In international politics, as in life, it can seem easier to stand back and allow others who want to, to deal with the world’s problems. On an individual scale, sometimes that’s the best decision. However, on the international scale the people who want to deal with the world’s problems are exactly the people you wouldn’t want dealing with them. The only way to ensure that we achieve what we want is to go out and get it. It’s ridiculous to assume that doing nothing is going to get us the solution we want – because when we’re doing nothing, others are most certainly not.
The first issue that we can apply these ideas to is the refugee crisis. The UK has done little to nothing in helping with the crisis that currently threatens the European Union. Doubtless, some of you will currently be angrily exclaiming: ‘But we’re not even a member of the EU anymore!’ We may no longer be a member, but we are still on the same side, because if we are not on the EU’s side, we are on Russia’s. There have been many accusations of Russia attempting to ‘weaponize’ the refugee crisis as another tool with which to strike at the EU. By deliberately striking civilian populations, Russia forces more and more Syrians from their homes and into Europe in search of safety. These refugees place more pressure on the EU and increase the danger of tumbling over the precipice. Since they are in fact –contrary to popular belief- people, we must respect their right as refugees and human beings. That means we need to act.
Sending financial aid and deploying one or two ships to the Mediterranean is a start, but it is not nearly good enough. A proactive, pan-European response needs to be organised. The armies of Europe must be mobilised to aid in this operation and every detail must be considered and monitored. The current stagnation of European powers is what is allowing parties of refugees to wander across Europe un-aided. It is also what is allowing ISIS and other extremists to sneak into Europe and conduct attacks – another problem caused by the crisis that threatens to destroy the union. Not only is inaction creating intolerable conditions for displaced peoples, but also it is allowing terrorists to enter Europe and all of this threatens to destroy the alliances of our continent – all because Putin is acting when we refuse to.
Turkey is also holding the EU to ransom with the threat of refugees – we are allowing Erdogan to use human lives as a bargaining chip and we are doing nothing. The only reason that Erdogan’s threats of opening Turkey’s borders carry any weight is because Europe continues to be completely unorganised in responding to the refugee crisis. To negotiate a pan-European solution would be preferable, but it is understandable that such a solution would be difficult to reach. However, simply because we are unable to reach a joint solution doesn’t mean we shouldn’t act at all. Britain recently voted to ‘take back control’ and to be able to ‘act independently’. It’s time we put these principles into practise and acted.
Britain alone has enough ships, men and money to significantly reduce the pressure of the refugee crisis on the EU. Simply through an operation designed to transform the chaotic flow of refugees into a structured movement, we can take the edge off of the Russian strategy. As we have seen with Hungary – the action of one country alone can not only cause significant change, but also inspire others to follow. On top of this, if we show the EU that we are willing to work together and end our policy of being obnoxious, they will doubtless choose to be slightly more merciful when it comes to Brexit negotiations.
The refugee crisis is just one example of how inaction in international politics is a terrible idea. Of course, this is not to say that there are not situations where the best way to understand the meaning of events is to let them unfold; however, in the vast majority of situations if you are not acting, someone else is, and often to your detriment. Choosing to do nothing simply isn’t good enough.