There are three indisputable facts regarding the migrant crisis sweeping Europe today.
One, it is a heartbreaking human tragedy. Hundreds of thousands of people are risking their lives on creaky, overcrowded boats to get to Greece and then walking across Europe in search of a decent life for themselves and their children.
Two, Europe has no idea how to cope with the problem. Germany has said it will take in 800,000 migrants, at a cost of 10 billion euro; France and England are offering to accept 20,000 each; and the United States has said it will take in 10,000 next year, mostly from Syria, for a total of some 85,000 over a period of years. Considering that millions of people have been driven from their homes in Syria, Afghanistan and Africa by war and poverty, these numbers are a drop in the bucket. And for every refugee who is successfully absorbed in Europe and the United States, a thousand more will follow.
Moreover, Europe and the United States are not just opening their doors to innocent civilians in search of a roof over their heads. They are welcoming those who have been raised to hate Western culture and everything it stands for. In addition, as Lior Akerman, a former senior official of Israel’s Shin Bet (General Security Service), recently noted, among the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees are hundreds of Islamic State terrorists. “The European Union has no idea what it is getting itself into,” he said.
Three, the Western world, led by the United States, has only itself to blame for this crisis.
It could have intervened four and a half years ago, when Syria’s civil war first began, and toppled the brutal regime of Bashar Assad, instead of allowing disaster to befall millions of people. The figures are mindboggling: Some 240,000 dead, 600,000 wounded, eight million people left homeless, four million seeking refuge in neighboring countries like Turkey and Jordan.
And what was the response from the West? Mostly silence, with an occasional half-hearted threat — or hope — that Assad’s days were numbered.
The enlightened world chose to bury its head in the sand and ignore the Hizbullah takeover of Lebanon, the Islamic State takeover of huge parts of Iraq and Syria, and the poverty and armed conflicts in desperately poor countries like Eritrea, where the average annual salary is $150.
Instead of seeking ways to protect hundreds of millions of people from a handful of despots, the United Nations busied itself with resolutions condemning Israel, the European Union drafted boycotts of “settler products” (which will only succeed in leaving thousands of Palestinians unemployed), and the United States decided that it should no longer be the world’s “policeman” — thereby relieving itself of any responsibility for what took place elsewhere.
Had the West intervened four and a half years ago, when the war in Syria began, it could have nipped the refugee problem in the bud. Hundreds of thousands of lives could have been spared, millions of homes preserved, and trauma both to Syrian citizens who have had to travel under such difficult circumstances to try and begin life anew in foreign countries, and to the host countries struggling economically and culturally to absorb them, would have been avoided.
Like it or not, a great country like the United States cannot turn its back on such massive suffering. Its privileged economic status, its moral stature — which has seen it traditionally take a leadership role in alleviating suffering around the world — does not allow it to retreat behind a façade of phony liberalism. It cannot shirk its responsibility under the banner of not wanting to intervene in the affairs of other countries, or out of fear of being charged with imperialism.
There is good and evil in the world, right and wrong. Assad, Islamic State and Iran are evil and should be opposed. Leaving hundreds of millions of men, women and children to their mercy, with no prospects for a decent life or any kind of future, is a wrong that must be righted.
True, the United States and Europe cannot forcefully assume control of every problem spot, but if it would have taken action against Syria, it could have sent a message to other despots that they are not free to act as they please, that the day could come when they, too, would be deposed.
There are two lessons that need to be learned from this terrible crisis.
One, when evil is ignored, as in the case of Syria, or accommodated, as in the case of the Iranian nuclear threat, it only becomes more difficult to deal with.
Two, in this global village, there is no such thing as a problem that exists “over there.” Sooner or later, the poverty and desperation of Syrian refugees will arrive in Europe and the United States. And sooner or later, the evil designs of a nuclear-armed-Iran will reach Europe and the United States.