Thursday, April 23, 2015

West of Eden: Imagine

Displaced people from the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp queue to receive aid in Syria on 16 April 2015. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images.
In September 2013 I issued a proposal for a nonviolent approach to ending the war in Syria: Just get the civilian population out of danger, massively, four or five million in decent refugee accommodations, and leave the Assad government forces and the Caliphate and the other bad Sunni actors with nobody to bully and exploit and destroy but each other.

This was back when it still seemed possible to many otherwise rational observers (as opposed to Senator McCain and his drooling companions, who still believe or affect to believe) that a "moderate Sunni" military force could play a significant role, when Sunni extremists were dominated by the Qa'eda-affiliated al-Nusra front and the Caliphate was just beginning to be a thing. Now it should be clear to almost everybody not a Republican or a "fighter" with the FSA that that alternative is hopeless.

While it so happens that a similar proposal is circulating for a different objective, solving the Mediterranean refugee crisis, in particular from the UN Special Rapporteur for migrant rights, François Crépeau:
We know a great number of Syrians in particular are going to leave these countries and if we don’t provide any official mechanism for them to do so, they will resort to smugglers. The inaction of Europe is actually what creates the market for smugglers.
We should do for the Syrians what we did 30 years ago for the Indochinese, and that’s a comprehensive plan of action where all global north countries – and that includes Europe, Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand and probably other countries – offer a great number of Syrians an option so that they would line up in Istanbul, Amman and Beirut for a meaningful chance to resettle, instead of paying thousands of euros only to die with their children in the Mediterranean.
He's done some numbers, on a smaller basis than what I had in mind, but more professionally calculated:
We could collectively offer to resettle one million Syrians over the next five years. For a country like the UK, this would probably be around 14,000 Syrians a year for five years. For Canada, it would mean less than 9,000 a year for five years – a drop in the bucket. For Australia, it would probably be less than 5,000 per year for five years. We can manage that. [US would have to take in quite a few more, like 70,000 a year]....
You could expand that and announce a bigger number for seven years or expand the number of nationalities covered, so include Eritreans, for example, who have been crossing the Mediterranean as well. This is going to be a long-term commitment and we should go at it together. It’s a much better system for everyone – you reduce the number of deaths, you reduce the smuggling business model, and you reduce the cost of asylum claims.
It might not take all the gas out of the civil wars in Syria and Eritrea and Libya, but it wouldn't hurt, and it would save a lot of lives, both from the forces of evil in the home countries and from drowning in the Mediterranean, where the current situation is really intolerable. And it would be a form of reparation for the catastrophes brought on by the Bush-Cheney administration* without more killing.

*And the Obama adminstration too, for Libya at least...

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