Saturday, September 12, 2015

This Is What Fuels the Refugee Crisis

Syrian Refugees at Keleti Railway Station in Budapest, Hungary
Photo: Mstyslav Chernov/Wikimedia Commons
The recent mass exodus of refugees from the Middle East and Africa to the West is likely to continue until arms and armies become obsolete.

While some might argue that weapons of destruction don’t kill people—that people who do— there’s no ignoring the fact that life would be much better without them; that diplomacy and dialogue would be encouraged as solutions to differing views; and that Aylan Kurdi, the 3-year-old Syrian boy washed ashore, and others like him would probably still be alive and at home.

ISIS, the Taliban, Boko Haram and oppressive regimes like the Syrian government survive because they are continuously fed a steady diet of weapons made by countries that spend billions of dollars on their own defense industry. Case in point: The US and the former Soviet Union’s military interference in Afghanistan gave birth to the Taliban and a wave of Afghan refugees. Similarly, the power vacuum and sectarian violence created by the fiasco that was the Iraq war yielded ISIS. What’s more, the subsequent flood of displaced Iraqis would never have been if the US hadn’t been looking for an avenue to display and test its new weaponry.

To be sure, Syrian refugees would still be in Syria if Russia, the Gulf countries and the West didn’t exacerbate the civil war by interfering militarily.

Arguably, the last war in recent memory that may have made any sense to the staunchest pacifist was World War II, which historians claim could have been avoided. Since then, wars have been nothing short of senseless, ignoble military campaigns, and a means to satisfy the defense industry’s parasitic existence and insatiable appetite for conflict and death.

I like to think that kings in the Middle Ages exercised more caution and forethought than present-day leaders, as thoughts of losing their best soldiers—or worse, their very own lives in the battlefield—weighted heavily on their minds.

These days, however, presidents heedlessly charge into wars with no long term plan or contingencies to deal with surprises. Modern warfare has made it all too easy to settle old scores and personal vendettas with drones and faceless soldiers, without having to make personal sacrifices.

Perhaps if citizens demanded their president’s physical presence in every war their country wages, and by presence I mean riding a horse, lance in hand, at full speed towards the enemy, then the world would boast less conflicts, as leaders begin to ask themselves if the war is worth their life.

Another way to stop wars from yielding a stream of refugees would be for the UN to designate a mass of land, somewhere in Antarctica, as the world’s battlefield, where belligerents and mercenaries can fight to the death. That way, populations who want no part in the madness can live in peace.

But of course such suggestions are pie in the sky.

The closest thing to solving the refugee crisis would be to force countries that wage war to absorb refugees resulting from the fall-out, and also insist that countries aiding their ‘allies in distress’ through military means open their borders up for refugees.

Such an arrangement would make countries think long and hard about the economic consequences of fueling wars, by having them choose between profiting immensely from weapons sold and dealing with a horde of refugees.