Refugee Crisis Isn't Just About Aleppo, or Even Syria for that Matter

Lazy metonym that provides convenient framing.


Christiaan Triebert

Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson finally got his viral moment. Unfortunately for him, it was a gaffe. Asked on Morning Joe what he would, if he were elected, "about Aleppo," Johnson asked what "an Aleppo" was. The interviewer explained that Aleppo was the "epicenter of the refugee crisis."

Not quite.

Had the interviewer, Mike Barnicle, called Aleppo the "epicenter of the Syrian refugee crisis," he would be less incorrect, but still incorrect. Aleppo may have since the start of the Syrian civil war become the most well-known Syrian city in the U.S. outside of the Syrian capital of Damascus (The New York Times, in reporting on Johnson's flub, even incorrectly identified Aleppo as the capital of Syria) and may be the site of some of the most intense fighting, but the crisis in Syria involves the entire country. Aleppo is a major city which has seen fighting between government forces and various anti-government forces ranging from the so-called moderate and U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army to the Islamic State (ISIS). But ISIS controls large swaths of Syrian territory and government forces are engaged in fights around the country.

Because of the prominence of the Syrian civil war in international news, Syrian refugees are the most identifiable refugees today. But the refugee crisis is not fueled exclusively, or even primarily, by Syrian refugees. For example, in 2015, while more refugees in Europe came from Syria than anywhere else, they made up less than half of the refugee total. The second and third most common place of origin for refugees in Europe applying for asylum for the first time in 2015 were Afghanistan and Iraq. That fact suggests the reason why so many Western observers, and especially American "thought leaders", prefer to talk about a Syrian refugee crisis than a wider regional refugee crisis—U.S. involvement in Syria, such as it is, is far less obvious and intense than U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq was and continues to be.

Before President Obama committed in the last year to accepting 10,000 of the 4 million refugees produced by the Syrian conflict, the U.S. spent the first several years of the Syrian civil war accepting virtually no refugees from Syria out of the about 60,000 to 80,000 or so refugees accepted into the U.S. each year. In fiscal year 2014, for example, the U.S. accepted 105 Syrian refugees, and in fiscal year 2015, the first year in which Syrian refugees became a prominent enough issue on the political stage to yield some kind of action, 1,682. Neither did the general flow of refugees become a contentious issue until the last year. The U.S. has been accepting tens of thousands of Muslim refugees, largely from countries in which U.S. intervention has helped create an environment where terrorism thrives. In fiscal year 2015, the U.S. accepted 12,676 refugees from Iraq, and 8,858 from Somalia. The only country from which more refugees came was Burma.

It's more convenient for the foreign policy establishment and its apologists to talk about the Syrian refugee crisis, because it's easier to imply (however incorrectly) that it is the result of U.S. inaction. The large numbers of refugees from countries the U.S. has helped destabilize make those kinds of implications, and the case in favor of even more U.S. intervention, harder to make.

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  1. OT: Be sure to share this with your prog friends that are sure single payer is the way to go.

    Bonus points for inefficient government bureaucracies in general.

    1. Well, the people over there are using it to argue they just need more government. The problem is those damn budget cuts.

      1. “I’m sorry I slapped you around, Jenny. It’s just all this damn austerity!”

    2. I don’t know why so many people are so keen on single payer. It’s probably the worst of the universal healthcare options. I suspect it’s because most don’t know that there is anything other than single payer and whatever the hell it is we have (or had pre-Obamacare).

      1. Because it can run at a perpetual loss and no one will care.

    3. I lived in London. Technically it is not single payor in the UK. There is the National Health Service and there are also private doctors and clinics.

      What I found was that for run of the mill stuff (vaccinations, physicals for school) the NHS was great. I am told for life threatening stuff if is great too (a friend’s wife had a horrible muscular disease that would have killed her, the NHS took great care of her).

      For the stuff in the middle though it was bad. My wife has a family history of breast cancer and was told to get annual mammograms. The NHS would only give them to her every two years. A co-worker broke her collar bone skiing in Switzerland. The NHS put her on a 6 week (IIRC) waiting list for an X-Ray though the doctor wanted to remove the sling and warps in 4 weeks but he needed an X-ray first. (We got private health insurance at work — when I asked why she did not go to a private clinic for the X-ray she got all indignant with me that unlike Americans she was proud of their nationalized health system even though it meant she had to wait longer to get the wraps off).

      For all that when my son broke his leg skiing, when we got off the plane we went straight to the local private clinic, I was not even willing to try the NHS.

      1. I wouldn’t trust them even for the life threatening stuff.

        [Consider the] sad case of British Corporal Matthew Millington of the Queen’s Royal Lancers who died at the age of 31 from lung cancer, after receiving … the cancerous lungs of a smoker who averaged 30 ? 50 cigarettes a day.

        Why would a hospital implant the lungs of a person who smokes so many cigarettes a day into a patient? Was it the result of an inexperienced surgical team making a ghastly mistake? No. The surgery was performed by Papworth Hospital in England, which is the main transplant hospital in the United Kingdom, whose spokesmen claim that in fact everything was done properly!

