Monday, September 07, 2015

Syrian Refugee Crisis

The basis of nation-states over centuries has been, fundamentally people prefer to live with their own country and would be reluctant to move to other societies for marginal benefits. Not for nothing we have around 200 independent nations formed till this date. So far as involuntary emigration goes, people would move either to go away from existential threats or imminent threats which otherwise would curtail normal lives dramatically. In Syria's case, her civil war against Assad regime as well as fight against ISIS have displaced more than half of it's population (around 9 out of 17 millions) as existential threats continue to increase. Around 4 millions of these are displaced outside of Syria

Question is where should these refugees go and who bares the responsibility for them. Neighboring nations is one practical fallout, whether those countries like or not - Turkey at 1.9, Lebanon at 1.1 and Jordan at 0.6 millions. Another answer is Europe which otherwise is so 'loud mouth' about Human Rights all over the world. Europe's colonial past generally makes it the final destination for many refugees from Europe's former colonies. But the irony is true colonial powers like Britain, France and Spain are not accepting Syrian Refugees in any significant numbers. British Chancellor of the Exchequer wants to rethink foreign aid of UK rather than being generous in accepting more Syrian Refugees; understandably so, as UKIP keeps the pressure on. In France, National Front leader is already preempting any pressure by asserting how the world is inducing 'guilty feeling' among Europeans by using images of three years old washed ashore. French President Hollande would rather go for symbolic air strikes than accept more refugees. With Spain, probably even if that country wanted, very few might want to go as Spanish Economy is yet to recover fully.

It is Angela Merkel's Germany which is showing the path forward here. Having SPD, which already leans towards accepting more refugees, in the coalition government creates necessary political space for the Chancellor. Though Germany for sure can pull off assimilation of these specific refugees in this number given her economic strength, Conservative Commentators are worried whether rulers of Germany are erring on the side of accepting more refugees than what their society can digest. If the cost of accepting a million or so refugees in Germany is incarnation of another Hitler; indeed such doubts are valid. Definitely rhetoric in many of these European countries does not inspire any confidence. Worries of backslash are legitimate, but it is expected that contemporary Germany would rise to the occasion. Merkel's Germany definitely has the capacity to lead rest of the Europe in this matter.

What about the culpability of other nations - specifically USA, Russia and other Middle East Islamic nations? Uncle Sam definitely needs to accept more refugees from Syria than what it has done so far. It is shameful, but President Obama is unlikely to spend any political capital in convincing Americans in accepting more Syrian refugees. When Donald Trump is pounding on the table for any kind of immigration, when Republicans are eager to play on Islam phobia of Americans and when Democrats have many more cheaper alternatives to mobilize American voters, the 'check of outrage upon seeing tragic refugee crisis' is unlikely to be en-cashed in any policy measures in USA. Unless American Politicians explain how accepting now refugees is good for tomorrow's America; we might not see any movement politically. America admits around 1 million migrants annually, of which around 80K or so refugees. America just needs to up the game given the Syrian crisis. [1]

The case against Saudi Arabia - the largest and one of wealthiest states in Middle East - is strong. Saudi Arabia argues that because it gives more aid, it is OK for it to accept no refugees. Yes, money helps; but in the end what counts is how many lives you save. This is especially important since Saudi Arabia is one of the key foreign countries which backs combatants in Syrian civil war, the very reason why these refugees are created in the first place. In a sense the pottery barn rule applies here too - you instigate the civil war in a foreign land, you better be ready to accept more refugees from those lands. Turkey and Jordan are doing their bit (even though Jordan does not pour oil to the Syrian Civil war), it is Saudi's who need to show some responsibility here.

Ultimately though, it is Russia, Iran and Hezbollah's of the world who are responsible in creating more refugees as these are the nations which are backing Assad's brutal regime. As expected, Putin's Russia is more concerned by the geopolitical considerations. Russia worries about losing Syria based port for her access to Meditarian sea. That is nothing new from the expansionists Russia; but the world needs to place blame at her feet for this refugee crisis as well. President Obama might feel circumspect in his muted criticism of Iran and Russia due to the pending Iranian Nuke Accord and that is no good; but as the deal gets secured President Obama needs to make it clear to the world that it is Russia and Iran who are also responsible of making the mess of Syria when those countries back Assad.

We all know by blaming irresponsible political powers like Russia and Iran would not resolve the 'here and now' human concerns of Syrian refugees. But eventually more lasting solutions to such crisis are possible only when West faces head on rogue powers like Russia and Iran. Self flagellation of West can only serve the purpose so far; in the end it is about how USA and NATO allies force Russia and Iran in removal of Assad Regime, defeat of ISIS and bringing some stability to Syria.

[1] - Many Conservative commentators blame President Obama for his non-action in Syria resulting in this refugee problem. Fundamentally President Obama reads his mandate as not  to interven a foreign country unless we are threatened directly. President Obama is right in his prudent 'reading' of American majority; brick bats from Conservatives is the price you pay for winning elections twice. Of course, these commentators equally want to forget how these Middle East problems are inherently intractable as well. Doing Iran Nuke deal is one step towards un-tangling, but that does not sit well with these Conservatives too.

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