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I noticed yesterday on the Member Feed that Ricochet member F-18 was wondering why we hadn’t been discussing the refugee crisis on Ricochet. In fact, we have — quite a bit — but he’s right that some of the most interesting discussions have been coming up in the comment threads, and thus aren’t so easy to find.
I’m in Europe now, and was living in Turkey as the Syrian war began and the refugees began streaming across the border. So I thought I’d open this thread to anyone who wants to ask questions about what exactly happened and what’s happening now in Europe.
Before that, though, I thought I’d put up links to some of the posts I wrote here on Ricochet as the crisis began. It would take you a few hours to read them all and watch all of the video interviews, but if you have them to spare, you might find them useful: You can see from them how absolutely clear it was, even in 2011, that a disaster of this scale was inevitable.
So when I read now that thanks to a single photo of a drowned Syrian toddler the world has realized it has a very big problem on its hands, I think you’ll understand why I feel … well, I don’t know what I feel. And I guess what I feel isn’t really the point.
July 10, 2011: Mike and Bob From Hama
… I suppose the place to start is at the end. I know the look he gave me when I left. I see it a lot: “You’re a journalist. Please, make the world understand what’s happening to us. If they understood, they wouldn’t let it happen.”
July 11, 2011: “Hama Doesn’t Forget or Forgive“
… He was groping for any kind of hope, but realistically hopeless. “The whole world wants Assad to stay. Everyone is too afraid of what will happen if he falls.” He was well aware that this fear wasn’t baseless. Overwhelmingly, he thought, the most likely outcome of this was civil war. “There is a huge hatred for the Alawites.”
He stressed that anyone who thought compromise or reform possible at this point was delusional. “They don’t understand the Syrian mentality. Hama doesn’t forget or forgive.”
Bob had joined us by this point. I asked, again, why they were talking to the media. “Governments won’t listen,” Mike said. “But the message has to get out to people. People can make their governments put pressure on Assad.”
I told him that I thought the likelihood of this was close to zero, and I explained why. Bob tried to insist I was wrong.
Mike interrupted him and said, “No, she’s right. I agree with her. She’s right.
“Rationally, there’s no hope.”
June 18, 2011: When Syria Explodes
… It’s not a secret that Syria is imploding. But the key thing to grasp is that it won’t stop there: There is a real possibility that this regime will take its neighbors down with it. I’m not sure that the West — which from what I can tell is now completely preoccupied with itself and its economic problems — is sufficiently grasping this. …
February 2, 2012: The Evil Regime: A Report From Syria
… Having been told that the videos of carnage coming out of Syria were doctored or manufactured to exaggerate the scale of the catastrophe there, he decided he had an obligation to see for himself. He disguised himself as a naive Turkish restauranteur and went to Syria undercover. He was there for two weeks before being arrested and deported. He’s in Istanbul now, and I saw him last night. Physically he’s fine, but …
February 3, 2012: What Ilhan Tanır Saw in Syria, Part I
… “Conditions are far worse than I expected. … They come house by house and they arrest every single person … it’s far worse than anything you can imagine. … the civil war has not arrived yet, but it looks like maybe a few weeks … I definitely think Assad forces must be distracted, must be distracted, they’re using all their resources on the people … but they’re doing this because there’s nothing else they worry about right now … Yes, Assad might play whatever he’s got — Kurds, PKK, it’s a risk … Everyone is waiting, Assad does what he does best … “
February 3, 2012: What Ilhan Tanır Saw in Syria, Part II
“I had no idea what they were going to do to me … they wouldn’t let me call my embassy, no way. … I thought, ‘Okay, this is not going well.’ … They took me downstairs, which is a terrible, terrible place … smells, I cannot describe how disgusting it was … people are coming in chained, like ten, five, ten people … they were really angry at me, I can see … they only hit me in the chaos, and it wasn’t too bad, compared to other people … I have no idea who did it, they did it from my back … it could have been much worse, it was chaos.” …
February 4, 2012: Let Me Save You Time on Syria
Let me put this to you simply. Assad is a monster. He is evil beyond comprehension. No one is going to stop him until he and everyone around him is dead. But you’re out of your minds if you convince yourself the FSA is comprised of potentially friendly, liberal democrats. There’s not a liberal democrat between here and the Horn of Africa, just trust me on this; they don’t even know what those words mean, they just know that you have to say them if you want to have any hope of being saved by those weird but freakishly powerful Americans for whom the words “liberal democrats” are the magic elixer. There will be no friendly, moderate, secular regime in Syria, ever, and the first thing the FSA will do if anyone helps them is slaughter Alawites and Christians. Everyone knows it, and at this point, who could possibly be surprised and who could blame them. They hate the world in this descending order, with allowances for overlap: Shia, Jews, Christians, Iran, America, Israel, Russia, Turkey. They’ll probably hate each other, too, soon enough.
The only options here are unbearably awful and unspeakably awful. There’s no happy outcome. The United States remains the only country in the world with anything like the military power to change this situation in a meaningful way, and nothing but military power will affect it, and the US isn’t going to use it. Our economy is in the tank, we’re tied down around the world, we’re hamstrung by Russia and Iran. We’re done with this region; we’re not even interested.
We will be blamed for not intervening, just as we were blamed for intervening in Iran and Iraq, and everyone will forget that both intervening and not intervening are moral choices; and the US was never presented — ever — with a choice between supporting good and supporting evil in this part of the world, just between supporting evil and supporting slightly-less-evil. In a choice between supporting evil and supporting slightly less-evil, slightly-less-evil equals good. That’s the real world.
… So, yeah, they’re Islamists, not the shy flower of the Scottish Enlightenment, but they seem to have some interest in democracy, and they talk about the Turkish model, which I’m sure they don’t understand, but which, if it means to them, “Islamic and democratic,” is probably a good thing. Maybe if you could get enough UN peacekeepers in there fast enough after Assad falls, you could prevent some of the slaughter of the minorities that would otherwise ensue. Maybe you could get a functional state up-and-running fast enough that Syria doesn’t become the Somalia of the Levant, maybe not.
The risk right now to Syria’s neighbors, if it tries to help, is extreme: Assad holds the PKK card, it has huge stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. The regime is going bankrupt, at the very least there will be floods of refuges if this continues, Turkey certainly can’t absorb them. The Russians would be perfectly happy for every man, woman and child in Syria to be tortured and killed so long as nothing gets between it and its warm water base at Tartus. The French and the British will make very stern noises, but what are they going to do. UN? Useless. Arab League? Useless. GCC? Useless.
Meanwhile, those kids are dying. I’ve met some of them, Ilhan has met many more, and they’re kids who have been pushed into radicalism because they’re going to be killed tomorrow, so you better well hope there’s a better life on the other side. It’s that simple, really. …
And so here we are, on September 23, 2015. Please feel free to ask me any question you have about the refugee crisis — how it began, how Europe is reacting to it, what conservatives should think about it, and what might happen next.
Sadly, I know a lot about it.
And I know that for reasons I’ll never understand — as long as I’m alive — people are surprised by it.