Compassion for Refugees Isn’t Enough

Unless we address the war in Syria, the exodus will grow.

Comments: 154

  1. And what do you tell the poor and unemployed Americans while we spend billions in Syria? Remember, in 2009 many American lost their jobs, their savings, and their homes. They have still not recovered. They might never recover and their set back will be passed on to their children.

  2. We should help them too! And the money should come from George W. Bush and his friends, the people whose actions led to both crises.

  3. No matter how severe, what we call "poverty" in America is nothing compared to the unbearable lives led by fellow human beings in besieged countries around the world. I'm dismayed by the callousness of many of these comments.

    There are no easy answers and Nick is no foreign policy expert. But his point is that "Compassion for Refugees isn't Enough." DO SOMETHING.

    Remember, we were all toddlers once, and not one of us ended up dead on a beach. Instead of making snide remarks, make a donation to an organization that is trying to alleviate suffering. Can't find one? Text SYRIA to 864233 to donate $10 the U.S. fund for UNICEF.

  4. What do we tell the poor and unemployed now? Last time I checked it was suck it up and get another job. I guess that does make a great rationalization though. Maybe take some money from planned foreign interventions and spend it on programs to help those here to do better AND those even worse off overseas?

  5. Would the new boundary include a route for a pipeline? And the world is expected to absorb the human tragedy that private interests have created for their own gain? Why not have a world forum that has some real HONESTY in it, calling for a world wide effort to move away from fossil fuels and a cleaner more peaceful planet, that is not controlled by the very industries that would subvert any real effort to diminish their products? Yes, we need to help these refugees and quickly. And then there needs to be a world wide agreement to stop these wars for oil and gas and quickly.

  6. The NYT really needs to define the scope of Mr Kristof's column better. Does he really think that NYT readers, with access to information and perspectives from print and broadcast media and from the Net and to extensive European coverage of this crisis, are really going to spend time reading his views on all this?

  7. "let's also note European and Syrian dysfunction. The Obama administration has repeatedly miscalculated on Syria and underestimated the problem, even as the crisis steadily worsened".

    There are reports that Russian forces are already fighting with Mr. Assad's army and the Iranians of course continue to support Assad in various forms or fashions either directly or through their proxies. Iranian generals have already been seen in the Syrian Golan, including an Iranian general taken out by an Israeli strike against high-ranking Hezbollah terrorists, all of these granting aid and succor to Assad.

    Mr. Kristof is certainly correct. At the very least the Obama administration should support the creation of a no-fly zone in the south of Syria, "done on a shoestring, enforced by US Navy ships in the Mediterranean firing missiles, without ground troops".

    Unfortunately there is little hope that the Obama administration will do so, most likely for fear of antagonizing the Iranians or Russians or Democrats who do not agree with Mr. Kristof on this.

    Mr. Kristof will probably continue to have to write op-ed pieces such as this in the foreseeable future.

  8. Dear Mr. Kristof,
    Most of what you wrote here is in order, but your military advice is nonsense. Obviously, you never served in a military force, and your knowledge or understanding of the conflict(s) in Syria is limited to the very one-sided "embedded" reporting in our obedient press and media which have always painted everyone black the US government didn't like.
    I am sure you know, though, the many religious groups of Syria, Moslem, Christian, and others - who lived there in peace - BECAUSE OF THAT EVIL TYRANT, Assad and his father! Also the women of Syria who did not suffer so much shari'a brutality - thanks to a greater liberality than our great friends in Riadh and elsewhere down there meet out.
    The US actions have wiped out the places in the Mid-East and North Africa which were the most modern, liberal, and woman-respecting - Why?
    Because several Presidents listened to the autocratic rulers in Riadh etc. who saw in the US panic after 9/11 a good opportunity of using them for their own long lasting Hashemite blood-feud against the old Baath states, Iraq ans Sysria - and, of course, the dangerous high living standard in Libya (then - not now!).
    9/11 and the widespread ignorannce of foreign countries in Washington helped the autocratic tyrants we love to set the US power up against others who were not half as tyrannic. And so, even ISIL was, first, a welcome ally of Riadh, getting weapons (and even Sarin) - and the Mr. Obama still is more after Assad than ISIL & Co.

  9. What is happening in Syria will become the new normal as humanity grows by billions because more and more people will be chasing after fewer and fewer resources, which will eventually make the entire planet one huge living hell!

  10. Excellent article. Leave it to Nicholas Kristof and Tom Friedman to be the calm voice of reason on the Syrian and refugee/migrant crisis. Obama administration - take note.

  11. There have been extensive talks about an armistice that would concern both Zabadani and two Shia villages in Syria's north that are under siege by the insurgents. I am amazed that Mr. Kristof doesn't mention them.

    A no-fly zone in the South would mean US air support for the terrorists that are attacking Syria's cities where most people prefer Assad over the rebels. As such it would lead to millions of refugees more.

    The claim that a no-fly zone would pressure Assad and his backers to negotiate defies credibility. It is the rebels and their backers - including the US and Turkey - that have consistently refused to negotiate. They have always taken the position that the departure of Assad is non negotiable and they have consistently undermined efforts by Assad and local rebel commanders to achieve at least local truces.

    The "experts" quoted in the article didn't raise my respect. There is a diplomat who calls his very partisan operation "Independent Diplomat" and there is Mr. Ford, who played an important role in getting the trouble in Syria started, and who since then has been arguing for more trouble making.

  12. Yeah well, since Putin has taken the military initiative there with a couple thousand soldiers, the 3 military options available for the US are to support the Russian effort or to fight the Russians or to continue to do zilch.
    Not exactly great options - unless supporting Assad / Russia is the least bad, which it actually might be.
    But since Obama can't seem to make reasonable decisions or stick to the few decent ones he made (poison gas as a red line not to be crossed) life has become "interesting" there.
    So - you want a no-fly zone? How'd the one in Libya work out, Nick? Have you given any thought to what happens when ISIS, Al Nusra, and al Qaida *win*?!
    Don't you learn anything from experience? Repeating "politically correct" cant even after it has been proven to be worthless is not going to make it more effective. What happens when Assad loses to ISIS?
    Do you have an answer? If you don't - then it might be wiser to not enforce a no-fly zone.
    "Cause while the start of the uprising against Assad held some promise of meaningful refrom, right now, the alternatives that exist on the ground, in fact, are much much worse.
    Instead of a no-fly zone - a "safe zone" for refugees might be much better. One that is similar to what the Kurds established in Iraq.
    Yes - the US and Europe should make life in the camps better.

  13. I am curious, why have none of the wealthy Arab nations taken on refugees, Saudi, Kuwait and the Arab Emeritus could surely take some of the refugees. They could easily help with aid both financial and physical. There is never mention of what other middle eastern countries are doing to help. If they are doing anything at all, I haven't heard or read about it.

  14. They do not want their fellow Arabs. Sending them to the West is easier, cheaper, has zero political fallout and will have lots of political ramifications that are great for the Arab countries that turn their back on their "brothers". They have been doing it to the "Palestinians" for decades. Ignore them, refuse them citizenship, keep them in camps, and send them to Europe where they do not integrate.

  15. Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey HAVE taken in millions of refugees. So it's not as if NO Arab or Muslim countries have stepped up to the plate. But the wealthy nations of the Middle East really do need to follow their example.

  16. A compelling column. I am sickened by the images of desperate people trying to get to a better life. To those who say "those people will never integrate into western society" I say, we at least need to help them. They have lost everything and are in survival mode. We can stand idly by as they wash up on Europes shores in boats or as corpses, or round them up behind fences.

  17. Go to the root of the problem - address why these people are forced to leave their homes - stop selling weaponry to the criminals who run their countries . It may hurt some pocket books but better there than in our bleeding hearts.

  18. While there is little to disagree with in Kristoff's refuge column I want to add a better more patriotic solution for those fleeing Syria. If I were a Syrian I would get a gunstay join the fight to save 'my' country. I see young able bodied men fleeing how cowardly is that? If such dictatorial opresive leader takes over my country I would stay fight and die for it not away.

  19. The USA contrived two conflicts in Iraq that led directly to our present-day ISIL crisis and the attendant crush of refugees leaving that unhappy part of the world. All this was done by George Herbert Walker Bush and W43, whose "they tried to kill my Daddy" casus belli will be remembered by posterity as among the most flimsy reasons to launch a war. All this was really done because some hambone oil execs in Houston boardrooms enlisted the Bush family behind their shallow agenda and took advantage of the force and prestige that the US military could muster. Let's remember this crucial aspect of the crisis as we watch Jeb try to launch his nomination as the latest of the dim dynasts to occupy the White House. And we do owe these refugees a haven, insofar as we have destroyed their homelands with our military advertures.

