Nothing Happens for No Good Reason

My great teacher of foreign policy and strategic studies, the late Harold Rood, had a simple maxim at the heart of his analytical technique: “Nothing happens for no good reason.”  This maxim has come back to me watching the saga of the flood of “unaccompanied alien children” (as the government officially calls them) on our southern border.  Everyone seems to be treating this as though it was a random or unpredictable event, like a hurricane or winter snowstorm, seemingly spontaneous, and building a momentum of its own.

It is extremely unlikely that this is a spontaneous phenomenon.  Jack Kelly writes today that the surge of children on our borders stems from Obama’s decision to scale back deportations, but this explanation seems insufficient.

Prof. Rood would have challenged the class with a number of basic questions:

• The level of violence and misery in central American nations has been severe for many years.  Why are current conditions thought to be a catalyst for a surge in refugees now?  Something has changed.  What?

• The passage of a child trafficking law in 2008—The Wilberforce Act—is insufficient to explain what has taken place.  Someone has put the word out widely in the region.  Who?  By what means?  Purely word of mouth, or has someone organized a publicity effort to spread the word?  Persuading mothers to surrender their children to be transported a thousand miles away is not an automatic sell, even with the vague promise that Obama will take care of them.  What are families specifically being told?  Where is the CIA in all this?  Do we have agents on the ground in central America figuring out who is publicizing and organizing this massive movement?

• It is not a simple matter for children to travel a thousand miles to get to the U.S.  How are the logistics being organized for transporting thousands of children thousands of miles?  Who is hiring the buses?  Someone is paying for this.  Who?—Drug cartels?  How much is this costing?

• The Washington Post reported yesterday that the Obama administration was warned a year ago that a flood of refugee children might be on its way.  The story points to a bland and tautological Dept. of Homeland Security report that attributes the rising number of UACs to its inability to process the numbers now appearing, thereby creating a backlog.  It offers no insight—in fact doesn’t even raise the question—as to why the numbers are surging.  It must have been written by the same people who run VA hospitals.

• It is a curious thing that the Obama administration apparently put out for bid a contract to process 65,000 children some months before they started showing up in large numbers.  Why was this done?  What was the information that led the administration to take this step?  It’s almost as though someone knew what was coming.

If we had real journalists any more, some of them might be reporting on these questions.  Remember: Nothing happens for no good reason.