Syria is our modern day Manchuria. Confidence in the League of Nations’ capability on resolving international disputes was destroyed when the League stood silently and watched a ruthless Japan invade Manchuria, and later China in July 1937. The League’s response was one of fear, owing to the possibility of causing another war. Instead of adhering to the rules of the organisation of supporting any member state invaded by another, Britain and France instead sent a delegation led by Lord Lytton to write a report. As with all modern-day reports it was scathing of the opponent (Japan) but led to no action. This problem for the League wasn’t an aberration. It similarly watched Italy invade Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and did nothing to help a weak army of tribesmen without weapons, against a strong nihilistic fascist machine led by Mussolini.
‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it’, George Santayana. Is the EU then in danger of repeating history? Without sounding too sensational, I’m afraid so … . The European community and equally NATO (although Ukraine wasn’t a member of the group in 2014 ) failed to respond to the crisis in Ukraine. We allowed a larger state to invade and take control of Crimea. It all sounds too familiar. Instead of helping we imposed economic sanctions. Did they work? Not really, but the future may tell us otherwise. Presently, there is a risk that Russia may want to push further in expanding its boundaries (something Putin could do if he begins losing support — creating crises and then resolving them, is how he stays in power; having the advantage, unlike the rest of Europe, of a state-controlled press). Sometimes it’s best to react early to prevent a crisis spiralling out of control. The League of Nations probably wished they had done more than merely impose weak economic sanctions that didn’t even target vital trade areas of the national economy, such as oil.
As much as I hate to say it, the thousands of deaths as a result of the refugee crisis, is a perfect political opportunity for the EU to stand strong and be seen as an organization for creating peace.
The League was given a second chance after Abyssinia; now, we have ours, and we need to take it.
An Aid and Humanitarian conference may sound good for the news but it’s not what will solve the atrocities taking place in Syria and Iraq. The only way of stopping the refugee crisis is by stopping it at its source. Instead however, because of a lack of intervention from Europe and the US, a void has been left for Russia to fill. Obama has allowed America to lose its position as the policeman of the world. Russia is the new Watchman. Do we want an anti-democratic, homophobic state policing our international security?
The next year is crucial. We can’t rely on the USA — Obama will step down as president and has no intention of going to war. An outgoing government isn’t in a position to enforce a stronger foreign policy that the America of old may have imposed.
This leaves Europe as the main political actor. President Assad, with the backing of Russia, has promised to take back all of Syria — a strong possibility with Western-backed rebels faltering on the ground. The result will be more refugees .
Europe can’t just build a fence and hide behind it. These people need our help, they are our neighbours in need. The EU must build refugee towns and villages on the border of Syria in a buffer zone. Instead of young Syrians being raised to see the EU as the neighbour who didn’t help (an attitude that runs the risk of leading to Islamic radicalisation), we need them to start seeing us as the loving, caring neighbour who came to their aid and saved their future. Let’s not ignore this crisis, after all, do we want history to repeat itself?
The EU needs to stand strong and defend its founding principals of security and international safety. We need to have a bigger presence on the international stage and lead a democratic approach to the refugee crisis. Or else, we will see another organization fall in the same way the League of Nations embarrassingly collapsed.