  20. I think Syria as a viable nation is done for a fair, long time, perhaps a century. And we should accept this and try to find good places to live for those who are getting out as fast as they can--these are the ones who already know that the Syria they formerly knew no longer exists. Assad and ISIS together have taken it back about 1000 years.
    The ones who are leaving as fast and best they can, are middle class or upper middle class, even though currently they look very poor and bedraggled. Many of them, if not most, speak some English, are educated, and are trying desperately to find and make a better life for their children. These are the best category of immigrant to take in, because they are highly motivated on behalf of their families, and will work very hard, as history has shown over and over.

  21. Re: Syria

    1. We've been looking for allies against IS and Russia is ready to step in. So let them. They would bring stability and help with the defeat of IS.

    2. The US should take more than the poultry 1500 or so Syrian refugees per year. Why not 200,000?

    3. The veiled call for American ground troops in this article is fallacious on a number of grounds. First and foremost, our track record in the region is dismal.

  22. The US really does not need 200000 people who hate the west to come into our living room. Based on the past (ours and Europe's) the phrase "Biting the hand that feeds you" comes to mind.

  23. You're correct: compassion is not enough. Providing them with family-planning in their home countries will greatly reduce their need to migrate in the future.

  24. They don't need family planning. They are mostly middle class or upper middle class people but they are in crisis, that's why they need help.

  25. If you believe this has anything to do with "them" having big families, please watch the news from Syria again. I see death and destruction, not population issues.

  26. The migrants are attempting t escape, not over-populate. .

  27. Well said!

  28. Actually, "if you have a head," you know that when liberals like Christof refer to "refugees," they're lying. They lie on purpose in order to confuse people, whose natural instinct is to help refugees.

    There are almost no refugees in Europe; the vast majority, virtually all, of the people liberals call "refugees" are actually illegal economic migrants. These people in most cases WERE refugees untl they found a country of refuge -- mostly Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. Once they found refuge, they decided they would like a refuge with better social benefits, so they invaded Europe. At that point, as everyone (including lying jornalists) knows, THEY WERE NO LONGER REFUGEES.

    A small percentage of the illegal economic migrants die knowing the dangers they have risked; avery few, like the boy whose father dragged him aboard a leaky vessel, wash up on the shore of Turkey dead without understanding the danger.

    Meanwhile leftists and do-gooders preen about how noble they are, and how detestable their political opposition is -- apparently forgetting their insistence on "negotiating" (read: "appeasing") evil, as represented by Assad and his allies (Iran, Russia, Hesbollah) rather than arming the Syrian opposition in 2011. A quarter of million lives (and countless rapes and tortures) later, Obama and the left have much to answer for.

  29. Of course we should help people throw into the water when their ship sank, it would be inhumane to let then drown; but those who made it into lifeboats are not our concern. They're safe.

    In case you hadn't noticed, Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon can't handle the burden. Nobody wants to seem millions of refugees flood the West. But leaving them to starve slowly in overcrowded, underfunded refugee camps is hardly the answer.

    And evidently you didn't actually read Kristof's column (you can't even get his name right): "One essential step is to improve conditions for the 3.7 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. The World Food Program was just forced to cut 229,000 refugees in Jordan off food rations because it ran out of money, and if the world won’t pay for refugees to eat in Jordan, it will have to feed them in the West."

    Kristof is thus advocating exactly what you are: keep the refugees closer to home by providing for them outside of Europe.

    But I guess the only options you approve are military ones. If it can't be done by killing people, it isn't worth doing, huh? So, with Assad and Iran battling ISIS and the Saudis, who exactly do you want us to attack?

  30. It may seem irresponsible to say nothing can be done about Syria but it may also be the truth. The wealthy gulf states and Saudi Arabia do not seem to care and they are not welcoming refugees nor sending money nor food to Lebanon and Jordan and Turkey. The UN as usual lies dormant and underfunded. For European countries to accept large numbers of refugees with totally unknown agendas may only spread the chaos. Israel is a very tiny but successful country that faces a continuous existential threat and can not and should not accept refugees who would be very hostile toward the government. I see no light at the end of the tunnel.

  31. Mr Kristoff: When do you open your home to Syrian refugees? It's easy to pontificate about how an entire country should open its doors, but the truth is: If you're unwilling to do it yourself with your own home, telling America or any other country of individuals to do so is the act of a hypocrite.

  32. Me thinks Mr Kristoff spends most of his time sleeping in airports, in between the times he is risking his life trying to help save the world.

  33. As you willing to open YOUR home to the homeless, to the mentally ill, to disabled strangers, to the unemployed? No? So then you are a hypocrite if you advise your club, church, community, state, or nation to provide any kind of social help or services to the unfortunate?

    So anyone who is unwilling or unable personally to put on a uniform and police the streets, fight fires, guard the borders, or man our overseas military installations, is a hypocrite if he advises that these thing be done by anyone?

    You seem to be under the impression that what Kristof advises is a kind of largesse, a big-hearted charity, and sharing-of-the-wealth. I see it as self-defense. An increasingly chaotic world is an increasingly violent, dangerous, unstable world, a increasing threat to us all.

  34. Terance, an Ancient Roman author wrote: "having an empire is like holding a wolf by the ears."
    Obama thought he could let got of one ear.

  35. "It is irresponsible to throw up our hands and say there’s nothing that can be done,” he added. “Then, almost certainly things will get worse.”

    Yes, President Obama has neglected this conflict and allowed it to metastasize. Time for new policy and a more aggressive plan to oust Assad and bring stability to Syria.

  36. Nicholas:

    Why is Syria the USA's problem?

  37. In a world, globalization. The world is the world's problem. When one part of your house, your neighborhood, your city is burning, it is going to affect the whole if left unchecked.

    I don't like it either. But for Americans to say that Syria etc is not our problem is rather like the first class passengers on the Titanic to say that the flooding in steerage is not their problem.

  38. A sensible article with good hard-headed analysis of the likely effects of current European (particularly German) generosity toward all migrants. It is likely to unleash a flood lasting for years, and a demographic time bomb eventually ending in a very different European polity and culture.

  39. Kristof is right.

    But with regards to Syria, we could be more detailed: Syria needs a partition. The Alawite areas along the coast could become a separate country that could supply Russia the naval base it wants. Russia and Iran could prop up this state. The north and east of Syria could become a Sunni muslim country. Perhaps the south around Damascus could be added to Jordan and ruled by King Abdullah, whose government is religiously tolerant. Syria's Christians could live in this area, along with all the city dwellers of Damascus, regardless of religion. Since Abdullah is Sunni, he should be acceptable to the Sunni population in this area. Foreign aid and military aid to Jordan by the West and Gulf states would provide for reconstruction in the south to ensure Jordan is not swallowing poison rather than acquiring a major city.

    Europe could allow a carefully filtered population of educated, English-, French- or German-speaking migrants to enter Europe, but Europe cannot absorb the rest, and should instead fund their support in refugee camps pending the partition of Syria and their resettlement therein.

  40. "Europe could allow a carefully filtered population of educated, English-, French- or German-speaking migrants to enter Europe, but Europe cannot absorb the rest, and should instead fund their support in refugee camps pending the partition of Syria and their resettlement therein."

    Said, another way, Europe should absorb those that are easily most assimilated into Europe. Of key importance is the refuge's acceptance of the host country's laws and culture and showing gratitude, not trying to redefine the host or rebel against it. Since in much of the Middle East Christians are subject to persecution and are easily assimilated into western cultures perhaps they should be an initial focus for the U. S. and Europe, with Muslim countries focusing the Muslims.

    Accepting educated people who can speak the language of the host country also allows more refuges to be taken given the same level of sacrifice on the part of the host country.


  41. This seems like a workable solution. However, Amanda, refers to the larger more universal conflict. That is the Sunni vs. Shiite conflict that is violent and has been raging for centuries. This now seems to be an enduring, accepted status quo. Amanda's excellent proposal relies on a Sunni - Shiite partition. a sectarian partition, not a partition based on any secular economic, geopolitical, or cultural considerations.

  42. I've long also advocated a partition in Syria. However, you neglect the single, largest ethnic minority in Syria--the Kurds. It's time to give them their own nation or, at the least, quasi-independent state in a newly federated Syria. This could also solve the Turkish problem since this would be a new homeland relieving Turkey of attacking the Kurds, and instead motivating them to participate in a new peaceful, negotiated political solution. THE problem the West has failed to deal with in confronting ISIS and Syria is having a political vision that justifies a military action. The results, as we've seen, is chaos.

  43. Just remind me, why did Iraq turn into a failed state, and why didn't the US fix it ?
    And we already have an organization to deal with things like this, it is called UN, and it is badly underfunded. Why the US just beef the UN up ?

    But get real, the dynamic is set, and it is to big to be changed. Europe has the choice between refugee camps or concentration camps.
    So we have to deal with this in the middle of europe.
    For a starter, germany could use 3000 additional doctors for serial screening.

