The world has been transfixed by the spectacle of hundreds of thousands of Middle Eastern refugees streaming through Greece and Turkey, into Hungary, seeking refuge in Germany, Austria, and Scandinavia. For a time, thousands of them were effectively detained at the Budapest railway station, but the Hungarian authorities relented and let them continue on. Germany has indicated that they are prepared to take one million refugees; Austria has already taken tens of thousands.
Many of the refugees are from Syria. Some may be from other places, and some may even be Islamic terrorists: we can’t really tell, and the refugees themselves know that they can simply ditch whatever identification they may be carrying and tell the authorities whatever they want. But let’s go back to Syria for a moment.
About two years ago, we almost went to war over the Syrian government’s alleged use of chemical weapons. But two years before that, we were pretty much OK with Syria. And then something happened—well before the chemical weapon attack—that turned him into an adversary. And we felt the need to arm the ‘Syrian rebels’ to fight the government, in the process building what we now know as ISIS, a de facto fundamentalist Islamic government in control of big pieces of Iraq and Syria.
Bashar Assad, the Syrian President, is a dictatorial strongman, but he was running a secular, moderate government. When fundamentalist Islamic fighters appeared, proclaiming themselves to be fighting for freedom and democracy, Assad counterattacked. He knew, as we should, that an election with fundamentalist Islamists is like an election with Communists: if they win, it will be the last meaningful election for quite some time.
But we bought the Islamists’ line and supported the ‘Syrian rebels.’ Our leadership was flim-flammed. (Either that, or they actually want the world to be taken over by a new Islamic caliphate. But that’s an issue for another day.)
In writing this post, I dug up a quote from the then-National Security Adviser, Susan Rice in the abortive 2013 runup to war:
…in the first instance, Assad and his backers in Iran and Hezbollah, do not have any interest in seeing this escalate…
And the next day, we came to understand that Assad’s main backer was not Iran or Hezbollah, but Vladimir Putin. Oops.
In the meantime, we have hundreds of thousands of refugees piling into Europe. Many are Christians, and many are Moslems. Remember that fundamentalist Christianity admits that not everyone is a fundamentalist, and indeed that not everyone is Christian. Fundamentalist Islam makes no such concession: anyone who isn’t a true believer is to be forcibly converted, taxed, or killed.
The Germans seem to believe that many of these million refugees can be integrated into the labor force to address chronic labor shortages resulting from, among other things, Germany’s low birth rate. I hope, for their sake, that they’re right.