The real reason why we ought to help Syrian refugees, whether by welcoming them here in the West (especially in the US) or by pressuring Arab Gulf countries to accept them, is that we are responsible for most of their sorrow. The Syrian crisis is mainly a story of our own refusal to allow a Third World country (especially a Muslim-majority country) to be truly free.
We (American policy makers and the Obama Administration) saw how the Syrian revolution started. We knew it began peacefully. We knew it was about freedom, democracy, and the rule of law. Yet, as we always do, we panicked. We panicked at the prospect of an independent government in the Third World that might adopt a system that may not be perfectly in line with our interests. In case you don’t know, maintaining dictatorships in Third World countries has been prototypical US foreign policy for almost a century. And the thought of a potentially Islamically-inclined government in Syria bordering Israel was just too risky for us, even if that’s what the Syrian people wanted.
Here’s our thought process in a nutshell when it comes to dealing with people in the Middle East: “We give these people democracy and they will vote for Islamists. We can’t have that”. This “can’t have that” mentality will prove to be the deadliest mindbug in human history. We are willing to go to amazing lengths of war, tragedy, creating enemies, and perpetual destruction just because we will not entertain the thought of having mature, diplomatic relations with people of different philisophies.
Subsequently, we consciously and calculatedly chose to stand back and watch as Assad butchered his people mercilessly. We knew all about his henchmen’s massacres, about the barrel bombs and the chemical weapons. We knew about the systematic rape and the mass kidnappings. We knew about the children chopped with machetes and the prisoners starved to death. We knew about the thousands of deaths. But to us, risking a new Syrian government that is truly independent and chosen by its people was not worth ending the carnage. We are hopelessly unable to learn from our foreign policy mistakes.
Then we watched as the rebels became more and more radicalized and we made that into a reverse-style excuse for not helping the revolution, even though this radicalization could have been thwarted had we supported the revolt earlier. When we finally decided to offer some help after realizing the mess we helped create, we repeatedly tried to coerce the rebels into working strictly on our agenda, pitting the rebel factions against one another in the process and weakening the revolution, thereby extending the carnage and prolonging the conflict.
Then we watched as ISIS took over many areas in Syria and declared itself the enemy of all other rebel factions. We let that happen. We stood back and allowed ISIS to weaken the revolution and enhance Assad’s stance and we were perfectly content watching the continuing onslaught so long as there was no decisive end to the war and all parties remained in a stalemate.
We also watched as Iran and Hizbollah aided Assad’s forces and infiltrated Syria. We even forged a treaty with Iran to help ease sanctions instead of focusing on stopping Iran’s support for Assad. Our drones targeted everyone except Assad’s strongholds.
Then we let Russia blatantly send troops and jet fighters to bomb all rebel-controlled civilian areas, whether under ISIS or other factions, essentially and intentionally bolstering Assad in the process.
We’re good with all of that. In fact, we’d rather watch the world burn many times over than allow a Third World country be free and act according to its own interests. Similarly, we were perfectly fine watching Egypt’s coup leader Sisi kill thousands of democracy-demanding protesters in cold blood in the wake of his coup against democratically elected Morsi.
We acted according to our interests because we can do so, albeit in a very shortsighted manner. But for the mayhem that we continue to let happen in Syria, the least we can do is help Syrian refugees, the vast majority of whom are not fleeing the brutality of rebel factions, but that of Assad-Iran-Russia – the brutality we evidently approve through our inaction.