  44. Oh Mathias don't be so melodramatic, there are more options than refugee camps or concentration camps. We need to be proactive not reactive. Humanitarian aid for sure, diplomacy/blackmail, sanctions/quarantine on the right parties and bombs and bullets when appropriate.

  45. Raising the question of how to respond to the violence and mayhem in Syria and the Mideast, which threatens to send millions more refugees into Europe, is a necessary first step. But how to best answer that question is a much tougher task.

    Doing nothing while thousands or millions are slaughtered is not a moral option, especially not for European countries which colonized the region and then departed leaving a mess behind, and for the US which cluelessly broke the pottery of Iraq helping create ISIS.

    We know which leaders are unlikely to have credible strategies, including the Bush family which helped engineer the mess, and Hillary Clinton who willfully voted to give them a blank check for that pottery smashing.

    We know which role models are moribund. Authoritarian kleptocracies and police states (Egypt, Saudi Arabia) are fast losing any viable claim even to being stability-enhancing. Israel's apartheid system ultimately serves only extremist Jewish and Arab groups. ISIS has gone past barbaric terrorism to embrace total horror.

    Are there really viable alternatives? I am not sure, but I hope Nicholas Kristof finds some which he can then explain to us with his usual forthright clarity.

  46. I think in comparison with WWII this refugees crisis looks still manageable: after all at that time there wasn't this level of technology we have today where news get viral in a matter of seconds. If we compare images of grainy WWII reports showing long lines of refugees walking on the streets - mainly filmed from airplanes and helicopters - to the ones of nowadays, the impact seems very different in that the then refugees were used as yet another appalling blackmailing weapon, while now we see them on TV in real time, and we can listen to them and learn about their plights. In other words the WWII's were a testimony of a war still on in the West and in Europe, whilst today's are not; not a product of a global war but pertinent to Middle East in general - save despicable lone wolves' terrorist attacks in the West. Much more worrying though, is how the West was absentmindedly treating the subject back in 1992 when American Enterprise Institute's Samuel P. Huntington came out with this devastatingly foreboding book titled "The clash of Civilizations" where he basically reported - among many other predictions - that statistically speaking the West will be undergoing a geopolitical change so deep that what we are witnessing today is just the tip of the iceberg. This resonates with the fact that the West has been having a fertility problem of late unlike the Middle East's; and that's where his predictions gained ground. Little the West knew, and speculated on it.

  47. The west is not having a fertility problem. In an age of diminishing resources, depopulation is inevitable, and a reasonable goal. The population explosion in the mid east is their fault, based on a barbaric religion that has no place in western society.

  48. There is no place in the West for the growing Muslim hoard, either from Syria or from any of the other dysfunctional "countries" of the Middle East. Most of these refugees long for the economic benefits of the West, while many will refuse to accept, let alone embrace, the culture, societal mores and institutions of their host nations.

    Rather, Kristof is correct to advocate policies that will likely result in de facto partitioning of Syria. America should allow the same to happen in Iraq. Also, the US should actively be supporting a Kurdish homeland in Turkey, most likely leading to that nation breaking in to two. And most of all, the US and Europe should stop supporting and start undermining the repressive regimes throughout the Gulf. Let the disaffected of the Middle East roam their own homeland looking for safe haven, where they can find it. The Jews did it for hundreds of years, why can't the Syrians, Palestinians, Kurds, etc.?

    The Middle East is an absolute mess and has been for decades. And it is only getting worse. We in the West should stop pretending that we even have the slightest ideas for solutions when the very oppressed people themselves have proven submissive or ineffective in their own ability to throw off the yokes of oppression.

    Let the Middle East rot in a situation of its own making.

  49. USA destabilized ME; should be taking in refugees

  50. We need to let the Middle East just sort itself out. Yes, Syria is a tragedy but getting in the middle of all those tribal conflicts that have been going on for centuries is not the answer.

  51. It took a photograph of a 3 three year old Syrian child Aylan Kurdis washed up ashore, in Turkey’s Bodrum beach, to shake our collective conscience and to grasp the magnitude of the human tragedy.

    It is true that many of the European countries have expressed their inability to accommodate the refugees in their countries, because of resource constraints but, what is surprising is that the United Nations has not come up with a mechanism for allocating these refugees to countries to countriess like the United States, the UK, and other European countries based on a pre determimed formula. The role of the Arab countries, barring Lebanon and Jordan, is shameful, as they have not shown any interest to provide shelter to these refugees in their country. As these countries are culturally close to Syria, the integration of the refugees in their society would have been smooth as compared to the European countries.

    Finally, we salute Anglela Merkel for her magnaimity for agreeing to accomodate around 80,000 refugees in her country. I think her act will inspire other countries to provide temporary accommodation to thousands of refugees who are crying for help.

  52. NK's heart is in the right place. But it seems he reacts to every crisis in the same way, suggesting that "we" have a responsibility to fix the underlying problems. I don't say there is nothing we can do, but we certainly can't fix the human propensity to breed and to consume the resources of the earth.

    Some organizations, like the Gates and the Clinton foundations, aim to conquer common killers in Africa. A good start. But the politics of exploitation together with the corruption that allows exploitation and the ignorance that sustains it have plagued the world it seems forever.

    One prescription might be to provide the world with good example, an example of civilized communal behavior. We have 20,000 suicides by gun every year. We have unyielding racism. We have poverty. And we have religious and political leaders who justify and support such an uncivil mess. They call it freedom! Who is to carry the American flag into areas of greater distress? Trump? Huckabee? Bush?

  53. The problem in Syria is that in this country the Arab Spring has not worked which is, at the same time, a blessing as, as long as Assad is in place, the IS is still struggling to make inroads.

    The civil war in Syria began as some people hoped that the US would bomb away Assad the same way as it had done with Saddam and Ghadaffi.
    But that did not happen as the US never does what it promises.
    Also, the Syrians that took up arms had and still have no idea what to do when Assad will be gone.

    So the place became a war torn country in which Assad remains the only factor that could get it back together.
    Neither the FSA, nor Al Quaeda, non of the smaller factions, not Turkey and certainly not the IS have an idea what to do when Assad falls.

    The IS is closest to have an idea which is the expansion of it's Caliphate.

    So the solution is a pill that is hard to swallow, you will have to keep a uniting force in pace and there is only Assad.
    And that means that you will have to support the only ones that are able and capable to stop this civil war and that will cost a lot.

    There is Iran which is the only country in the region that has not just political influence but also the ground power that will be needed to drive out, actually that is to eliminate, the extremists and to stop the IS.

    Of course Iran is a no go for US politics.

    Then there is Russia which has an established military base and political influence on Assad.

    Of course Russia is a no go for US politics.

    Tough call.

  54. At present, we have a Republican candidate for POTUS who has roused the anger against illegals AND legals here who come from another country to our South. They suspect their sitting president of being a secret Muslim, not born in America as he claims. They have politicians who have wanted to pass laws against adopting Sharia law as if it were an immediate and dangerous threat to the Federal and State laws we have.
    Why on earth would anyone think that having hundreds of thousands of Muslim refugees will not create more dissention and anger in certain sections of America when we already have so much cultural and religious bigotry?

  55. This way of thinking would seem to lead inexorably to our just stepping back and letting the bigots, the racists, and the snake handlers take over. Sorry ... no can do.

  56. So the only thing you can come up with is a no fly zone in the south of Syria. Sorry, to weak and probably wouldn't work as described here. And who will replace Assad? The Russians look like they might be actually going in militarily, let them.

  57. Kristof is an exceptionally nice man, but one must consider how nations, like Sweden and Germany take care of their own.

    The do not have the same problems we do. Underclass - overclass, race, access to medical care, financially stressed cities, are some of our many issues.

    I, for one believe we need to fix those problems first. Drop unemployment, (and not drop out of the workforce) another 2% or so, and I'd be onboard.

  58. "No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” ― Charles Dickens

    Syria is failed state, so let's be useful and accept many more Syrian refugees into our country. That seems like the most compassionate and responsible thing we could do right now to alleviate their unimaginable suffering.

  59. It's a global problem requiring a global response, and I hope to see our country follow Europe's lead in welcoming more refugees to our country. However, I also hope to see more of an outcry in the media and from world leaders regarding those who have not taken in any, specifically Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf nations who have the empty land, resources, and geographical proximity to make a huge difference if they decide to step up. To date, they have resettled ZERO refugees while in Lebanon, so many have been accepted that now 1 in every 4 people in the country is Syrian. Please sign & share this petition asking our government to formally urge the Gulf nations to begin resettlement immediately:

  60. is emptying Syria really a solution?

  61. I couldn't agree with you more, so I'll certainly sign and share your petition. Thank you, Meaghan.

  62. Sounds about right. Unfortunately, there are 10s of comments on this article and 100s of comments on the more aid article in today's NYT. Then we wonder why the problem continues and we continue to loose.

