While we can argue forever about the causes of conflict in the Middle East, it is impossible to ignore the impact of American foreign policy on what’s happening in Europe.The Iraq invasion (which could reasonably be described as “largely America’s responsibility”) unleashed a period of instability and competition in the region that is collapsing states and fueling sectarian conflict.
There’s one more simple truth to acknowledge. The ideal number of refugees is zero. Today’s crisis will worsen in the years ahead unless we deal with the causes, not just the symptoms. That means serious and sustained action to create free societies people actually want to stay in. Places with a market economy, property rights, the rule of law, a free press, an independent judiciary and accountable democratic processes.
The economist Hernando de Soto, backed in part by the United States Agency for International Development, has cataloged the vast untapped value of the informal economy in countries like Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria. If these assets were formalized, people across the region could own property, grow businesses and develop the desire to stay and build stable societies. We should put pressure on their rulers to implement the necessary legal reforms by cutting aid payments until they do it.
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