As if it isn’t bad enough that the Obama administration and the Open Borders crowd are largely indifferent to the threat of ISIS terrorists attacking the American homeland, evidence is now building that their (largely concealed) biases are preventing moves that could greatly reduce the odds of a serious ebola outbreak in the United States.
Last month, we learned that while the administration was considering major escalation of its anti-ISIS military campaign in the Middle East, it was acting pretty blasé re the possibility of terrorists penetrating porous U.S. borders and eventually restaging something like 9-11. A senior Department of Homeland Security official told a Senate hearing that ISIS adherents around the world were discussing on social media the possibility of crossing in from Mexico, but claimed rather audaciously that he was “satisfied we have the intelligence and capability on the border that would prevent that activity.”
At a House hearing, a Customs and Border Patrol official stated that “The number of known watch-listed persons we are encountering on the Southwest border is minimal compared to commercial aviation.” Which of course raises the questions of how many are being “encountered” on airplanes, how many aren’t being encountered, and what the definition of “minimal” is.
Now the nation is nearing from the Obama administration, along with other health specialists, sealing U.S. borders to keep out West African ebola victims would be counterproductive. What Americans haven’t heard are credible reasons why.
For example, despite all the claims that ebola’s transmission mechanisms make such measures unnecessary, great unknowns remain. Airborne transmission by certain strains has been detected among animals. And although human-to-human airborne transmission has not yet been reported, viruses – including ebola – have repeatedly shown the ability to mutate in unpredictable ways.
It is true that only two U.S. airlines still offer nonstop, direct flights between America and the affected countries, and that many residents of West Africa can arrive in the United States from many other airlines flying in from all over the world. But that doesn’t mean that passengers holding passports from the affected countries can’t – and shouldn’t – be banned until the ebola situation is under control.
And if we’re worried about other passport holders who have recently visited West Africa flying into the United States, Washington should announce that, starting on Date X, everyone whose passport has been stamped by a West African passport authority within the last year will be denied access to the United States as well. That way, inconvenience – in terms of disrupted business or personal travel plans — would be minimized, and travelers all over the world would be deterred from going to West Africa and risking contamination.
Moreover, airlines from other countries, including British Airways, are already restricting some travel. Their cooperation would make the U.S. effort all the more effective, and American leadership could galvanize further international action. Indeed, the administration’s unwillingness to restrict travel coming into the United States is all the more puzzling given that the State Department has warned Americans against non-essential travel to Liberia and Sierra Leone.
As for the argument that such travel bans would prevent needed aid from reaching the ebola countries, nothing could be sillier. The needed medical and other personnel obviously would be flying to West Africa on easily tracked official or chartered flights, and their movements and contacts in West Africa would be just as easily tracked.
That’s why it’s hard to avoid concluding that ideology is at work here. Two varieties look especially prominent lately. The first holds that curbing any form of international interaction – even temporarily – is culturally and politically retrograde, and would send dangerous signals suggesting that sometimes, some forms of globalization and international integration can be harmful. Matthew Continetti of the Washington Free Beacon has already impressively made the case that out-of-control cosmopolitanism (Aka Open Borders support) explains much of the blithe confidence displayed by the U.S. government re ebola.
The second strand of ideology condemns many ebola concerns as “fear-mongering” that lies “squarely in the center of a long and ugly tradition of treating…the African continent as a dirty, diseased place to be feared,” and is being used to unjustifiably fan anti-immigrant sentiment. The problem, though, is that globalization does entail costs and risks as well as benefits, and that sub-Saharan Africa does present some major and unique dangers to American well-being that must not simply be wished away.
I have lost all hope that the American business establishment would ever put the nation’s security ahead of its determination to maximize profits through the greatest degree of global commerce possible. I retain some hope, though, that the U.S. government and the chattering classes with which it reigns politically and intellectually are not completely dominated by baby-boomers and the like who have never outgrown the ‘60s. I wonder how long Washington will take to show that some genuine adults are pulling at least some of the strings by barring entry from ebola-wracked West Africa into the United States.