    Let the UN do it? I wish they could but are you kidding? Look at what Russia is doing in Syria right now.

  63. Obama's foreign policy has been a disaster, and the results are unfolding:

    Russia is building a new base in Syria, Assad still uses gas, Iran has snookered Obama and has said, once again, Israel will not exist in 25 years. Iran will use its unfrozen funds for more terror. Hundreds of thousands of people are dying and suffering, Europe is inundated.

    All of this will get much worse.

    And the leftist isolationists in the US only can blame GWB and think of their entitlements!

  64. RR-- Obama has not said Israel will not exist. The right wing spokesperson of all, Kissinger on the other had, has made that statement unequivocally. What Obama has said is that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory cannot go on indefinitely. I think there are many who agree with that statement, both from the left and the right.

  65. I confess to feeling both distressed and at a loss. It does seem clear that we must do somethings, but which things are both doable and productive is harder to say. Certainly, doing everything we can to help Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan with their refugee crisis would be a start. Offering help to our European allies in their efforts to help refugees might also be a good move. Trying a no-fly-zone might help.

    We are faced though with the same mess we have seen all along in Syria. There is Assad on one side and a mix of opposition groups among whom it is unclear who might be 'friendly' to the West or not. Some of them would likely be friends of convenience during fighting, but turn out to be problematic if they gained power. Others are likely coalitions of smaller groups with varied agendas.

    I do not favor American boots on the ground at all. Arming and/or training the opposition is always risky - look how well that turned out in Afghanistan where those we supported eventually gave rise to the Taliban and alQaeda. I am glad Mr. Obama has been cautious. I do not blame him for not fixing what is broken in the ME. It is not our battle and has never been clear who might be appropriate to help and who not.

  66. All the Americans still want regime change.

    The Republicans want to get that by another Iraq War, pretending it will be different this time and the comparison is unfair.

    The Democrats want to repeat the "success" of Libya and Somalia, ungoverned space replacing government they don't like.

    Neither will negotiate an end to the war. They only want to negotiate an end to Assad, with a "ceasefire" pending that which would mostly cease Assad's defense not the out-of-control terrorists of ISIS and al Qaeda.

    "Peace" does not mean "we win or else." With the way the insurgency has gone, we don't even have anyone in Syria to win. We lose no matter who wins, among the alternatives on offer.

    So stop it. Stop feeding the war. Stop the Saudi and other Gulf money. Stop the weapons. Stop the American training camps. Work out something with the Russians that is better than just walking away, but do it quickly.

    This is getting a lot worse, quickly, and it is already very bad.

    The policy of regime change in this way, by supporting insurgency, is wrong. It didn't work. It produces only evil. We should never do this again.

  67. If Russia is already militarily involved in Syria, and we try to establish a no-fly zone in the south of Syria, are negotiations a more likely outcome than a new and bigger war? How will Putin see his interests? My point is less to shoot down the idea and more to make sure we plan for potential consequences.

  68. I share Nick's concerns and agree that unless we get at the causes of mass-displacement of people, handling the waves of refugees desperately seeking entry to Western Europe largely from Syria isn't going to cut it.

    Nick points out (as I have been in comments here this past week) that there are about 60 million people in the world displaced by conflict and persecution. Add to that the MANY millions of purely economic refugees who are willing to risk their lives for a better chance than their own failed societies can offer, and the developed world has an immense challenge facing it, that could become a humanitarian catastrophe if not confronted and resolved.

    While improving conditions for Syrians in Turkish, Lebanese and Jordanian camps will help the tactical pressure, it's no solution -- these countries, if truly left to their own devices even with enhanced aid, will shut their borders as numbers become overwhelming -- almost half of Lebanon's population is now refugees.

    In the end, from Syria to El Salvador, the major causes of displacement are war, crime and persecution. Even short of waging overwhelming war to halt these practices and imposing a stabilizing peace, if the U.S. can't seriously project force with a military rapidly being hollowed-out, Nick's concerns of catastrophe will become the new reality. There simply won't be the means available even to force negotiation in Syria or to confront the pirates of the world.

  69. Mr. Kristof is right. There are no good solutions to the horrendous problem of refugees threatening to inundate Europe.

    The powerful industrialized nations of the world, in their rapacious quest for natural resources and need to control countries that possess said resources, have rendered large swaths of the planet inhabitable for those who live there.

    Society-destroying wars and the pathological greed of the worldwide 1 percent have destroyed the possibility of decent lives for tens of millions of people in the Middle East, Africa and the former Soviet Union.

    Sixty million displaced persons in the desperation of despair will do anything they can to save their own lives and those of their children. Some of the most persistent are now on the move toward Europe, and they will continue to come in wave after wave after wave. The human will to survive is, after all, our strongest impulse.

    They need peace and land in their nations of origin. They need food and shelter and hope.

    Instead the West has sent weapons and representatives of corporate elites to rob them and exploit whatever is valuable in their own countries.

    So these women, children and men are on the move, as you and I would be in their situation. They will continue to come, and who can blame them?

    For more than a century Europe and the United States have sown the winds of war and colonialism. Now they are reaping the whirlwind in their own home lands.

    And it may be too late to find a good solution.

  70. Military action will only cause military re-action and create more anti-American sentiment when some of our bombs inevitably fall on innocents. We should instead focus on providing assistance to Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan who have 3.7 million Syrian refugees and assistance to the Euro zone countries who are willing to accept the refugees. Finding and arming "moderate Syrians" is difficult if not impossible. Finding Syrian refugees is much easier and our support for them will be far more helpful and appreciated than our willingness to provide arms and military advice.

  71. Refugees from war torn areas are tragic.

    But as Mr Landis observes, the current "trickle" is only going to get bigger. Not only that, but the flow of refugees will certainly camoflage the infiltration of thousands of jihadists. The civilized world needs to end the Islamic religious wars that are creating the chaos now spreading beyond their regions.

    The simple truth of the matter is that Middle Easter Sunnis are incapable of ruling in the 21st century. It's not yet clear that Shiites are a lot better, but compared to Sunni extremists, the Shiites are long on rhetoric and far short on terror horror.

    The entire middle east needs to be repartitioned and demilitarized under the auspices of the UN. It should be clear to all by now that the arbitrary boundaries that emerged from the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire following WWI have been a complete disaster.

    This is the time for a truly Machiavellian alliance by the great powers of the world to coldly assess the geo political reality of the Middle East and agree to render it politically harmless to the rest of the world. In exchange for disarming the theocrats and their movements, the great powers should occupy the Middle Eastern countries, divide up the spoils and start the geo political process all over. Basically, treat the lands as victors have always treated conquered territories throughout history.

    It couldn't be any worse than what the Sunni theocracies have given the world in the guise of ISIS et al.

  72. In the vernacular of the streets "True That". But who needs to go beyond compassion and what that entails is as much an ethnic sectarian conundrum as the recurring rolling ethnic sectarian disasters that are generating the refugees in the first place. They seek refuge and too many nations are coldly refusing their cry for human help and compassion.

    America has 320 million people in a nation with a nominal GDP of $ 16.8 T. While the 28 member European Union has 503 million citizens with a nominal GDP of $ 18.5 T. That accounts for roughly 15% of the human race and 50% of it's economic power. But there are 50 European nations with 745 million people. The EU and America both have some significant culpability for these refugee crises.

    Since the Syrian civil war began, America has taken in 1500 Syrian refugees. France has said that it will accept 20,000 over the next five years. The U.K. has promised to absorb 26,000 over the same time period. Germany,with a population of 80 million, has agreed to accept 800,000 Syrian refugees or 1% of it's population. There are 4 million refugees scattered across Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Iran, Iraq and Syria. There are refugees in Pakistan, Gaza, West Bank, Golan Heights and East Jerusalem.

    "There's a natural mystic blowing in the air; If you listen carefully now you will hear. This could be the first trumpet, might as well be the last: Many more will have to suffer, Many more will have to die-don't ask me why." Bob Marley

  73. American intervention may only prolong the conflict where no side seems to have a chance of winning without it. However, if a no fly zone can leverage Iran and Russia to a peace table while providing some safe space for Syrianss, lets give it a try.

  74. How are you going to get the Russians not to veto a No Fly Zone in the UN? Or are we going to do it on our own? And what if Russia tests it's latest anti aircraft defense systems on our aircraft enforcing the No Fly Zone. We could do it, but there is a better than even chance it would expand quicker and over a greater area than we expected. We could also make a deal, you give us this, we give you that. We did it in the Cuban missil crises. The Soviets remover their misses from Cuba and we removed ours from Turkey. No violence getting out of hand.

  75. Since the refugees are largely unemployed healthy young men looking for something to do and not just a hand out ( we hope) European countries, along with the U.S. should train them and enlist them in a war to topple Assad. If these economic migrants or ex refugees (they are mostly coming from Lebanon and surrounding countries which offered them refuge from their civil war) are so passionate and willful that they are willing to uproot themselves and persevere through such dangerous journeys, they must certainly have the courage and spirit to fight for their So along with compassion, hand out mandatory registration for army service before they are allowed entry and given food and shelter.

