The numbers are almost unfathomable. What does more than 11 million people look like? It looks like the entire population of Ohio. It looks like Boston, Detroit, Milwaukee, New York City, and Washington, D.C., rolled into one. In relative terms, Syria's 11 million refugees and IDPs are the equivalent of 155 million Americans fleeing death and chaos, more than half of them children.
Of the the four million or so who have escaped Syria, about 50 percent are being hosted by Turkey. Jordan has taken in 630,000, which, given that country's population of six million, means one out of every 13 people in Jordan today is actually Syrian. Lebanon has absorbed 1.7 million refugees — a number that translates to about one out of five people currently in Lebanon.
To repeat: This has been going on for four years. More than four years, actually, as it all began when Assad turned his armed forces on peaceful protesters in March 2011. Remember the heady days of the Arab Spring, when news out of the Middle East was actually inspiring? The current Syrian horror show is a big chunk of what happened when the news stopped being so inspiring. When the Syrian "Spring" became all-out war and it got so complicated that seemingly no one knew what to do, so most of the West stopped paying attention and an entire nation imploded.
During all that time, the U.S. has taken in 1,434 Syrian refugees; the U.K. a total of 216; and the fabulously wealthy Gulf states have sheltered none.
And here, President Obama is not alone. It's not just his Katrina, but Europe's Katrina and the Gulf States's Katrina as well, Canada and the UK, Germany and Saudi Arabia. It's Katrina for dozens of world leaders, of which President Obama is one. He didn't cause this mess, that's all Bashar Al-Assad's fault.
But the response has been an utter, shameful failure on our part, and the failure has been absolute. Half the population of Syria has fled. Half.
We screwed up on Syria, big time. As much as this administration has done wonders for America and the world, this is the one subject on which I believe the Obama administration has been totally incompetent to the point of near criminal negligence. Several other world leaders, from Angela Merkel to King Salman to Stephen Harper and more deserve the blame, and at the top of the list of Bashar Al-Assad. He is the monster who caused this mess.
And whether or not we should have invaded Syria and deposed Assad is a moot point, we chose not to do that...but we also chose to do nothing as 5 million people lost their homes. And yeah, times were tough here and we still have our own millions of homeless, but at least here they have some support mechanism which Obama has fought for keeping and improving, unlike the GOP.
It's not going to be a popular sentiment around here, but our response to Syria has been complete indifference and as Emily says, shameful. It is the world's Katrina. And we're going to have to live with this for a very long time.