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Syria: The Definition of Insanity

by John Brian Shannon | September 26, 2015

The world witnesses the underwhelming response to the worst humanitarian crisis since WWII.

The United Nations calls the Syrian crisis the worst humanitarian crisis in a quarter of a century, with half of Syria’s population displaced within Syria or fled to other countries. Some 310,000 innocent civilians have been killed in the crossfire of civil war.

CNN image. The Syrian population and where they are presently located.

CNN image. The Syrian population in 2015.

“The Syrian refugee crisis is the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II. And we think people should know more about it.

Of the 4 million refugees, the vast majority are women and children. And nearly 3 million of those children are out of school with no hope of returning to any formal education.” See: The worst humanitarian crisis since World War II — PBS NewsHour

Since 1999 the socio-political structure in Syria has been deteriorating due to many factors and it has been too convenient for some commentators to blame Bashir Al-Assad the country’s democratically-elected leader for all of Syria’s troubles.

But things are rarely as they seem. This is true for the Middle East and North Africa nations (MENA) but is especially true in the case of Syria

For just one example, more than half of the people who live in the port city of Tartus, Syria are retired Soviet or Russian military people who chose to receive their pensions and live out their lives in warmer climes, as compared to say, Moscow or Siberia. I can’t blame them as it is a beautiful part of the world, full of important historical sites.

Farmlands east of Tartus, Syria.

Farmlands east of Tartus, Syria. Visit this link to see some excellent images of the region.

During the Cold War, thousands of Soviet Navy personnel had occasion to debark their ships while they took on supplies at the Russian Navy facility located just south of Tartus.

Not only that, but Soviet merchant ships unloaded everything from Lada cars to borscht, returning to Russia loaded with produce of every kind, especially figs, dates, olives and wine. The punishment for not returning to their ship on time was to be shot by the Soviets, so every sailor (whether Soviet Navy sailor or Soviet merchant mariner) took pains to return to their ship prior to sailing. Yes, really.

Soviet Naval Facility near Tartus Syria taken from a Turkish F-4 Phantom II in September of 1990.

Image now owned by Google. Soviet Naval Facility near Tartus Syria taken from a Turkish F-4 Phantom II in September of 1990.

Over several decades this fraternization between Soviet/Russian citizens and Syrians turned Tartus into the wedding capital of the eastern Mediterranean with many thousands of marriages between Soviet sailors of every rank and background marrying the beautiful young women of Tartus.

Hamrat Street in Tartus, Syria

Hamrat Street, Tartus, Syria. “Hamrat” by Ahmadac at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by nopira. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

When I visited Tartus in 1989 and again in 1990 as the Cold War was ending, I was struck by the fact that all of the road signs were written in the Syrian, Arabic and Russian languages only.

And similar was true in Syrian government offices where I also noted that everyone chatted easily in the Syrian and Russian languages — as I waited over an hour for an English-speaking government employee to arrive from a nearby town so that I could have my passport returned to me. Holding passports until the last day of a person’s visit was standard practice during the Cold War, as was the requirement for government officials to phone the local police to verify that no crimes had been committed before handing the passport back. Sorry about that speeding ticket.

Syria has sourced uncountable billions of dollars of Soviet and Russian military aircraft and other military vehicles through Moscow since WWII. Indeed, Syria was one of the first nations outside of the Soviet Union to receive the export version of the MiG-25 fighter/interceptor aircraft, a very advanced jet fighter for the time.

Petroleum trade between the two countries has likewise been brisk.

Suffice to say that the deep links between Syrian citizens and Russians span several decades and I’ve hardly touched on them.

Therefore, it is quite a natural thing that Russia should lend economic, military, and political support to its ally and we should not interfere in that profound and long-term relationship.

What has been tried for the past five years has not worked and will continue to not work

And the proof of that is that fully half of Syria’s population are internally displaced or have fled the country, living as refugees in neighbouring countries like Turkey which is on track to accept over 2 million Syrians in 2015.

In addition to that, some 3 million (non-Syrian) refugees have arrived in Turkey from Iraq and the Arab Spring nations in recent years.