  76. Hungary has been overrun and overwhelmed. Throngs of people not obey officials, ravaging the countryside, and stealing whatever they want from farmers along their way.

    How dare you call a government trying to protect their citizens as jerks. We could only wish our own administration would protect our own citizens.

  77. The neo-liberal governments in Europe have proven unable to deal with the crisis at their borders which is threatening to blow up in their faces. Europeans should not be burdened with an alien population in their midst who make all sorts of demands and who have the potential to disrupt their societies in more ways that can be imagined.
    The refugee crisis will mean the bankruptcy of neoliberalism and will usher in a fascist Europe which is what the oligarchy have wanted all along.

  78. Does anyone know what "neoliberal" actually means?

    I suppose it means capitalist. What does the fact that European countries are capitalist have to do with their handling of these refugees? I would have thought we are seeing too much socialism in the reaction of Germany.

  79. In these heartrending upheavals and displacements, money, money, money is being made by the munitions industries world-wide. I have yet to read an incisive analysis of that factor in the human toll, or better yet, a reckoning, a turn-about. Why are we so in the thrall of arms-trafficking, of the military-industrial complex? A woman from Serbia during the 1990's Balkan war cried out to us with this insight at German center for reconciliation in Oswiecim, Poland these decades ago at an international conference I attended. It remains so achingly true.

  80. Like many who write about the latest refugee crisis, Nicholas Kristof misses an important fact. The refugees coming to Europe from Syria aren't like the uneducated, destitute Africans that Europe is accustomed to. Many of them were doctors, lawyers, business people, teachers, or nurses before theyey were forced out of their country by war. With a little help, overcoming the trauma and learning the language, they could be a huge benefit to their host country's economies.
    Angela Merkel understands this. Too few do.

  81. Expecting a reminder to the reader of our individual responsibility to do more for this humanitarian crisis, I am disappointed that Mr. Kristoff did not give each of us tangible and meaningful ways to assist in the crisis. The answers given in this article are political answers which, as individual voters, we have no effect over until the next election.

    At this point in time, with the crises in Syria and elsewhere, the individuals need to reach out and give to the organizations that are able to help. The World Food Program, as he briefly speaks about in the article, UNICEF, UN Refugee Agency, Save the Children, Doctors without Borders: they are all struggling with budgets due to this unprecedented need.

    In his book, "A Path Appears," Mr. Kristoff speaks to the individual reader about BOTH sociopolitical landscapes that need to change, and also to individual responsibility to help those in truly desperate situations. I would have hoped that Mr. Kristoff would have encouraged more individual philanthropy and charity.

  82. I'm pretty tired of posters whining about how the refugee/migrant crises (plural) are "not our problem" and that "we have economic and unemployment problems with our own people". We I've got a news flash for the anti-immigrant types. The United States fertility rate (as well as much of western Europe) is below, well below the "replacement rate". Meaning that we need immigration into the U.S. or else we will surely see serious economic consequences of a shrinking and again population (take a close look at Japan and its decreasing and aging population and their stagnant economy. So bring in those refugees and economic migrants integrate them into pluralistic society and show the world how it is done.

  83. All these comments are very interesting but I have noticed the further the writers ar away from Europe the more they give good advice and the more they worry what shall become of the Europeans. Very considerate. I agree the syrians were better off without all the outside interference. Maybe their Govt.was not the most desirable in the world but now they certainly could do
    with improvements. But meanwhile the next stream of refugees are starting tomove: The Ukrainians are on the go. West Ukrain, the Govt. in Kiew and East Ukraine are having it out. Main beef: excessive corruption and no help for the people. Who would have thought. And once again well meaning friends are egging them on. I leave it to your imagination who all might that be.A little help: there is oil and natural gas in Ukrain.

  84. Actually i am located very close to the action, and im very worried. Germany may very soon be spending more taxpayer money on young Syrian men (three quarters are adult males in their twenties or late teens) than it spends on educating German children. Let that sink in for a moment.

  85. Once again a seriously thought out and nuanced response to a horrible situation. Here in Vienna the refugee situation is constantly in the news and part of our daily lives.

    The proposal for a no-fly zone is a great one. It worked extremely well in Iraq until that plan was jettisoned for the invasion/occupation that didn't turn out so well. That should be food for thought for the folks in charge. I applaud your self-discipline in not mentioning that fact in your article.

  86. As reported on the BBC yesterday, about 15% of Americans were food insecure in 2014. 45 million Americans are on food stamps. Real un and underemployment is 15-20% of the population. There are hundreds of thousands if not millions of homeless American citizen; millions of Americans are on waiting lists for housing vouchers.
    Yet Mr. Kristoff and other members of the American elite want to increase the number of refugees. Refugees go to the head of the line for housing, medical, and food benefits. In other words, refugees break in line in front of American citizens.
    Mr. Kristoff and other members of the elite have abandoned ordinary American citizens in favor of citizens of other countries.

  87. America is a very wealthy and strong nation
    Of course we can do better for struggling Americans ( such as Charlene Dill one of many who died there in Florida because your Republicans would not expand Medicaid to the hard-working poor)
    We also can help refugees with dreams come here and work hard to contribute to our economy.
    America is wealthy enough to do both but Republicans who changed our tax structure in the 1980s to destroy the middle class and draw wealth up to the wealthiest few are making us seem like a poverty-stricken third world struggler

  88. Unfair, Marigrow, but point taken. There are needy poor in every country of the world. But, momentarily it seems a purer act to rescue a stranger than one's neighbor. That's the Human condition. The near silent suffering of a neighbor is ever present. It nags and annoys; whereas, the rescue of a distant stranger seems a simpler, repercussion-free act--inconsequential at the moment. Yet, a stranger's cry should not be ignored. So, yes, Marigrow, you are right . . . we should mobilize our resources to rescue both neighbor and stranger. I wish those in power knew how.

  89. There is talk that the US should take in more refugees from Syria and Iraq. Would this have any implications on the US immigration policies and procedures with regard to migrants from central America? Admittedly the Middle Eastern refugees are escaping from conditions that are far more dire than any in Central America but the differences are matters of degree not oof kind.

  90. We cannot address the problem of the refugees of imperialist interventions and neo-liberal economic policies over there without addressing it at home. Refugees from ruinous policies, destroyed economies and violence in Syria and North Africa cannot be honestly put in a separate category than those coming from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala or Mexico. The embedded press wants to call some "refugees" and others "illegal aliens" when the reality is that all of them are refugees. Our country isn't in a position to criticize any other on mistreatment of refugees. Migration is not a crime -- it is a result of crime.

  91. Why can't you stick to the issue...what to do about Syria and its refugees? Everything isn't about your political identity.

  92. We knew what to do to oust Hitler and stop the carnage. But let's face it, no one knows what to do to oust ISIS and Assad and stop that carnage and incredible human suffering? No one! Also, no one seems to know how exactly to deal with the horrific human consequences of the carnage that's making it's way to Europe's shores and ours. And that includes the coming consequences of that monumental shift in demographics yet to be fully experienced, understood and known. Globalization is the name of the game. So whatever affects one, affects all. Also, it's beyond comprehension that UN funds; the World Food Program got so depleted (in the midst of these crises) it can't support the refugees closer to home in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan. Who's minding the store? Anyone?

  93. Where is Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and other wealthy ME nations.? This is a monumental disgrace.

  94. "And that includes the coming consequences of that monumental shift in demographics yet to be fully experienced, understood and known."
    We DO know the coming consequences since we see it daily in Europe. Only people with blinders on such as Kristof are thinking we can absorb and "re-educate" these migrants...not refugees.

  95. The only difference between stopping Hitler and stopping ISIS is not of not knowing what to do, but rather the willingness to make the sacrifice that once was summonsed to do it the first time. Times have not changed that much since then, but our commitment to try and make things better in spite of the short-term costs certainly have. I still try to live by the lessons of what my parents' generation of commitment and self-sacrifice taught to me, yet sadly I see now sign of those bygone values around anymore in today's "me"-valued world, making it seem like a very empty place.

  96. Putin is gaining in Syria and we are watching it unfold. Assad, the brutal murderer that he is, may have his days numbered and Putin is ready to assert control as he did in the Ukraine. The problem is so broad and complex that we are ill prepared to deal with it all as there is no one solution. First and foremost the world must extend welcome to the refugees who have fled for their lives. Whether this spurs more to do the same is conjecture, but we have real lives on the line...we must not turn them away as we did during WW11. Indecision is a decision. It also costs the lives of human beings who beg for our help. Are we so calculated that we do not acknowledge our responsibility to place compassion and empathy above all else?

