Ellis Island alone welcomed more than 5,000 to 10,000 immigrants into the United States a day between 1900 and 1914. Today, even economic power Germany is overwhelmed by a temporary surge of Syrian refugees numbering in the tens of thousands. Despite liberal European attitudes on immigration and residency, Germany’s decision to reinstate border controls, as one example, is not about coping with a surge in refugees. It is about closing borders and displacing the problems of refugees onto others. In short, the Syrian Refugee Crisis is simply a continuation of European policies that have long favored disengagement from the problems of the world.
Immigration policies are strongly influenced by economics. This is why the United States has long struggled with illegal immigration. When it comes to immigrants fleeing violence and other threatening situations, the cold truth is that the economics still override the emotional pleas of those in need of sanctuary. Recognizing the fallout of the 2008-2009 Great Recession continues to resonate throughout the International Community, there is great concern among Europeans that their countries cannot afford to care for those fleeing the Syrian Civil War, even if they actually can. Westerners have been so traumatized by the Great Recession and other events that they have learned to embrace disengagement instead of problem solving when faced with serious policy issues.
Clearly, if the Syrian Civil War had been addressed when it first started, the Syrian Refugee Crisis would not exist today. A failure of Western and Middle Eastern powers to take minimal action years ago allowed the Assad regime to hold onto power. This, in turn, helped fuel the violence that prevented Syria from forming a new government and addressing security threats. It is also gave the Islamic State a safe haven from which it was able to grow stronger. At the same time, a lack of International support added to the failures of the United States in Iraq, which left the Iraq government incapable of properly governing. This allowed the Islamic State to eventually become a regional threat.
That said, it is important to recognize the Syrian Civil War had been allowed to fester, partially, due to the Arab Spring Revolutions. Facing uncertainly throughout the entire Middle East, the International Community could not intervene to address every potential source of instability. Restraint on behalf of world powers became a necessity to ensure catastrophic security threats across the entire region could be managed. As government resistance to the Arab Spring Revolutions sparked violence, however, targeted interventions could have helped weaken those provoking the violence. The collapse of the Assad regime, which is being bolstered by Russia even though it lacks the legitimacy to govern, would not have been enough to end violence in Syria, but it would have eliminated a major source of instability.
Furthermore, it is important remember that the post-Cold War era was a time of peace and prosperity. Americans are often accused of disengaging form the world during that period, but the same can be said of Europeans. Where the United States focused on free trade and other economic initiatives, Europeans did the same with the conception of the European Union. In many respects, world powers chose to focus on issues deemed important to the developed world instead of the traditional problems facing the poor and the underdevelopment world. By doing so, they chose to ignore the problems of the world in order to sustain their own utopian bubble. As a consequence, world powers learned to avoid solving real world problems. Since then, the practice of avoidance has been crystallized by one traumatic crisis after another.
Ever since the Cold Era ended, policy makers have been unable to solve economic and social problems. Instead, they find “solutions” that help them avoid the problems, i.e. disengagement. A major reason why the United States and Europe face such overwhelming economic issues, for example, is that policymakers chose solutions to past economic problems that created today’s far greater economic problems. Similarly, the Arab Spring Revolutions happened, because Middle Eastern governments suppressed their Peoples instead of addressing their legitimate grievances. While the West was complacent in the abuse of Middle Easterners then, Europe is now closing its borders to refugees, because it seeks to disengage from the problems that originate in the Middle East.
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