The West’s dominant prescription toward the crisis of war-torn regions and the destabilizing refugee flow that has followed is to have more “regime change,” particularly in Syria. But the reality is that the West’s fondness for violent “regime change” is the core reason for the refugees, says James Paul.
By James Paul
The huge flow of refugees into Europe has created a political crisis in the European Union, especially in Germany, where neo-Nazi thugs battle police almost daily and fire-bombings of refugee housing have alarmed the political establishment. There is also the wider crisis in the EU over which countries will take in refuges and how many.
The public has been horrified by refugee drownings in the Mediterranean, deaths in trucks and railway tunnels, thousands of children and families, caught in the open, facing border fences and violence from security forces. Religious leaders call for tolerance, while EU politicians wring their hands and wonder how they can solve the issue with new rules and more money.
Meanwhile, the refugee flow has been increasing rapidly, with no end in sight. The German government has estimated that it will take in 800,000 asylum-seekers during 2015. The overall flow into Europe for the year will probably be well above a million. Germany and Sweden are the main destinations.
Fences cannot contain the desperate multitudes. A few billion euros in economic assistance to the countries of origin, recently proposed by the Germans, are unlikely to buy away the problem. Only a clear understanding of the origins of the crisis can lead to an answer, but European leaders do not want to touch this hot wire and expose their own culpability. In the U.S., there is little sensible analysis either.
The migrants coming to Europe are mostly fleeing conflicts. The data on origins make that clear. The migrants are coming primarily from Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq and Pakistan in the Middle East, and to a lesser extent from Eritrea, Somalia and Nigeria in Africa. These are all countries with vicious conflicts conflicts that (with the exception of Nigeria) began with Western military intervention, direct or indirect and continued to be fueled by intervention In Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia the intervention was very direct. In Syria, Pakistan and Eritrea, it has been less direct but very clear nonetheless.
The term “regime change refugees” helps focus on where the primary responsibility lies. It changes an empty conversation in the direction of reality. Official discourse in Europe and the United States frames the civil wars and economic turmoil in terms of fanaticism, corruption, dictatorship, economic failures and other causes for which Western governments and publics believe they have no responsibility.
The Western leaders and media stay silent about the military intervention and regime change, interventions that have torn the refugees’ homelands apart and resulted in civil war, state collapse and extremely violent conditions lasting for long periods.
Some European leaders, the French in particular, are arguing in favor of further military intervention in these war-torn lands on their periphery as a way to “do something” and (ironically) “end the violence.” Overthrowing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appears to be popular among the policy classes in Paris, who choose to ignore how counter-productive their overthrow of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi was just a short time ago and how counter-productive has been their clandestine support in Syria for the Islamist rebels.
The intensive Western bombing campaign in Syria (now joined by France), aimed in theory at the forces of the Islamic State, are killing many civilians and further destabilizing the war-ravaged country.
The aggressive nationalist beast in the heart of the political class of Europe and the United States is ready to engage in more military adventures. These leaders are not ready to learn the lesson, or to beware the “blowback” from future interventions. This is why we need to look closely at the “regime change” angle, to beware upcoming proposals for more intervention, and to increase public resistance to further war. It is clear enough that the crisis of migration and war has been “Made in Europe” and “Made in USA.”
Author of Syria Unmasked, James Paul was executive director of Global Policy Forum, a think tank that monitors the UN.