  97. This is just the beginning of mass migrations. Rapid population growth combined with climate change will force millions of hungry people to do what humans have always done--pick up and move. They will move to where there is more water, jobs and chance for at least a meager life. And it will not be just Africa and the Middle East, China and other Asian countries are already running out of water. The US and Europe are looking at the hungry eyes of a billion people who want to migrate. That ought to be scary to everyone.

  98. Let's put up and temporarily support as many families, women, children, injured and elderly as we can--in the Middle East, Europe, North Africa and the US. The 18 to 45-year old males should see their families settled then sign on the dotted line for a decent salary and sufficient training provided by the US, Europe and the wealthier, stable Middle East countries. Then go get their several countries back, starting with Syria and working their way through Iraq and the several war-ravaged African nations that are contributing heavily to the river of refugees. Those that participate, get to run in the first elections in those countries and have a greater say in their future.

  99. Nice of you to call the Hungarians jerks, Mr Kristoff. Here we have people trampling, literally, all over their country and the rule of law. Blocking trains, not doing what they're told by police, and "demanding" that they be given social welfare by German taxpayers. So the Hungarians are jerks for not putting up with this? Lets remember also, these people are not fleeing a warzone. They've already achieved that. No, they are leaving the safe and humane UN refugee camps that surround Syria. That immediately makes them illegal immigrants looking for economic opportunity, not refugees from war. There are many people fed up with this in Europe, including me. You won't like where we are going to steer things over the coming few years.

  100. People are risking their lives and sometimes drowning in order to leave "safe and humane" camps near Syria? A questionable assumption at best. At any rate, the disregard for "rule of law" in Hungary recently started with officials tehre cancelling trains for no apparent reason except to harass migrants. The Hungarians as a whole are certainly not jerks. Some of their government officials demonstrably have been lately. That is a valid correction of what Kristof said, but does not put refugees at fault for pushing back, especially when doing so seems to work so much better than putting up with mistreatment from authorities in Hungary. As for people in Europe generally, a lot of them are also fed up with an imitative opportunistic xenophobia which scapegoats refugees wholesale in order for certain politicians to score political points.

  101. So, there's no old stadium somewhere in Hungary to process the refugees through, Caesar? It worked for Houston when 200,000 Katrina evacuees arrived in a week. Handling the influx the right way, is key to not feeling trampled. And Hungary would be right to try to make wealthier European countries foot part of the cost to do this. "You can either send us money, or we can send you more refugees," is how I would sell it.

  102. "The safe and humane UN refugee camps around Syria" are nonexistent. They are overwhelmed and cutting off food rations.
    Hungary is overwhelmed and the living conditions there miserable, as well - this is why the refugees want to continue their journey to wealthier countries like Germany and Sweden, who can provide shelter and asylum to those who fulfill the criteria for a refugee status.

    They are not "demanding" welfare, but a place were temporary asylum will be granted with humane living conditions. Countries like Germany and Sweden are able to provide this.

  103. I have no ties to Hungary whatsoever but I am getting pretty tired of hearing them call "Naziz" and "jerks". Thousands of migrants show up on their doorstep and were greeted with food, clothes and water. They weren't machine gunned down at the Serbian border.
    These same thousands are protesting and demanding a quick trip to Germany. They refuse to follow the Hungarian rules to register and have made it pretty clear they want nothing to do with their country or laws. The people who had purchased train tickets were understandably angry. However, what course of action should Hungary had taken?
    Sheila is a cesspool and I, too, would begborrow and steal to get somewhere else but I thought the migrants were acting like jerks.

  104. We are incapable of leading the free world. We don’t know how to do it.

    Any local war is the proof of our leadership failure.

    We don’t promote the melting pots all over the globe. We always support one side in unnecessary confrontation with the others and emphasize their differences, thus inflaming their antagonism and hatred.

    We did it on the Korean Peninsula, in Vietnam, in the Holy Land, in ex-Yugoslavia, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Libya, in Syria and in Ukraine.

    We protected the worst military tyrants and religious zealots in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan.

    How can the White House believe that anywhere in the world the locals prefer to be ruled by the dictators instead of voting freely for their representatives? Why do we provide the oppressors with the military, diplomatic, political and security aid and assistance?

    Our government has chronically pushed the neighbors in the bloody conflicts with the neighbors.

    That’s very shameful foreign policy.

  105. Actually, everywhere in the Islamic world the locals have preferred dictators to democracy. Whenever the U.S. has imposed a free election the locals have chosen a dictator insuring that they will never have another free election. There is no democracy wherever Islam is the majority religion (some 55 countries). This is not the fault of the U.S.; it is embodied in political and theological Islam. Recent "democratic, free" elections have produced Hamas and the Muslim brotherhood. Not everyone wants freedom; some people under the thrall of religious idiocy actually prefer tyranny.

  106. Putin's Russia is behind the trouble in Syria, Crimea, and eastern Ukraine. His supporters in those places have won their prizes. I hope they all have fun playing with their new (slightly used) toys. The Taliban can thank Putin's old Soviet pals for handing them a pile of rocks when they had enough of Afghanistan.

  107. We recklessly set fire to the neighborhood. And now we want to fight the conflagration with flame throwers? Better instead to contain the disaster, mitigate its damage, and plan for its aftermath.

  108. Yes, Mr. Kristoff. The Obama Administration has "repeatedly miscalculated" on Syria and "underestimated the problem." Obama does not understand Middle East politics, nor Russia's regional strategy, and has proven himself unwilling to take risks in order to address problems before they grow out of control. He is the master of short-term thinking.

    Now you know why sensibly people oppose the Iran deal.

  109. Now you (should ) know why sensible people opposed the Bush/Cheney invasion of Iraq

  110. The most important take-away from this is that there are 60 million displaced people in the world. There are probably billions who believe their lives would be improved if they could live in Europe or North America. "Once people see that refugees are going to be taken in by the West they're going to stampede...The upshot could be more drowned toddlers". The answer to all the problems of the Third World is not relocating their populations to Germany and Sweden.

    And if the Alawite Syrians must be separated from the Sunni Syrians, why do we think that they will be able to assimilate in secular, Christian countries?

  111. I'm disappointed in the do-nothing, wavering response of our government to this crisis. Yes, both Assad/his regime and ISIS are horrid and monstrous. But the hands-off, let-them-kill-each-other-off approach has created not only a humanitarian crisis in Syria but a massive refugee crisis in Western Europe (and soon that will spread). I voted for the President twice, but now I am angry at our foreign policy approach. It has been a series of gross miscalculations.

  112. As we talk about refugees I would guess most people have never seen a refugee face to face.
    I have seen the Cuban boat people and the craft they fill trying to get to Honduras.
    What is shocking is the squalor in which they live and the numbers of men and women placed in boats of the most pitiable condition.
    I do not pretend to know how bad is the plight of these refugees only that it must be better than remaining in Syria.

  113. Nicholas Kristof is right about the emotional and rational aspects of the refugee crisis. The photos of the drowned toddler Aylan Kurdi and the decomposed bodies in a van in Austria were heart-wrenching. Yet to stop the influx of refugees he urges for addressing the crisis "at its roots".
    It's true that the Syrians fleeing the war wouldn't be able to return any time soon. He suggests a "no-fly zone" in the south of Syria, perhaps on the borders of Jordan and Israel. It's not a bad idea! Netanyahu has said "No" to taking in Syrian refugees. Perhaps he wouldn't mind a safe-haven for them on the Syrian side of the Golan, which is the stronghold of the Syrian Druze. Perhaps they wouldn't mind their Sunni and Alawite fellow citizens to stay.
    Why is a partition of Syria such an unimaginable option? Assad would no longer be a problem for the Sunnis and one could help them get rid of ISIS. The Druze and other minorities could join whoever - Sunnis or Alawites - they want and the Kurds would have their autonomy.

  114. Well said. More & thank you.

  115. Nicholas you are so right! The problem has festered for 5 years and needs to be solved by the whole world concerning Syria. If the world does not do this, we will just continue to drown in refugees .The whole world is a coward for not taking on this situation and not doing anything about it. Right now It appears that Russia is building a base in Syria to prop up the government further . Without Russia and Iran, the Assad govt would fall in 24 hours some have said. This is really bad news for us in the west. With all the intelligent people, diplomats, Ambassadors, politicians,Prime Ministers, the UN, etc we cannot find a final solution and I DO mean final for Assad? Europe is drowning just drowning in refugees. Being moved by all these pictures will not solve the crisis. The Whole world getting its act together will! The other Arab states should be taken to task for not accepting these refugees.How convenient of them not to do so. Money from them will NOT solve the problem. Money from them does not let them off the hook!

