Besides the Canadian election campaign (and we won’t tell you how to vote), the main two issues of the day are (a) the refugee crisis, with hordes of Syrian, Middle Eastern, and African people streaming into a stunned Europe, and (b) the imminent conversation between Presidents Obama and Putin about whether and how to cooperate with Assad to defeat ISIS. Both are problems from hell.
Many right-wingers everywhere oppose taking refugees into their country, noting that the huge numbers of arriving refugees are only a tiny fraction of the total number needing help. This hard-hearted exclusion is unacceptable, but part of the argument is incontestable. Even if Canada were to accept 100,000 Syrians this year (which only a few political candidates are proposing to do) that would still be a drop in the bucket compared to the number in the overstretched Middle Eastern countries, as well as those remaining stranded homeless in their own countries.
Canadians who are rationally committed to saving as many lives as possible must give more attention to alleviating the “push” factors. Obviously, ending the war is the real solution, but nobody knows how to do so. Sending more weapons just creates more misery. Mary Kaldor, in her interview in this issue, proposes that the UN create safe zones in Syria and protect them with defensive forces. But that means really defensive military protection—not attacking or retaliating against Assad’s government troops or jihadi militias. Just put peacekeepers up around the enclaves and make it safe for people to stay there. Perhaps this could be augmented with a no-fly zone over the district too. This would not be easy, but in comparison it would be both more feasible and more economical than taking in even a much smaller number of migrants and refugees.
Meanwhile Obama has found that his acquiescing to pressure from American hawks has brought failure. The US had an expensive program to train local fighters to oppose ISIS, but there are only four of five of them now in the field. ISIS is winning. Only cooperation with the Russians, the Iranians, and Assad’s forces shows any military promise. Obama will probably hold his nose and adopt this policy. We shall find out soon—perhaps even before this issue of Peace arrives in your mailbox.