This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Sad Summary of the Syrian Mess

Thanks to Debbie Fugate for linking me to her unit's very nice summary of the year-end review of the situation in Syria, in terms of refugees and internally displaced persons. This of course has spilled over into Iraq with the introduction of ISIS into the mix in the region. The State Department's HIU notes that an estimated 202,000 Syrians have been killed since 2011, and there are now an estimated 12.2 million internally displaced Syrians who need assistance, and 3.8 million refugees in the region needing assistance. This is an almost mind-blowing number of people whose lives have been turned upside down by this conflict.

Since countries in the region are hardest hit by this conflict, it would seem reasonable for them to be the ones doing something about this. Yet, there is evidence that Turkey has been a customer for oil that ISIS has captured and is selling to fuel its expansion. And, as the Economist has noted, Saudi Arabia is not all that different in its view of the world than is ISIS--it just has more oil to sell. 
And, for all the kingdom’s harshness at home and fuelling of extremism abroad, the world’s leaders flocked to Riyadh. Barack Obama cut short a trip to India to pay homage to the new king. 
This is a craven spectacle from democracies that claim to uphold universal human rights. When authoritarians elsewhere point to the Western silence on Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women, and its ruthless suppression of dissent, and cry double standards, they have a point. The West’s relationship with the Al Sauds must change. So must the dynasty itself.
The kinds of boots needed on the ground seem to be boots of protest about the role played by Saudi Arabia and others (including Russia and Iran) in allowing Syria to implode as it has, putting millions of people in harm's way. 


  1. John - you are absolutely correct that "Syria is a mess". and the trouble with this mess ... the longer it sits around and stagnates - the more this works against overall stability in the region. it is very easy for extreme radical movements, such as ISIS, to gain a foothold in the minds and hearts of young Syrian refugees - when they see their own country torn apart in this way.

    There are many ironies. Both Assad (Syria) and Saddam Hussein (Iraq) were ruthless dictators in their own countries. They followed policies that were absolutely reprehensible ... against their political opponents. But ironically, now that the US has deposed Hussein and Assad is seriously weakened - we do not see a positive result. The ruthless dictators were actually achieving some measure of political stability. What is left now ... is a complex ocean of Middle East politics that is even more dangerous!! There do not seem to be easy answers ... for US policy in this region of the world!!

    The execution of the two Japanese citizens by ISIS is particularly unfortunate. Japan has said that it will continue humanitarian aid to the refugees in the region. But how??? Who will volunteer to go to Syria now and continue with humanitarian missions, after this outcome? The situation is devolving and moving into a "worse" direction - not a better one.

    Pete, Redondo Beach, CA

    1. I think that we can perhaps look to Yugoslavia for a way forward. Tito, like Assad (father and son) and Saddam Hussein, kept a lid on a demographically diverse nation through ruthless oppression. But, by breaking up the former Yugoslavia into pieces that make more sense in cultural terms, the area is now pretty calm and out of the limelight.