After almost four years of civil war in Syria nobody knows the exact death toll. The UN has stopped releasing official figures many months ago, as the sources are hard to identify. Starting with the last available UN figure (250 thousand victims), combined with his personal intuition, Staffan De Mistura, who is striving to save the peace negotiations between Assad’s regime and the rebel forces, has estimated a total of 400 thousand deaths, thereby confirming an estimate circulated in February by sources near the Syrian opposition forces. Past experience shows that often it takes years after the end of the conflict, to establish the exact number of deaths in a civil war. However, if the figures advanced by Mistura prove to be true, the death toll would amount to four times the victims of the war in Bosnia, which in fact were calculated with precision more than ten years after the end of the conflict. There are more certainties on the number of Syrian refugees, which for the time being amount to 4.800.000, one million of whom have requested political asylum in Europe. Also in this case the numbers are four times those of the Bosnian conflict, however,
there is less interest in bringing the war to an end compared to twenty years ago.
Also at the time Europe had been unable to face the situation and stop the conflict during which were committed horrible crimes against humanity, but the public opinion was more aware and more mobilized. There were talks of humanitarian intervention, a solution was loudly requested, and the U2 sang Miss Sarajevo with Luciano Pavarotti.
Nobody has sung today’s tragedy of Aleppo. The EU is unable to develop a common foreign policy also when this lack of vision causes, albeit indirectly, seriously problems that are under everyone’s eyes to see. However, while European government are consistent in their inaction, public opinion fails to demand a solution to the conflict. The world has changed, but such a dramatic change is hard to understand. At the time those who took action did so because nobody imagined that an external intervention, even an armed one, could have repercussions on European land.
Today there exists an ideological architrave promoted on the Internet and on social networks – neither these tools existed twenty years ago – to the extent that a wrong move in Syria could result into an attack against the subway of a European city. That’s why there is a strong tendency to look at one’s own backyard first, proposing the establishment of walls and barriers.However, this transformation, which involves us all, requires facing the root of the problems, with the adoption of long-term policies. Veritable social integration in Europe, along with good foreign policy beyond the Mediterranean, can be implemented only if we don’t turn a blind eye hoping for the tempest to pass. At international level, many fail to see the transformation of the United States, which is ever less inclined to become involved in Middle-Eastern issues, given the US’ decreasing dependence on the Gulf in terms of energy supply, and for having paid a dear price for the mistakes committed in the region over the past fifteen years.
US’ detachment may not be bad news,
considering that the United States’ privileged tool is the use of armed force, which is not very appropriate to solve the lack of legitimate, operative tools plaguing the Middle East. However, this situation demands greater responsibility on the part of Europe, for which the Middle East remains an area of major importance, even for its geographic proximity.
This does not mean undertaking military intervention in place of the United States, although ISIS’ defeat will necessarily entail military confrontation. Indeed, it will take determination and pragmatism at diplomatic level, strongly supporting the Geneva negotiations, holding parallel talks with Russia, Turkey and Iran, involving Washington and –yet again – Moscow, to reach out where Europe fails to arrive, namely Assad and Saudi Arabia. It’s a hard, dirty job, but many mistakes have already been made and war is always an ugly thing, often even when it ends. However, it isn’t an impossible endeavour if at least there were full awareness of the fact that the world has changed, and if national egoisms were put aside, at least before challenges such as the present one.