Avalanches of refugees and other migrants are currently floating across Europe. The cultural revolution is in full swing. For better or worse, most of Europe’s societies are being overhauled in a radical fashion by a steadily increasing stream of refugees. If you are not familiar with the term multiculturalism, it’s about time you read up on it.
Many political commentators today argue the European refugee crisis is a direct consequence of failed policies toward those countries, like Syria or Afghanistan, where millions of refugees originate from. I believe it is only part of the truth and some cases outright exaggeration. In most cases there simply was never any coherent policy in place, let alone a clearly defined vision. Rather, Europe and the U.S., have been engaging in crisis management, reacting ad hoc to geopolitical shifts, acts of terrorism, or other threats. But before we look at international relations between the West and the Middle and Near East, let us examine some history lessons.
- Mass migration to more affluent regions is almost as old as human kind.
Beginning in the 3rd century barbarian hords began to invade the Roman Empire. Why did they come? Part of the reason was that the Germanic tribes livelihoods’ were rather nasty, brutish and short. The Roman regions on the other hand were affluent, well developed and graced by good climate. They did not come to Rome to destroy it, but rather to partake in the benefits it offered. Later, the Germanic tribes were themselves pushed further west by the onrushing mostly Slavic tribes throughout the 6th and 7th century.
In the first half of the 20th century leading up to 1960 many African Americans, also known as freedmen, migrated to the industrialized cities in the north of America, such as New York, Philadelphia, or Chicago. In pursuit of better job opportunities they left the rural south to be able to provide for their families.
These are just two very obvious examples, there are many more. Just like the refugees today those developments were, among other reasons, prompted by groups of people in search of more habitable living conditions, escaping misery. And just like today many did not find what they were looking for.
- The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were a mistake
How on earth did a bunch of freaks, collectively know as al-Qaida, drive us to invade a whole country? Yes, 9/11 was one of the worst terror attacks ever, leveling one of America’s greatest symbols. Yes, the Taliban, Afghanistan’s ruling organization at the time provided safe haven for al-Qaida and are reckless extremists, too. But, originally, the Taliban were freedom fighters, mujahedeen, who legitimately rose out of historical necessity to resist the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980’s. They grew organically and represent an ideology with a clear belief system, they are part of the country’s DNA. Ideas cannot be destroyed with the use of force, because they are passed on in the minds of the living. As Albert Einstein already used to say: “You cannot solve the problem on the same level it was created.” In other words, fighting extremist ideology, whether it be al-Qaida or the Taliban, with a much more developed form of violence is nonsense.
In Iraq, it is more obvious. Wrecking a country under the false pretense of harboring biological weapons is simply a violation of every single law ever written, including the UN Charter, the equivalent to the Bible, Quran, or Torah of all secular societies. Still worse, Iraq was a stable country before the US invasion, albeit no heavenly place.
As much as I would like I cannot see any coherent strategy here. The two conflicts represent the pinnacle of American military imperialism, trying to impose democratic and capitalistic structures. The consequences of this shortsighted mismanagement, as in the insecurity, lack of basic human needs, and total destruction have been the perfect breeding ground for the recruiting of more Taliban and an even more deadly ideology with grand political ambitions, ISIS. We paved the way and now millions are fleeing out the sheer desire to survive.
- Missed chances for a better relationship with Iran
The recent announcement of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) places limits on the kind of nuclear technologies Iran can acquire, the kind and quantity of uranium and centrifuges it can harbor or operate respectively. The deal supposedly stretches the time Iran would need to produce one or more nuclear bombs from several months to as much as a year. That is a success story in itself.
However, back in 2005, Iran had offered some EU countries a much better deal. This proposed agreement could have meant that Iran kept its nuclear capacity for civil usage only, not military. Peter Jenkins, the British representative to the IAEA at the time, publicly stated how impressed EU officials were with the Iranian offer. It never happened, because the Bush administration pressured the British government into declining, on the grounds that it was not good enough.
Even under the new conditions Iran does not meet the criteria specified under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Add to that the 15-year duration limit of the current deal and it is easily comprehensible why regional adversaries of Iran such as Israel or Saudi Arabia are not happy at all. After all, the deal proves that Iran is not willing to forego its capacity to produce nuclear weapons in the long term and thereby acknowledges the incentive of Middle Eastern countries, especially Saudi Arabia, to follow suit.
Moreover, Iran obviously stands to gain the most form the JCPOA as economic sanctions by the US and Europe have been lifted providing direly needed opportunities for the revitalization of Iran’s national economy. More importantly, Iran will have more resources available to support Hezbollah in Lebanon or to back the Assad regime in Syria, reinforcing its claim as the regions major power.
- Obsession with the Israel-Palestine conflict
For years we have been told in the US and Europe alike that the key to improving the catastrophic situation in the Middle East is to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict. If this is true, why is Israel, our close ally and friend, still bombing schools and hospitals in Palestine? Why has no one applied serious pressure on Israel to stop the killing of civilians? Israel’s official explanation is that Hamas fighters hide and attack from civilian areas. By bombing them, Palestinians would eventually loose morale, give up, or even turn against their own leadership.
This argument follows the same misleading lines as the initial strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Viewing every member of a nation as your enemy out of the fear that he could represent an enemy and therefore willingly killing civilians has simply never worked. It rather works the opposite direction, strengthening morale and solidarity. Have we learnt nothing from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?
Moreover, where is the direct link between Israel-Palestine conflict and the rise of ISIS or the civil war in Syria? I cannot see it. Solving the Israel-Palestine conflict certainly will not solve the refugee crisis.
- The European Unions’ inability to speak as one and failed Turkey policy
The need for a common foreign policy of the European Union member states has long been recognized and goes hand in hand with economic, political or social integration. The Common Foreign and Security Policy and subsequently the creation of the European External Action Service (EEAS) in 2009, a European foreign ministry, highlight this approach.
Apart from creating another bureaucratic monster, however, it is hard to see where European nations have acted in a common and effective fashion. Take the case of Libya in 2011, where Germany opted out of the UN backed resolution and isolated itself vis-à-vis France and the UK, just to mention one example.
The point is: Europe lacks a unifying vision and leadership, suffers the consequences of overexpansion, is constrained by varying degrees of nationalism within its 28 member states and on top of it all faces immense pressure through the euro crisis.
It is no wonder then that Europe has failed to find common ground in regard to its neighbor Turkey. Turkey has a 900 kilometer border with Syria and hosts about two million Syrian refugees, it is the gateway to the EU. While it has never been more important for the EU to strike a strategic partnership with Turkey, the two are actually drifting apart. Turkey is no longer the rising role model state, facing increasing authoritarianism, a revitalization of the Kurdish conflict and susceptibility to infiltration by the Islamic State.
Just a couple of years ago, when Turkey was taking steps toward an open democracy and a booming economy, at least a partnership with the EU was a real possibility. The main obstacle was Cyprus, a country so small and insignificant in the larger context, it is inconceivable how European member states failed to exert sufficient pressure.
Lack of vision and strategy in the West and turmoil in the Middle East
The failure of Western governments to adequately define long-term strategies based on coherent visions in an increasingly globalized world has helped to prompt the refugee crisis. American military imperialism has failed and Europe has so far been incapable of producing anything coherent at all. This is, however, not to suggest that it is all the West’s fault. After all, most refugees are fleeing failed states, sometimes only narrowly escaping death.