  116. However untenable it may sound, the ultimate solution to the refugee crisis lies in finding a way to make the war-ravaged countries 'habitable' again. The refugees will have to go back to their respective countries to rebuild their societies. The war victims in their countries will be their partners. Funds to provide the current stream of refugees with food, shelter and jobs can't be endless. Although a large number of refugees will eventually be absorbed in the work force of the host countries, this will add to the domestic socio-economic and political strain. We already see the rise of the Right in some European countries. Further, any rule of international law would work only when it's seen around the world that unlawful behavior is not rewarded. For whatever reasons, violating territorial or demographic integrity of a sovereign nation is unlawful. The countries of Europe can't forcibly stop the swarm of refugees, because in order to do that they will have to shoot. The best middle path appears to be to welcome them temporarily and then prepare them to go back. This has precedence in history. In 1971 refugees from East Pakistan crisis returned to a newly created Bangladesh.
    In the end, an international consensus involving major players will have to be arrived at. The first major step will be to stop arming the warring sides in Syria, Iraq and Turkey. Major powers including the Europeans have been supplying weapons to factions, the problem now seems to have turned on them.

  117. Kristoff recommends enforcing a no-fly zone in parts of Syria to bring Russia and Assad to the negotiating table. Why always think of a military means to try to bring peace? Putin has already gotten Assad to agree to sharing the government and to aim for negotiations with his enemies, but the US insists that "Assad must go," which has the effect of ignoring all avenues of rapprochement with his government. A cease-fire could be negotiated with Assad and the rebels (all but ISIS) but instead we are training more "good" insurgents to fight against the Syrian government. U.S. efforts are prolonging the crisis that is causing Syrians to flee their country.

  118. The premise of this column by Nicholas Kristof – that providing shelter and food to migrants in Europe not only does not solve the problem, it ultimately will exacerbate the situation unless we address the factors which cause people in Syria and elsewhere to flee – is so obvious that the failure of Western governments to act accordingly is incredibly stupid.

    Let us be clear, however, there are xenophobic, cold-hearted citizens and politicians of both Europe and the United States who are using this reality as an excuse not to help migrants once they arrive or while they are en route. Hungary might be the worst example, but it is certainly not the only example of bad behavior.

    Miscalculations were made initially by the Obama administration in Syria, but the competing forces of the Alawites and al-Qaeda and ISIS put those choices somewhere between bad and worse, not between correct or incorrect. Mr. Kristof over-simplifies that point in his criticism of Obama, but his discussion of instituting a no-fly zone and getting food and assistance to those presently trapped is right

  119. Fleeing one's country is a foreign concept for Americans. Some people look at all the refugees that include among them strong young men. Why do they not stand and fight? It is their country. The American Way is to stand and fight. I think that is part (only) of the problem with accepting the refugees here. In our hearts, we don't understand why they won't fight back.

  120. I'm moved by the plight of the refugees, but my problem is I don't know who they are. The Financial Times reports that 39% of the 'refugees' are really from eastern Europe and are just trying to sneak into Germany and Sweden during all the confusion. Also, in the NYT I've seen reports that 80% of the migrants are single men between the ages 0f 18 and 35. Again, I seriously doubt very many of them are true refugees. Also, the NYT reports that many of the migrants are not from war torn countries but are throwing their passports away and claiming to be from Syria.

    The EU has an orderly process for sifting out the true refugees from the imposters. Germany did Hungary a grave disservice when it didn't support Hungary in its efforts to properly sort through this mess according to the agreed upon EU policies.

  121. why is no one asking "what about the saudis?
    they have the space, language, military, money, and religious affiliation. Why isnt there a cry for them, as the regional power, to step up and take a million refugees?
    A bus ride thru a strip of iraq into northern saudi would be a life line for millions.
    We need to stop being a relief valve for the pressure building in the middle east. With out that pressure there may never be change

  122. No well to do Arab state will bring in potential anarchists and certain problems. Most of the family ruled countries' control is tenuous at best. Even Saudi.

  123. Given a choice, the Muslim refugees will prefer a Christian European country to Saudi Arabia, a fellow rich Muslim country. They know where they can enjoy more freedom and liberty.

  124. That no-fly zone is a great idea, and one hopes that the Obama administration picks up on it. As for the scale of the humanitarian crisis in Syria and neighboring states, I recall reading that the UN relief agencies are facing a budget shortfall of $3 billion this year alone. For 300+ million Americans, this comes to about $10 per man, woman, and child. How would it be if President Obama pledged $3 billion from the American people, promising that the government would work to make up the shortfall in citizen contributions before the end of this year. And then, turn on the PR campaign: Colbert and the night show hosts, social media, and get ALL of the presidential candidates to jump on board this train by asking them to solicit voluntary contributions from their supporters. (Hey, instead of sending another $32 to Bernie Sanders, make it $22 plus $10 for Obama's Syrian U.N campaign) camp). Besides the opportunity for the left to display its usual compassion, even the anti-immigrant crowd might feel moved to tackle the problem at the source.

  125. The root of the problem may lay in the fact of the failure of underdeveloped underachieving social/ political systems imploding. That those refugees are looking for asylum in relatively modern and liberal and perhaps altruistic places; but coming from places that live like in the middle or stone age. And that even so that there can be some adaptation, modern fully functional places have no more room for waves of immigrants as it was in the past.
    The European Expansion started 600 years ago, as waves of Europeans moving to relatively vacant land all over the world. It had an effect of liberalization and modernization as well as global connectivity, and allowing the continent not to reach unsustainable population levels.
    World population has now reached such high numbers that there is no much physical opportunity for massive immigration.
    A possible solution would be to bring those underdeveloped places to modernity. The problem is that there are no magical instant solutions, invasions of last decades have demonstrated that.
    The big problem is how to bring those far places into modernity and progress as fast as possible, provided the people wants so?
    Changing a culture is a decades-long job, no instant gratification. Even so there must be some tailor made solutions to the problem somehow; the only truth and the problem in there are that you can not improvise your favorite solutions to very different and complicated problems.

  126. Without a cultural revolution in the failed middle east that accepts birth control and limits family size to one or two children, there is absolutely no hope. And the west-- with a more secular view of the world and self-enforced family planning should not have to take in the natural result of too many people.

  127. I am not without pity for these poor refuges. But it is not our problem, we need to stop being the only fixer country in the world. They are not on our continent or even close. We get the refugees from Mexico and Central and South America. That is enough.

  128. How do you deal with part of the world where it is "Rule or be killed." When hostilities break-out, it truly is a fight to the death. There is no middle ground. Those that are loosing now become refugees. My fear is that the refuges will bring this attitude to the West. Greeting them with open-arms, not to mention free housing, medical, and a stipend, may be planting the seeds for of our own demise.

  129. The war continues because the Iranians support Assad. He doesn't come to the negotiating table because he doesn't have to. They support him with troops, especially troops from their client Hezbollah. Those horrific barrel bombs are paid for by Iran, as are the planeloads of arms shipped from Russia. Putin isn't selling on credit, Syrian has run out of credit long ago.

    The author, who seems to have a soft spot for Iran, never mentions President Assad's sponsor. With the windfall from the nuclear negotiations, heavily supported by the author, the Iranians will provide tons more men and materiel, with horrific consequences. The author accurately calls to task many nations for the consequences of their behavior, Iran gets a pass. We need a new sanctions regime against Iran to keep them from burning down more of the middle east.

  130. The Elephant in the room is over population. Until the UN can go up against the people who oppose birth control, There is no hope. I have read that 75% of those seeking asylum are young Muslim men. Who will then bring their wives and many children. Some may have skills but many others will not. The world simply does not have the resources to support all the people fleeing the failed states. Especially the uneducated who have 6-10 children and subscribe to a faith that wants to keep 50% of its population (women) ignorant and pregnant. Europe, Do not import this on yourself. Take the educated, those willing to assimilate, and turn the rest away. To do otherwise is to invite disaster. Hungary is totally right in what they are doing. If they were true refugees, they would stay in the refugee camps until their homeland was safe and then return. These are economic migrants in search of welfare.

  131. I watched supporters of the Iraqi invasion by the USA display a range of emotion from passionate intensive cheering to a sort of bemused association, like parents sitting alongside teenagers during an action movie, viewing the "shock & awe" televised bombings. Of course any women & children involved were considered collateral damage.
    Considering the fact that Great Basin states of the western USA are largely Republican & wholeheartedly supported our Middle Eastern invasions, why not give refuge to a million Syrians displaced tangentially as a result of our efforts to bring democracy to that corner of the world? There's plenty of space & a chance to use foreign aid, eh, domestically?

  132. We do not want refugees from war torn countries when we cannot provide for our own underclass here. All this will do is take scarce dollars out of the mouths of our children and create a new morass of governmental programs and taxes. It is unfortunate that Syria is at war.. but that is not my fault. Are we to take in all the Ukrainian refugees from the war with Russia, or the refugees from Iraq, or else where. Enough with compassion on our part. Let them fight it out and settle their own problems as they have done for a thousand years with the edge of the sword. May the strongest man win. Our job is to keep them out of America and taxing our systems causing taxes and anguish for the Americans born here.

