Yaroslav Trofimov reports: The Syrian refugee crisis overwhelming Europe has shattered the illusion, often used to justify inaction, that in the modern world there is such a thing as a distant war in a faraway land.
Over the past four years, 250,000 Syrians have died, most of them killed by the Assad regime against which the West has refused to intervene. More than half of the population has been forced to flee their homes, with four million refugees pouring first into neighboring Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan — and now many of them to Europe.
As Europe’s frontiers have collapsed, millions more are likely to follow suit, overland or by sea. This has already turned Syria from a thorny foreign-policy issue into a full-blown domestic emergency that threatens the cohesion and social peace of the European Union and lays bare the costs of the West’s policy of nonintervention against the regime.
“The Syria conflict is a lot closer to Europe than the U.S. — and the interest in solving it should have been regarded as a vital one at least here in Europe,” said Guido Steinberg, an expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs and the German federal government’s former adviser on international terrorism.
“But the Europeans really have no clue how to deal with a major regional crisis in the Middle East. We needed the U.S. — but the U.S. wasn’t there.” [Continue reading…]