        [Unfortunately] for Corporal Millington, he wasn’t the customer of Papworth. Rather, some officials of the NHS were. The desire of the actual customers (NHS) were to keep costs down by a) cutting corners on the type of lungs transplanted into patients, b) concerning themselves with patient outcomes in the aggregate, and reducing seemingly unnecessary, redundant duplication of services by centralizing transplants as much as possible.

        Thus they faced no economic loss for allowing him to die of cancer. There was no profit to saving him; in fact, saving him would have been an expense. They didn’t have to cooperate with Corporal Millington and so they didn’t.

              1. +1 roadtrip

  2. Coincidentally, ALE PPO is actually my medical insurance provider.

    1. Agent Gibbs does not believe in coincidences.

  3. Gary Johnson, am I right? Geez, everyone knows Aleppo is the old man who carved Pinocchio.

    1. I thought it was some sort of olive based spread for sandwiches and whatnot.

      1. That’s the one I want.

    2. I thought it was a key battle in WW II.

    3. Aussie slur against lepers.

    4. I thought it was dog food.

      Seriously, the POTUS candidate not giving much of a shit about a foreign city is a good thing IMO. Americans that ARE preoccupied with a foreign city are the scary ones.

    5. I thought it was an anti-depressant.

  4. We got somethin’, we both know it, we don’t talk too much about it
    Ain’t no real big secret, all the same, somehow we get around it
    Listen, it don’t really matter to me baby
    You believe what you want to believe, you see
    You don’t have to live like a refugee

  5. The New York Times, in reporting on Johnson’s flub, even incorrectly identified Aleppo as the capital of Syria….

    Pointing those style of things out is one of the simple pleasures of life. Enjoy it, Ed. Savor it.

    1. No one cares because a) Gary who? and b) Did you hear about that thing that Trump said? and c) nothing to see here, move along.

  6. Surely, the French and Germans have plenty of space for all these refugees? Why haven’t they opened their borders for these poor people.

    1. The Gulf oil states have the wealth and room to put up those refugees.

      1. Since the gulf states are allied with the guys trying to kill the refugees, I’m not sure what your point is.

        It’s like saying the Russians had the wealth and room to put up the ethnic Germans fleeing Poland.

      2. Poppikosh. Europe needs to allow all of Syria to move in. Then all the Syrians will become Europeans, their conflicts will be a thing of the past, their wonderful culture will be shared with the primitive Europeans and the Europeans will see their quality of life and GDP explode. Win-win.

  7. Mike Barnicle is a fucking retard.

    1. But he carried water for the Kennedy’s, Bulgers, and Tip O’Neil to fifty years of relevancy.

  8. if we move Syrianss they are evacuees.

    if they come to us to to be evacuated, they are refugees.

    So really, this is an evacuee crisis since they’re not coming to us to be evacuated.

  9. Lepo Lepo, the song disappointarians will be singing at the next World Cup.

  10. I was at the Raging Water amusement park about this time last year with my wife and son. There was an ME mom in a tent with 5 kids in tow. She and her litter were in line with us for a slide ride. She has no control over her kids. Holy dogshit, mrs. widget and some other moms had to corral the kids while the tent stood still. Datum, not data, but it adds up, not down.

    1. There was an ME mom in a tent

      Did she rent a cabana or was she wearing a personalized one? You’re gonna have to be more specific.

      Also, bonus points if her husband was wearing shorts, a tshirt and flip flops so he could be comfortable.

      1. Did she rent a cabana or was she wearing a personalized one?

        Yes, they do rent cabanas at Raging Water for about $40/hr. She was wearing one.

    2. She has no control over her kids.

      Doesn’t sound that different from most American mothers I’ve seen. See? Assimilation.

      1. You don’t get out much.

  11. Well at least he didn’t confuse it with Alpo, the dog food.
    Though that might be what the Libertarian Party Presidential campaign is after today.

  12. Why are there more refugees in the last 2,3 years than let’s say, 2005, when fighting in Iraq was much more active?

    A lot of these “refugees” were to be economic migrants.The media hyped how most of them were middle class, educated masses who could find jobs in their host nation. A few of them went back home when the food and living arrangements were to their liking.

    They have reasons to fear violence and poverty back home and we certainly had a hand in that, but some of the hardship is their own making. We didn’t occupy Libya, Egypt or Syria. The Egyptian president was a nominal US ally and was relatively moderate. They overthrew their government and provided a hand. Now there’s more chaos.

    The middle east is a police state and a theocracy. The radicals among them brought war to our back yard. Even without outright intervention, air strikes, sanctions, and isolation would have rot their society.

    There was a coup attempt in Turkey like only a month ago. That country was THIS close to prolonged civil war. And then we have a another refugee crisis on our hands.

  13. Oh, so now we all know those weren’t all “Syrian” refugees. Huh.

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