Refugee crisis discourse debases Syrian state

With much of the debate today raging around how Syrian refugees will be properly and equitably placed (in Europe), or whether they should even be allowed into the country at all (in the United States), few seem willing to ask the question, “What happens af­ter the war?”

Currently, the physical safety and provision of basic public services to war refugees should be a chief priority of foreign and internation­al aid budgets. I believe that the West’s knee-jerk reaction to this crisis—in essence, you are fleeing a foe, come and become legal residents in our nations–carries long-term implications that are incredibly destabilizing to a region that gravely needs a middle class.

I make this claim not, as many might be­lieve, to create a premise by which to deny ref­ugees a place in this country. Nor do I hold that this nation will be better off by holding at bay those in dire need of assistance. In fact, if our interests are solely aligned with the long-term prosperity of the United States, we should un­questionably be taking in as many moderate and well-educated Syrians as we can get our hands on.

However, I for one believe that the role of this nation goes far beyond simply ensuring domestic prosperity. We are the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world, and with that power comes the ability to mold and shape the futures of countless billions of people. It saddens me that, for some reason, many of us have written off Syria as a failed state, one whose own citizens would be better served by permanently emigrating to the West than by pursuing a more local solution to their and their countrymen’s problems.

I refuse to accept that. If we are to have peace and have, eventually, some sort of rep­resentative democracy emerge in Syria, we must protect and assist the moderates who are fleeing in the millions, not, as some suggest, in such a way as to assimilate them into our culture, but to ensure them an easy transition back to Syria. This is, for obvious reasons, not an easy task. The practical barriers are high and imposing; Jordan and Lebanon have ac­cepted so many refugees that they now repre­sent about a fifth of the total population, and they are crimping public services.

Turkey, whose refugees are primarily situ­ated in the already-volatile eastern regions of the country, is engaged in a delicate balancing act between behaving humanely enough to gain entrance to the EU, while still engaging in an ever widening crack down on the HKK (an ethnic Kurdish terrorist group), opposition journalists, policemen and military officers. Alternative options seem sparse. The UAE and Saudi Arabia have taken in, by some estimates, close to 3 million refugees. Hundreds of thou­sands have fled to Europe, and by some esti­mates, more than a million and a half Syrians will soon be in Europe, fundamentally chang­ing the future of many locales.

The difficulty of the Western powers and Gulf States will primarily be in determining a way to provide for a safe and reasonably pro­ductive life for refugees whilst at the same time balancing domestic pressures regarding resource allocation, job competition and, more critically for the Western nations, values re­alignment and religious diversification. This last topic is perhaps the most pressing. While sectarian strife between Sunni and Shia is lim­ited in Turkey, Jordan and the Gulf States pri­marily due to strong centralized governments, it is easier for refugees to acclimate religiously in these heavily majority Muslim countries.

This is not the case in Western powers, where a strong, Christian value-set, particular­ly in the United States, Poland, Hungry, Roma­nia, Slovakia, England and significant parts of the EU, informs not only regional culture and tradition, but has played a significant role in the creation of law and a common value sys­tem that respects women, racial diversity and secular thought. This is not to say that emi­grants from Syria could not be successfully integrated culturally and religiously.

The United States has the best record of Muslim assimilation, with a recent Pew Opin­ion poll stating that approximately nine in 10 American Muslims are not remotely support­ive of suicide bombings. Obviously, a radical­ized 10 percent is a significant issue, but the domestic security apparatus of the United States is far better equipped than Europe­an powers, who are only as strong as their lowest common denominator due to Schen­gen open-border policy, at dealing with both homegrown radicalization and Islamic extrem­ists trying to enter the country.

However, I digress. What is critical for this and other societies to decide is whether we will give up on Syria ever becoming a nation again. Are we relegating Syria to the Yemen or Somalia status of “failed-states”? Is the once-flourishing land of 27 million better off surrendered to radical Islamic Jihadism or to­talitarian Alawite rule? Can we not do better?

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