If Syrians had managed to keep the killings and the population movements an exclusively domestic affair, then the so-called international community would have stuck with the role of the neutral observer. However, borders proved to be nothing more than an insignificant line. For no wall or fence can stop a human mass that is determined to leave.
As a result, people who were bombed by enemies as well as “friends” – whether these be troops fighting on the side of President Bashar al-Assad or forces fighting against him – people persecuted by the neofascist Islamic State (ISIS), and victims of chemical warfare first crossed into Turkey before trying to set foot in Greece. The end destination was one of the wealthy, and apparently more open and tolerant, states of Northern Europe.
It was at that point that the international community decided to respond to the crisis. It was at that point that the Syrian issue turned from an exclusively Middle Eastern affair (a region where the big powers could throw their weight around at a relatively small cost) into a European and, by extension, American issue.
Syrians are not fleeing their country out of cowardice, as some bigoted or trigger-happy Europeans naively claim. Turning your back on the barbarity of war (a war that many Westerners as outsiders have supported in one way or another) is not a sign of cowardice. You have witnessed a brutal war centered around domination at all cost – even if in the end there may be little left to dominate. You are not a coward for wanting to escape the country in order to save your helpless people, especially when this is no longer possible at home, because the five-year conflict has swept away all forms of protection previously served by status, such as being a civilian, woman or child, or being inside a building such as a hospital, church, mosque or school.
The sight of the thousands fleeing to Europe has exposed the European Union to be no better prepared, organized or coordinated than Greece. The EU’s plans to deal with the refugee crisis (proportional relocation of refugees starting later this year or early 2016) are plagued by many of the problems typically associated with the Greek way of doing things.
It was to be expected that the two states which played a role in creating the Syrian crisis – the United States and Russia – rushed to portray themselves as part of the solution. Not without some kind of reward, of course. Russia will use it as a bargaining chip for Ukraine, while Washington seems to have broader, more complex aspirations.
Let’s hope that some deal will be reached. Not to spare Greece, Hungary and Germany the refugee flows, but rather so Syrians can live safely at home and rebuild their lives, without relying on outside “help.”