These tender, young faces -- the faces of boys, 16 years old, some only 15, with milky complexions and not even a trace of peach fuzz. I see them in the videos from the Syrian civil war: wearing uniforms, carrying weapons, tenaciously defending their positions, storming ahead or lying with shredded limbs, dead in the dust. Beardless young boys on both sides of the front. They are the face of this war, now in its fifth year, and it is a face that is getting ever younger. The loss rate on both sides is so enormous that a growing number of children and young men are being forced to fill the void. In World War I, they called this kind of bloodletting "bleeding white."
At a time when tens of thousands of Syrians are heading for Germany and Austria, we are no longer getting much news from inside Syria itself. There are many reasons for this. In recent months, the media was occupied primarily with the euro crisis and Greece, and had little room for any other coverage. Furthermore, it’s no longer possible for journalists to travel to Syria. The danger of abduction in rebel-held territory is too great and the Assad regime issues very few press visas. Jordan has always kept its border to Syria closed to foreign journalists because the military there doesn’t want observers as it provides support to the Syrian opposition. A few months ago, Turkey also prohibited reporters from crossing through its borders into Syria, probably for similar reasons. The only parties in this war that are friendly and receptive to journalists are the Kurds and the Yazidis, which is one reason the German media has reported so much about the Kurds in Syria. But without wanting to minimize their suffering, the Kurdish fight is a bit of a side-show to the larger conflict. In recent decades, the media has never had as little access to a conflict of this importance.
As a result, we've been forced to make do with third-party observations. And Syrian suffering only truly reached us with the arrival of large numbers of refugees at Munich's central station.
This War Is Forcing Open Every Border
Tens of thousands of people have crossed the sea and navigated the Balkan route as they make their way to us. German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, who is still in office despite the thousands who have drowned in the Mediterranean as a result of his bad decisions, has now closed Germany’s borders. He says Germany is overwhelmed and that not everyone can come to the country. Instead we need to address the root cause of the mass flight, he says. At the same time, the United Nations has said that a million more Syrians will likely leave their country by the end of the year if the murder doesn’t stop. The explosive force of this war is too great for Germany and Europe to be able to seal themselves off. This is a war that bursts all boundaries.
The hemorrhaging in Syria has many causes that are not the fault of Europe or the United States. Still, Europe and the US could have stopped the bleeding. They could have stopped it when the Assad regime first deployed helicopters to fire randomly into the cities and towns. They could have stopped it when Assad began to deploy fighter jets against the civilian population. The West could have stopped the bleeding when the regime began deploying Scud missiles, poison gas and barrel bombs. When the German interior minister speaks of closing the borders and addressing the root causes of the flight, does he know what he is talking about?
He is talking about something that the German government under Merkel has spent years strictly rejecting. The only way to keep Syrians in Syria and to relieve Munich from the overwhelming burden the war has thrust upon it is to establish a no-fly zone.
What are Syrians fleeing from? Very few are fleeing as a result of the battles, as confusing as they may be. Most are fleeing from the air strikes, the cause of which isn’t confusing at all: Most Syrians are fleeing from the Assad regime’s fleets of bombers.
The people in the half of Syria that is no longer under Assad’s control have long been calling for a no-fly zone. But the West always knew better. The West, along with two German foreign ministers, Guido Westerwelle and Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said: A no-fly zone will just make things worse. We can’t shoot down Assad’s fighter jets because doing so would cause the conflict to spread. It was one of the worst mistakes ever made in German foreign policy.