The West has been in denial about Syria in many, many ways since the civil war there kicked off in the spring of 2011. In denial about its reasonable proximity, preferring to think of the conflict as being something happening far away, with no impact on Europe; in denial about the idea that because the West was reticent to intervene, that didn’t mean that it was some sort of isolated arena – but was rather one being intervened in quite heavily already; in denial about the civil war’s ability to drag on and on, thinking it would resolve itself somehow in a couple of years; and in denial about how Russia would use the conflict as a geopolitical chess piece.
Meanwhile, we are in some sort of bizarro universe in which the people who speak loudest about our need to accommodate Syrian refugees are the very same ones who do not want to do anything about what caused there to be refugees in the first place. In other words, the Left wants us to take in migrants while actively wishing us to not actually do anything to stop the conflict that is the root of the migration, not realising that at least the isolationist Right, with its idea to not get involved either way, is at least more logically consistent (if moral bankrupt, at least in my opinion). Again, when it comes to Syria, most western denial.
All this denial has led us to where we are now: the nations of Europe bracing themselves for God knows how many Syrian refugees this summer. It may very well threaten the Schengen Agreement altogether, and I don’t mean temporarily but for all time. How bad could it get? Bad enough that the prime minister is desperate to get the EU referendum out of the way before it’s in full swing. Bad enough that it could lead to a further rise in the far-right across the continent. It would be sad beyond believe if a doubt regarding military interventionism brought down major aspects of the European project (but don’t listen to the doomsayers, or should I say those hopeful Brexiteers who say it will end the EU altogether – it won’t).
The European continent needs to just accept where it is geographically – on the doorstep of Africa and the Middle East, two of the most major sources of migrants in the world – and adjust accordingly. The Syrian civil war may end one day (although don’t count on it being any time soon necessarily), but while that will halt a major source of large scale migration, the issue will still exist. Europe – and I mean Europe, not just the European Union – will need to come up with some real answers to how it deals with this as the 21st century progresses.