A general view of Azraq refugee camp near Al Azraq city, Jordan, August 19, 2015.
Muhammad Hamed / Reuters

Since the start of the civil war in 2011, nearly four million Syrians have fled their country. Around half a million have sought political asylum in Europe; over the past eight months alone, more than 200,000 Syrians have reached the continent in what one British parliamentarian described as a “tsunami.” To be sure, the number of refugees arriving in Europe is staggering, but it pales in comparison to the numbers who have settled in Jordan and Lebanon.

In the past four years, Jordan, with a pre-refugee population of eight million, and Lebanon, with a population of 4.5 million, have opened their borders to approximately a million and 1.5 million refugees, respectively. They did so despite the fact that Lebanon has a 120 percent debt-to-GDP ratio—among the world’s highest—and that Jordan is one of the most water-scarce countries in the world.

Until now, these states have coped surprisingly well with the dramatic and

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  • DAVID SCHENKER is Director of the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
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