September 17, 2015

Refugee crisis

Aerial View of the Za'atri Refugee Camp (Wikipedia)
By Hendrik van der Breggen
The Carillon, September 17, 2015

Refugee crisis

As a result of the sad and horrific photo of a drowned three-year-old boy washed up on a Mediterranean beach, many Canadians have become deeply aware of the refugee crisis caused by ISIS and Co.

In response, our political leaders are calling for greater efforts in accepting refugees and providing humanitarian aid. I applaud this.

And I applaud Prime Minister Stephen Harper's response to the problem: we will accept more refugees, provide more humanitarian aid, and provide military aid—i.e., we will help the victims and stop those who victimize.

In other words, the wise and just use of force is needed along with our aid. It's comparable to sending paramedics and police to help out at a school shooting rampage, not just paramedics.

PM Harper explains further: "Resettlement [of refugees] is obviously part of our plan, as it is with many other countries…. But the scale of the humanitarian crisis in Iraq and Syria cannot be solved—cannot even become close to being solved—by refugee policy alone. We must stop ISIS."

Harper adds: "We can accept thousands or tens of thousands, and maybe all the countries in the world together [can accept] hundreds of thousands of refugees. But ISIS left to its own devices will create millions—tens of millions—of refugees and victims on a monthly basis. That's why the international community intervened…. We were witnessing mass slaughter at an alarming, lightning pace that was sweeping across the region."

Harper continues: "[F]or Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Mulcair to say things like 'Well, we shouldn't be participating militarily, we should just be doing humanitarian assistance,' let me quote what the representatives of Diaspora groups in Canada [i.e., citizens forcibly dispersed from their homeland] said about that policy: 'If your policy is humanitarian assistance without military support, all you're doing is dropping aid on dead people.'"

I agree with Harper: "That's not acceptable. We're a country that can contribute militarily and in a humanitarian sense, and we are doing both."

Of course, there are complexities. We must address questions concerning Middle East politics and our "end game."

Nevertheless, I think our Prime Minister is on track with Canada's military engagement (along with refugee and humanitarian aid). Why? Because the longer we hesitate, the more ISIS rapes, enslaves, and murders multitudes, and the longer we hesitate, the more ISIS gains strength.

I see the situation as similar to pre-World War II, where there were military forces (Germany and Japan) whose ideologies pushed them to conquer and enslave the world. The more that the Allies hesitated back then, the more powerful the forces bent on conquering the world became. And the tougher it became to stop them.

ISIS is a force bent on conquering the world. ISIS is growing in the havoc it wreaks, and ISIS is growing in strength—and boldness. I am concerned that nuclear weapons will soon fall into the hands of ISIS.

I appreciate Canada's (generally) good reputation in helping refugees. If our government can help more refugees—and do so more quickly—that would be better, though we must be cautious not to import terrorists, and we should make efforts to help the most vulnerable (such as persecuted Yazidis and Christians). Moreover, I think that churches, temples, mosques, community groups, and individuals should pitch in.

But military action is also needed to stop innocents from being raped, enslaved, and murdered so there needn't be refugees in the first place.

Significantly, PM Harper reports the plea of the patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church: they don't want to have to become refugees.

Thus, along with accepting refugees and sending humanitarian aid (more and faster is better on both counts), wise military action is also needed. Wise military action is needed to stop the ongoing rapes, enslavements, and murders by ISIS and Company—as the wise lethal force of a police officer is needed to stop a killer on a shooting rampage.

(Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, teaches philosophy at Providence University CollegeThe views in this column do not always reflect the views of Providence.)

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