" changed the family name to Goldwater.

None of this would keep Gov. Roscoe from joining at least 30 other governors, almost all of them Republicans, from declaring their states would not accept Syrian refugees in the aftermath of the latest terrorist attack on Paris.

Marshall Trimble didn't teach Arizona history to high school students in Ducey's native Toledo, Ohio. So a quick primer: Anglo-Americans took what is now Arizona as spoils of the Mexican War (adding to it with the Gadsden Purchase). They took it from dozens of native tribes.

Arizona's history with refugees since then has been good, bad, and ugly.

Large numbers of Mexicans were allowed into the state during the Mexican Revolution and Civil War from 1910 to 1920. Guadalupe was founded by Yaqui Indians fleeing the violence. In recent decades, Arizona has welcomed refugees from a number of places, especially Vietnam.

On the other hand, Arizona enthusiastically took part in the mass deportation of "Mexicans" during the Great Depression. The majority were American citizens. The Alien Land Act of 1921 was specifically aimed at Japanese immigrants. SB 1070 was aimed at pushing Latinos back into the shadows.

And let's not forget Balbir Singh Sodhi, the Sikh-American gas station owner who was murdered by an Anglo five days after the 9/11 attacks. His offense: He wore a turban and a beard. They all look alike, don't you know.

Anti-immigrant hysteria has been very good to the Republican Party, in Arizona and nationally. So has acting "tough" in the face of terrorism, thus the Bush-Cheney wars that fatally destabilized the Middle East and gave birth to ISIS. But never mind all that. It's been very good politics.

Ignorance and xenophobia also play well with the critical white voters, who actually vote. Thus, Hillary Clinton's only chance to trump a President Trump or a "Tailgunner Joe" President Cruz is to burnish her hawkish credentials.

I don't know how to "solve" a sectarian split that goes back to the seventh century. The American experience of the past 13 years shows that going to war only makes things worse. And it's not exactly true that we're facing stateless networked terror in a new 21st century challenge. The biggest arsonist here is our ally Saudi Arabia and its funding of extremist ideology. And the second biggest is our ally Israel, the quiet partner of the Saudis, that keeps the fire going by its treatment of the Palestinians (who the Saudis and most Arabs don't give a rat's ass about).

"Solving" the problem of jihadi terror is beyond the conventional military means of America, France, even Russia. Only Vladimir Putin has the good sense to know that the situation will be more stable with a strongman in Damascus. The same would have been true in Iraq and Libya. Not every place is ready for Jeffersonian democracy — look how it's turned out in Arizona.

Gov. Roscoe doesn't know how to "solve" these things, either. But he's too blinkered by ideology to ask or wonder. It's all about blaming Barack Hussein Obama.

As I've written before, one of the many unfortunate things about one of our two great political parties going insane is the inability to seriously wrestle with serious issues, some of which are uncomfortable for the liberal echo chamber.

For example, I see nothing wrong with being concerned, as many Europeans are, about preserving their culture from mass immigration. It may be politically incorrect, but it's real. In 1683, the armies of the Ottoman Empire were stopped at the gates of Vienna. Had they prevailed, the history of (faculty twisted-knicker alert) Western Civilization would have been very different.

Samuel Huntington's "class of civilizations" argument may be discomfiting, may be wrong, but it must be wrestled with.

It is also important to realize that the Syrian refugee crisis is a little glimpse of a potentially horrific future in what I call the Great Disruption. Syria's troubles have been exacerbated by severe drought — here are climate change's costs headed our way. (Gov. Roscoe does not accept mainstream settled science on the matter). And the Middle East is way past population overshoot. Neither Europe nor the United States can take all the refugees to come.

We need to "fight" the root causes of extremism there rather that here, to use a W-ism. But addressing climate change and providing stability, jobs and prosperity are basic intelligent responses. Otherwise, every time we kill "Jihad John" or the second in command of Al Qaeda (what a crappy job), we create hundreds of new terrorists hungry to strike our many soft targets.

This column first appeared on Rogue Columnist.

Jon Talton is a fourth-generation Arizonan who runs the blog Rogue Columnist. He is a former op-ed and business columnist of the Arizona Republic, and retired as the economics columnist of the Seattle Times in 2019. Talton is also the author of 12 novels, including the David Mapstone Mysteries, which are set in Arizona.

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