Europe's refugee crisis explained: Syria's chemical attacks, the Iraq war and why we've reached a tipping point

Bernard Jenkin
We are seeing the consequences of collapse of a coherent strategy to tackle instability (Source: Getty)

Parliament returned this week. The government suffered its first defeat to a cross-party consensus which is insisting on fair rules for the European Union referendum, but this is not the big news.

The migration crisis dominates, but the reasons for this crisis raise massive and existential questions for our country, for Europe and for global peace and security.

On the issue itself, the Prime Minister is right to insist we take more refugees from the camps on humanitarian grounds.

It is fair enough for the Prime Minister to blame Bashar Al-Assad and ISIL for this crisis. But we have allowed the fundamental problems to escalate.

We are seeing the consequences of a complete collapse of any semblance of a coherent EU, Nato or Western strategy to tackle instability and conflict in the Middle East.

We are reaping the reward of poor post-invasion planning in Iraq followed by premature withdrawal.

If we had stuck to the task, ISIL would not be in Iraq now. The war in Afghanistan was based on a military campaign without a political strategy.

Read more: Syria hits out at British "interference" in its affairs

This served only to reinforce a jihadist narrative that the West interferes, destroys, and then leaves.
We are paying the price of humanitarian intervention in Libya, again carried out without a supporting political and diplomatic plan to deal with the consequences of what we did there.

When two years ago, we were offered the possibility of missile strikes in Syria on humanitarian grounds, to protect the civilian population from Bashir Al-Assad’s chemical attacks, I voted for it, yet it was little wonder the voices saying “it’s nothing to do with us” won the day.

But our neglect of Syria’s war is now blowing back on Iraq, on Turkey, and into the EU and on to our own streets.

The Prime Minister promised a “full spectrum response” to ISIL in the summer. Where is it? Look at the mess.

Nobody expects the EU to be capable of producing such a strategy. Germany does not have the mindset to integrate their military capability with their diplomatic and economic clout, and in any case, their military is far too small.

Read more: Britain will take up to 20,000 Syrian refugees in the next five years

No other EU country has the intelligence capability or political culture to make them true global powers, except France, our best EU security ally, but France is wracked by their own economic and political problems.
And where is the United States? We have the most globally absent US President since before the Second World War.

The Prime Minister is right in his ambition. There can be no opting out of our global security role. But he should set out a “full spectrum response” to the global crisis in a new White Paper as a prospectus to take to the EU, to NATO, particularly to the US, and to our other ‘five eyes’ allies (Canada, Australia and New Zealand).

We need a comprehensive plan to defeat ISIL and to restore peace in the Middle East and we should be persuading others to join such a plan.

We cannot expect other Arab nations to lend a hand unless the West provides a coherent lead. And just hoping other countries will do this without us has now proved beyond doubt to be dangerously naïve.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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