War in Syria. Al-Halbi/APA Images via ZUMA Wire

Who Caused the Refugee Crisis?

As huge numbers of refugees arrive in Europe, those who advocated for regime change in Syria four years ago should reflect seriously on their choice. Instead of criticizing countries like Hungary and Serbia, which played no part in inciting Syria's civil war, the US and France should take more responsibility for helping the refugees.

DENVER – The scenes of desperate refugees making their way through a gauntlet of impediments – including hastily unfurled barbed-wire fences, ill-tempered border guards, and angry residents – have been horrific, reminiscent of Europe’s darkest decades. They are a stark reminder that Europe can never be “whole, free, and at peace” if its neighbors in the Middle East are not. Nonetheless, the widespread condemnation of European countries that have refused to accept refugees is not entirely fair.

Refugees are a natural consequence of war; indeed, there has seldom been a war without civilians trying to flee from its carnage. But what causes the wars? In some cases, demands for regime change. After all, the regimes being overthrown are often brutal, and unlikely to back down without a fight.

Nowhere has this inexorable sequence been more evident than in Syria. President Bashar al-Assad, with his narrow Alawite base, has overseen a brutal dictatorship for years – one that has never given an inch to those demanding democratic reform, nor made any room in the country’s polity for those motivated by a less sectarian conception of government.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.



Register for FREE to access two premium articles per month.