Must see: Al-Jazeera video showing some of the devastation in Homs, Syria

CNN image of Syrian refugees accepted in the region

CNN image. Note: Jordan says it has 1.4 million Syrian refugees within it’s borders, but the UNHCR has documentation on only 630,000 of them.

Jordan says that more than one million Syrian refugees have arrived in 2015, while tiny Lebanon reports that 1-in-4 people within its borders are Syrian refugees.

JORDAN says it has taken in 1.4 million Syrians, although the UNHCR counts 629,266 registered refugees. Jordan prides itself on its hospitality toward these and other refugees, but the high numbers — about 20% of the population, based on government figures — have taxed the small kingdom, already struggling with strained resources such as energy and water.LA Times

Europe opened its doors to 310,000 Syrian refugees in 2015 with Germany taking a huge share of that number, while Sweden offers almost automatic residency and a full social safety net to 80,000+ Syrians per year.

CNN image Syrian refugee destinations

CNN image. “Conflict, persecution and poverty are creating more refugees than the world has seen in decades.” — CNN

I’ll give the last word to the citizens of Iceland (total population 329,100) who went over the heads of their elected leaders with more than 11,000 private citizens offering their homes to Syrian families after Iceland said it would accept only 50 Syrian refugees

Kudos to the citizens of Iceland. Let’s hope this catches on.

Related Articles:

Can we solve global poverty via immigration?

by John Brian Shannon

It’s great to use a visual aid to help understand the scale of a problem, and this video informs us well about trying to solve global poverty via increased immigration!

Also, the information contained in this video is both informative and accurate which is why I urge you to watch all of it. You’ll see another video (below) that will add much context to the overall conversation.

The question never was… ‘Can we solve global poverty by accepting high numbers of immigrants?’

Nobody with any serious education on the subject thinks that we can solve global poverty via accepting large numbers of immigrants. It was never the question, and no political science scholars or economists think in those terms.

1. Poverty is the measure of annual income in the Developed World.

2.Immigration is the measure of the number of people you allow into a country.

See how different those two things are?

The question is… ‘How can we boost the incomes of the world’s poorest so that tens of millions have no need to move to the Developed World as economic immigrants or refugees?’

The difference between Migrant and Refugee

The difference between Migrant and Refugee

And that is what the UN has been working on for the past couple of decades, with some measurable indicators of success via the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (or, MDG’s)

“The Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) are the world’s time-bound and quantified targets for addressing extreme poverty in its many dimensions-income poverty, hunger, disease, lack of adequate shelter, and exclusion-while promoting gender equality, education, and environmental sustainability.” — Read more about the UN Millennium Development Goals here

One important term to remember is Developed World — and the definition is, “countries where most people earn more than $10. per day.”

The other important term to remember is Developing World — and the definition is, “countries where most people earn less than $10. per day.”

Here is the state of the world in the year 2000

  • In the year 2000, there were 6 billion people on the Earth.
  • Out of that 6 billion, only 1 billion earned more than $10. per day.
  • Another 1 billion earned between $1. and $10. per day.
  • The remaining 4 billion existed on less than $1 dollar per day.

Switch to 2015…

  • In the year 2015, there are 7.2 billion people on the Earth.
  • Out of that 7.2 billion, 2 billion earned more than $10. per day.
  • Out of that 7.2 billion, another 3.2 billion earned between $2.50 and $10. per day.
  • The other 2 billion existed on less than $2.50 per day.

In 2015, remember that only 2 billion people live in the Developed World. The other 5.2 billion people live in the Developing World.

And each year, due to the massively good work of the United Nations and organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Clinton Foundation, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, The Kuwait Fund, The Nyota Fund, and many others — people in the Developing World are earning more money and have better education and healthcare.

At present rates of progress, by 2050 there should be nobody left in the ‘less than $10. per day’ category.

But ‘coasting on our to-date-accomplishments in this field’ is a plan that displays an astonishing Lack of Ambition because we could achieve those goals by merely ‘coasting’ on our 1980-2005 poverty eradication efforts!

So the fight is on — about what to do and how much to do. And if we don’t do enough, millions more will die horrible deaths by starvation, a lack of clean water, and a lack of proper sanitation — and the Developed World will face tens of millions of economic immigrants and refugees fleeing war-torn countries for many decades to come. It has the potential to become the ‘new normal’ if it isn’t handled properly on our watch.