  133. It is good to see a prominent journalist such as Mr. Kristoff point out that this current migration will make extreme right wing political parties much stronger. In the UK, there is a growing movement to withdraw from the EU. Forcing reluctant nations to take in ever larger numbers will backfire.

  134. "The least bad option today is to create a no-fly zone in the south of Syria. "
    Wrong. The least bad option--indeed the best option--is to join with Russia in supporting Assad and defeating ISIS and Nusra/Qaeda. This simultaneously would crush ISIS and Nusra/Qaeda, reduce the refugee flow, and improve relations with Russia.
    Unfortunately, US policy in Syria currently is determined by Israels's perceived national interests and not the US national interests or global interests..

  135. Welcome back to 2011 when president Bashar al-Assad was the one and only issue in Syria, and when refugees were seeking a temporary relocation in Lebanon, Jordan or Turkey.

    But in 2015, the new refugees are blaming ISIS and not al-Assad, are seeking a permanent relocation in western countries, and don't have any plan to return to their home country whatever the president.

  136. A no-fly zone in a sovereign nation? How would that work? How could we get our allies on board--sanctions against Iran were set to collapse because China and Russia and members of the EU wouldn't go along anymore. It would embolden anti-Western hardliners and create more ISIL recruits. Russia backs Syria and it sits on the Security Council. What would Iran do--the nuclear deal is fragile--do we want it to collapse? I don't want another conflict, but I think there needs to be a UN peacekeeping force there.

  137. Mr. Kristof is absolutely correct that the refugee crisis must be solved at its root- in Syria. BTW, it is not our "fault" that Syria has become hell on earth; it is primarily the fault of a diseased and failing culture of tribalism and Islam. However, it is in our best interest (and humanitarian interest) to keep the Syrians in their homeland. The no-fly zone sounds like a modest intelligent first step. And we must get with Russia and Iran and prevail upon them to agree to a non-Assad solution. And we will have to throw some serious money into this project.

  138. 100% agree. Is there a credible donation website where we can help in some small way?

  139. What the average American fails to understand is that the US is much to blame for the refugee crisis as Russia and Iran, how? because The Obama administration imposed arms embargo on the then "revolutionaries", fearing the arms will eventually threaten Israel. Many nations were willing to supply arms to end the conflict in the its first or second year. but we didn't allow it....

  140. We can extend "compassion" but that is a band-aid approach. Anybody with a grain of common sense cannot support the idea that a solution means transplanting millions of Syrians from Syria to the West. That's simply an absurd approach.

    You'll resolve the refugee problem only by returning sanity to Syria. That means dealing with the twin monstrosities of the Ba'ath and ISIS.

    Not easy.

  141. If one reads this article closely, in many ways it could be substituted for the ramp up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. (What is the follow-up, a WMD allegation? Oh wait, comments, most likely sympathetic to Netanyahu and his policy for Israel, have provided that component.) A general hysteria for intervention is being created. But let's reflect. None of the issues provide an "immediate threat" to our nation. Isn't that the criteria for implementation of our military-i.e. defense of the nation? Turkey, Israel and the nations of the European Union now realize the possibility of an "immediate threat" to their region. More than enough financial resources are found there to provide a viable deterrent. (A no-fly zone would be a quality first move in that coalition.) All that is needed is the "regional will" for engagement. And there always is the problem. The United States should avoid repeating past mistakes in this region.

  142. Although you are clearly a man of courage it doesn't take courage to speak with reason which begs the question why are you the only person suggesting straightforward and intelligent approaches to deal with this problem?

    I respect and admire your reasoning and urge others to follow your thoughts

  143. I think one of very few good solutions is a widely-publicized zero tolerance policy for illegal migrants, much as the UK is attempting to do (and as the Danish police valiantly attempted.) Why should the first 10,000, or 100,00, across the line win the golden tickets of benefits, housing, language courses, right to work, etc etc, and nothing for those who can't run as fast? (We saw how fast young Iraqi men can run, dropping US paid weapons, when ISIS entered their country.) Spend the money improving conditions in the UN refugee camps and centers, and reserve the "refugee" spots for authenticated applicants, not those who have sold their wives' dowry jewelry to join the stampede.

  144. I would like to ask Mr. Kristoff a question: How close to Muslim enclaves do you live? Or any bleeding heart liberals of the NYTimes or any of the leaders of Western countries saying that "we" must do more? The only "we" that will have to deal with this invasion is the lower classes, not the well-guarded leaders, or the leftists at BBC, CNN, NY Times, etc. And so when the friction begins and the lower classes join forces and violence erupts then Mr. Kristoff and his colleagues will say "tut, tut, must show compassion, mustn't call them 'illegals'", etc. As for me I voted only Democrat and just got in from a mercy mission in Cambodia, but unlike the NYTimes, I do not have my head in the sand when it comes to Islam. Has any reporter ever asked one of these refugees, "You know you are going to a country which believes in freedom of speech and freedom of expression, and satire and criticism of Mohammad and the Koran is perfectly all right. How are you with that?"

  145. The New York Times continues to compound the problem by referring to refugees as "migrants" which it did again yesterday on the front page. As a migrant, one is deemed to be a mere job seeker, not someone fleeing armed conflict. A Migrant is accorded no protection under international law and each nation is free to deal with a migrant only by its own immigration laws. It is understandable that the EU would find it expedient to lable theses poor people as "migrants," but it is shameful for the New York Times to parrot the claim.

  146. Compassion is never enough, but it necessary. The problem rests in that compassion is never sufficient to grapple with such a crises. The outlines of attempts to solve the problem of failed states generally exacerbates the process. Until and unless the population of the middle east accepts a responsibility in their own destinies it is useless to think that other powers outside their borders will be able to build nation states that are feasible. The war in Iraq exemplifies the error of nation building when there is no real support for a colonially drawn set of borders. The different factions must define their own borders and path to statehood religious, ethnic or otherwise.

  147. From what I have seen, heard and read about Hungary if I was a refugee I would pass through too.

  148. Another important, thoughtful and thought-provoking column by Kristof, a true humanitarian.

    Additional information to Kristof's column and links. Do not have to agree with all the editorial comments, but the background and numbers about the Syrian refugee crisis and response from different countries presented in the following article are worth knowing:

  149. How many of the 5 million refugee's are men? Would it not be appropriate for these men (and in today's world young women) to fight for their country? If a countries citizens will not stay and fight for their country then it is not a viable country and doomed to chaos and ever lasting war. Why doesn't the responsibility for Syria rest with the Syrians?

  150. We are witnessing the ironic conversion of Angela Merkel from champion of austerity into leader of generosity. Enjoying the latter depends of one's country being peaceful or not. If Greece plunges into civil war there might still be hope for its citizens -let's wait until the next elections

  151. Finally, democracy arrives in the Middle East. Unfortunately, it comes in the form of voting with their feet.

  152. If we can simply declare a "no-fly zone," then why can't we just as easily declare that the war is over? Doesn't a no-fly zone have to be militarily enforced, with real weapons? Maybe not troops on the ground today, but still a step up in our military involvement, leading who knows where? If only it were that simple. And fixing Syria is not the same as fixing the Middle East. Many others have correctly pointed out the large-scale and long-term roots of the problems there, with things happening at the scale of civilization itself.

  153. Generally, with limited exceptions Moslem dominated countries tend to be theocracies. The Ottoman empire was a fairly tolerant theocracy where non Moslems were treated as second class citizens and often worse,(think the Armenian genocide). Europeans spent a few hundred years throwing the Muslims out of Europe. In Muslim majority countries non Moslems are still treated with remarkable intolerance. (think Coptic Christians in Egypt) Islam has not had its reformation.
    What Angela Merkel has done in these actions has invited the real problem inside, None of this bodes well for western style democracy in Europe. That is not to say that many Muslims do not welcome a secular society but it is unlikely they will be able to control the more Islamic members of their society,

  154. The Syrians who deserve compassion are the ones suffering and dying in Syria itself. Most of the migrants are young Muslim men looking for the best deal they can get in Europe. The crisis is not going to end this year. Millions more will make their way to Europe. Is European society ready to handle such an influx of people with extremely rigid views on religion? The societal fabric may eventually tear and another nightmare will unfold itself in the streets of Europe. In the coming decades, we might see a new wave of Christian and Jewish Europeans fleeing the rise of Islam in their countries and arriving at our shores.
    Compassion for the unfortunate is a laudable quality but compassion can sometimes be misplaced. The Europeans need to save their secular, liberal-democratic societies from people who would gladly tear everything down in the name of religion.
    A negotiated peace between Assad and the "moderate" rebels and a common, unified front against ISIS seems to be the only option to save both Syria and Europe. And we need to stop Saudi Arabia from hatching more plots to bring about absolute Sunni hegemony in the region.