Friday, September 4, 2015

Harsh Payback

The image of a Syrian toddler washing up, drowned, on the shores of a Turkish beach as a result of a failed attempt by his parents to smuggle the family to Greece and further on to Canada, fleeing from the devastating pincer of ISIS and Syrian President Bashar al-Asad's relentless strikes, has brought into sharp focus the world's worst refugee crisis since the Jews fleeing from Hitler, or Indians migrating during Partition. The tale of over 15 million refugees desperately seeking to leave that part of the world cannot but bring into question the entire post-World War II world order.

On one side, the United Nations has proved to be an utter failure. While it has prevented war between rich and powerful countries (although that is more on account of nuclear weapons than successful diplomacy), it has done nothing beyond freezing the post-1945 global hegemony, with smaller, non-nuclear states constantly fighting among themselves. There has never been a barbaric killing machine as potent and powerful as ISIS since Nazi Germany, not even the brutal Kim dictatorship in North Korea, or Pol Pot in Cambodia, or perhaps Zia ul-Haq in Pakistan, and yet in each of those cases the UN has watched on without lifting a finger. The Syrian crisis, festering for years now, is just one more nail in the UN's coffin.

The majority of blame for this situation lies with NATO and their covert support to the so-called Free Syrian Army during the 'Arab Spring,' with particular blame on Turkey for hosting a secret base from where the FSA received support. Most of the members of the FSA are now allied with ISIS, which is at war with the Asad regime. Caught in the crisis are the Syrians who are fleeing the bloodshed. Indeed, President Barack Obama needs to be held responsible for his failed attempt at regime change that has now led to this tragedy. His deals with Iran or Cuba will not bring back either the dead child or his conscience.

And finally, a good share of the blame lies with Syria's Arab neighbors who have decided to sit back and let people die despite having the resources to support them. We have the absurd situation today where Greece, a bankrupt country, is hosting far more refugees than the UAE or Saudi Arabia, two oil-rich Arab states. That is not to say that they are being treated well in Europe - the NYT yesterday reported how Syrian refugees in Hungary are being mistreated by the local police, including with the use of pepper spray on minors - but at least they are away from imminent death.

The Syrian crisis is a test for the post-World War II order that the world has stood on for 70 years now. And the sight of a dead child on a beach is a sign of failure. 

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