As France reels from the terrorist attacks a few days ago, there are a number of questions swirling around the future of Europe when it comes to the still steady influx of refugees. Hollande has stated that France will still accept refugees in the wake of the attacks, despite Marine Le Pen smiling like the cat who ate the canary and enjoying rising political clout. The narrative persists that the refugees are not to blame for terrorism, and I think it is a legitimate point, but it cannot be denied with a straight face that the “Everyone Welcome” policy of Angela Merkel and other EU leaders seems a bit rash in retrospect. After a bomb scare in Hanover just yesterday, it is clear that everyone is very much on edge, and both sides of the refugee issue are very much entrenched. This is where we are right now, but I would also like to explore how we all got here and what ‘here’ even is.
First off, the largest culprit cited for the refugee crisis is the Syrian civil war, a product of the failed state bonanza known as The Arab Spring. It began with peaceful protests by a Sunni majority and then turned to a proxy war once Hezbollah and America got involved. I have my own theories on the subject relating to how involved the US and other western powers were in turning the peaceful protests into a war. Hint: very. The mainstream media version claims that “The Butcher Assad” barrel bombed his people and so they took up arms against him. It’s thin, very thin. In fact, it has been argued quite convincingly that Assad had the support of most Syrians at the start of the civil war, not to mention that the US supplied Al Nusra and helped turn the war into a sectarian conflict.
This brings us back to the refugees and why they are streaming into Europe. They are looking for better opportunity rather than fighting in the conflict because it is not their war. They cannot side with the government, because it is fighting a losing battle, and they likely do not want to join up with the “moderate rebels” who are in reality quite brutal and not above cannibalizing their slain foes. (Something the west called Assad propaganda) So, in a way it is not their war. Things get more complicated when we face the fact that many of these refugees have abandoned their wives and children who call them cowards for fleeing to the safety of Europe.
Here’s the thing: If Assad was really mericiless butcher wantonly barrel bombing his citizens, then you would think that there would be an actual “moderate opposition” made up of the average Syrian citizens, and not simply a mass exodus, which, if it is evidence of anything, then it is evidence of a lack of investment in the conflict. So yes, the refugees are fleeing the civil war, but not in the cut and dry way that most media claims, so where does this leave us? Is Europe making a mistake by letting them in, or is there really no other option?
Thanks yath00m for poking some holes in the cut and dry narrative: Assad bad, ISIS bad, rebels good. Your points are not definitive, but they are certainly suggestive.
Two questions and a thought: in such an atmosphere as we see in Syria and Iraq, can such a thing as a moderate (secularist or religious) exist? Even if a brilliant, Thomas Jeffersonesque figure emerged, would he make any headway? My answer: no. If we consider the history of the Middle East, we witness millenniums of imperial rule and culture–the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Sassanids, Umayyads, Abbasids, Turks, you get the point. At no time do we witness anything remotely resembling Western democracy. The American conceit is that our ideas are so powerful and universal that once dictators are swept away, people will rise up and undo their entire history in a moment and establish a liberal order–man, history, and their culture is inherently malleable once confronted by a brilliant idea. This is why we chase after the chimera of the native-born liberal reformer. Doubtless, such liberally-minded locals exist because they do find Western ideas compelling, but we forget that liberal democracies did not flourish because of the power of ideas alone. Human rights, constitutional, limited government, all grew, developed, and became strong over the course of millenniums starting with the Greeks. These ideas did not spring fully from the head of Zeus.
In this sense, the aphorism that the pen is mightier than the sword is highly contextual. Jefferson’s words would have carried little weight in the Ottoman empire in the 18th century. The sultan would not have even bothered to send his soldiers to flay Jefferson for treason. A lunatic spouting nonsense is nothing to fear. Why we thought that such declarations backed by America’s massive military force would make any more of a difference in the Middle East after an additional three centuries of dictatorial rule is beyond me.
Two thoughts, then. One: order is the first need of all. Only after that is achieved can you begin to reform. The Obama administration’s obsession with the Arab Spring and the creation of democracy in the midst of chaos ignores this fundamental reality. When the world is burning, the desire of the average human being is stability: freedom of speech is not a priority when you’re worried about getting killed by a stray bullet on the way to work. Talks of democracy are luxuries they simply cannot afford. You simply can’t get there (democracy) from here (Syria’s chaos). Second, democracy is not an end in of itself. It is a means to providing a just and lasting peace. Democracy is great, we Americans enjoy it for the most part, but it is not the only way to skin the cat, to say nothing of the fact that it takes a long time to learn how to skin that cat. In this way, refugees are not heading to Europe primarily because they want democracy, but because they want security.