The fight isn’t about whether accepting huge numbers of immigrants or refugees into Developed World will solve the problem of global poverty — the fight is about which plan will solve global poverty and raise every single person on the planet to a minimum $10. per day standard.

Here’s an excellent video with answers to many of the common misconceptions that the public and the media have about global poverty, global progress, and those tiny-by-comparison-numbers… the total number of immigrants and refugees accepted into each Developed World nation.

I’m positive that the following information will shock and inform you.

It nicely balances out the first video in this article that tends to get people riled up about immigration, particularly if they’re predisposed to dislike immigrants.

It’s a form of intellectual dishonesty to pretend that global poverty and the resultant refugee crisis can be solved via higher levels of immigration to the Developed World.

The solution, is to create working economies in the Developing World so that tens of millions of economic migrants, or refugees fleeing war-torn nations, have no need to flee to the Developed World in the first place.

Refugees Flooding the EU: Just the Beginning

by John Brian Shannon | June 09, 2015

Q: Why are hundreds of thousands of people fleeing North Africa?
A: Because of the Western inspired, aided, and abetted, Arab Spring (failure)

Hundreds of thousands of economic migrants from North Africa make the perilous Mediterranean crossing to Europe each year, with thousands dying in the process. Image courtesy of historiana eu

Hundreds of thousands of economic migrants from North Africa make the perilous Mediterranean crossing to Europe each year, with thousands dying in the process. Image courtesy of historiana.eu

The ‘Arab Spring’ was supposed to depose dictators or very nominally democratic regimes in North Africa, and replace them with forward-thinking democratic leaders and democratic societies.

Which sounds great on paper doesn’t it? Especially in the proposal stages one could be forgiven for backing such a plan.

Good intentions towards the north African nations simply weren’t followed-up by EU leaders in the aftermath of the Arab Spring — and that is why hundreds of thousands of economic refugees are landing in Europe now.

I’d expect *millions* more, if conditions in the failed Arab Spring nations don’t improve — even though hundreds have died at sea to date — thousands more still make the crossing every day. It says a lot about the living conditions that these people are leaving behind.

Prior to the Arab Spring, relatively small numbers of people risked everything to cross the Mediterranean.

As the West was the main cheerleader lending military aid and action against north African dictators, and lent moral and financial support to promote overthrowing north African dictators — the West bears responsibility for the situation which is now playing out.

Some call it an *unfolding crisis* and one that looks likely to get much worse every decade. While others call it *poetic justice* the sort that mediocre post-Arab Spring policy is responsible for.

Instead of the EU devising policies to deal with the ever-growing symptoms, it’s time to quickly transform EU policy in the region to a proactive one where there is no need for millions of north Africans to leave their countries for the EU.

See: A Lifeline for European Solidarity (Project Syndicate)

If you don’t think *millions* of people might migrate to the EU as economic refugees, take a look at Egypt’s present population (84 million) which is about the same as Germany’s present population at 82 million.

But in 2050 the population of Egypt will be 121 million people, while Germany’s population in 2050 will be 72 million.

If bad economic conditions in the former Arab Spring nations don’t soon improve, it won’t only be millions of Egyptians flooding the EU, it will also be millions of other north Africans too!

It’s time to take a serious look at creating stable and nominally democratic governments in north Africa (and that’s only half of the equation, obviously) combined with huge employment growth in a region where youth unemployment surpasses 50 percent.

Breeding grounds for future terrorists, much?

Something that could be done quickly but isn’t being done to solve several growing problems at once — is to install millions of solar panels and tens of thousands of wind turbines in the north African nations to power southern Europe.

We have the technology to run undersea power cables (this is done in many regions in the world) and solar and wind power is now at parity with fossil fuel power generation (assuming the subsidy levels are the same)

Creating hundreds of projects across the Arab Spring countries would stimulate those economies, lower youth unemployment, lower the lure of extremist ideology for poor and unemployed youth in that region, and work to reduce migration to the EU from north African nations.

Perhaps by orders of magnitude.

Trying to design policy to deal with ever-growing symptoms is a fool’s errand, while designing policy to solve many of the underlying north African and related EU problems is the obvious path.